Below are three takeaways from Monday's press conference with Brandon Staley, Joey Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu:
Young defensive line group stepping up in primetime
With three defensive linemen out in the Bolts' Week 11 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers called on Joe Gaziano, Breiden Fehoko and Forrest Merrill to step up and fill in for those starters.
The young group comprised of two second year players and a rookie were all undrafted free agents signed by the Bolts, but they contributed in a big way as their performance helped the team beat the Steelers in primetime.
On Monday, Bolts outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu talked about what stood out most about the trio's performance on Sunday Night Football.
"They didn't flinch," Nwosu said. "All of those guys practiced very, very hard during the week. If only you guys could have seen practice, they practiced really hard during the week. No matter what opportunity comes, they're always going to perform. They didn't back down. They never flinched. They were ready for the moment. They were playing like they've been in the league for 10-plus years. I'm very proud of those guys. They really work hard and they really stepped up in a big way. They really helped our team become victorious."
Head coach Brandon Staley gave praise for the 'tough' performance that Fehoko and Gaziano put together on Sunday and talked about his confidence in those guys to step up when their numbers are called.
"I was so proud of those two," Staley said. "I felt like Breiden and Joe just played so hard and so tough. They were both productive in the game. I really felt Joe in pass rush and in run defense. He just was active. He blocked a couple of shots. This guy was really active. Then, Breiden was just holding it down. He has that warrior sprit. He's a multiplier, man. He just makes you feel good at the game because you know this guy is going to give you everything that he has. Those guys both showed real toughness."
Bosa's best game this season?
Outside linebacker Joey Bosa's week of preparation looked a little different than he was used to as he wasn't able to practice with the team do to entering the league's COVID protocols early last week.
Despite not being able to physically be at practice, Bosa explained on Monday how he was able to prepare at home for the Steelers. Nwosu called Bosa's performance his 'best game of the year' as Bosa was able to pressure Ben Roethlisberger and came up with a big sack on the Steelers' final drive of the game.
Bosa talked about how satisfying it was for the edge rushers to have a big impact in the outcome of the game on Sunday.
"For me, I just hugged [OLB] Uchenna [Nwosu] and [OLB] Kyler [Fackrell] because they both had gotten a sack in the fourth quarter; Kyler was the play before," Bosa said. "I felt like we kind of all did it together. I feel like, as the edge group, we've been waiting to have a really big impact on games. I think the last couple of games, we've been doing a really good job. To come up at the end like that was awesome. It felt great celebrating that moment with them."
Staley talked about how a big-time performance from defensive lineman Justin Jones helped open up the game for Bosa and the rest of the Bolts' edge rushers.
"I think that his performance has spoken volumes for where our defense can go with him in it," Staley mentioned. "He held it down for us last night. I thought he was a real general in there, helping those guys out and, in some of those designer packages, allowed [OLB] Joey [Bosa] to really play his game and allowed our EDGE guys to really rush free and be disruptive. J.J., he's just our type of guy, for sure."
55 yards rushing
A big emphasis throughout the season for the Bolts defense has been improving the run defense. In Week 11, all the hard work and focus showed up for the Bolts as they were able to hold Najee Harris and the Steelers run game to 55 yards.
Nwosu talked about how they were able to accomplish their goal of stopping the run.
"One thing we preached all week was being able to stop the run," Nwosu said. "We took a huge step these last couple of weeks. To fulfill that goal, we just keep building on what we were preaching and what we kept practicing. We were able to come out there and dominate. Everybody was able to step up. We were down a couple of guys inside. Guys were able to step up. Guys we eager to play and get their opportunity to shine. They made the most of it and I'm really proud of those guys. Everybody has just been working hard."
Nwosu talked about how pride and playing aggressive were key components to the defense as a whole coming together to have a performance like they did against the Steelers.
"At some point, you just have to muscle up and say, 'F-that, we're going to go ahead and just start punching dudes in the mouth.' The bye week really helped everybody get a realization of what was going on here. The coaches really harped on what we needed to accomplish. Guys just said that enough was enough. Everyone was stepping up. Everyone said that enough is enough. We just really hammered in on that run game, really coming off the ball and being very physical and aggressive. That's something that Coach Staley preaches about every day, being aggressive."
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