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5 Takeaways: Bolts Dominate Bears for Week 8 Primetime Win


The Chargers are 3-4 after a dominating performance against Chicago on Sunday Night Football.

The Bolts were strong from start to finish in all three phases on the way to a 30-13 win.

Here are five takeaways from Week 8:

1. A total team effort

This was the win the Chargers had been searching for.

An all-around team effort for 60 minutes that left little doubt who the better team on the field was.

"I was really excited for the guys," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "I thought that we had our best week of practice. I thought that our guys really came out fresh and focused. I thought that we played like it today and we need to build off of it.

Staley later added: "We've been in search for a game like this. I felt like our guys really earned it in all three phases. From the first practice of the week to the last whistle, I thought that our guys really played together and played the right way that gets you a win like that."

"That's what I'm talking about … complementary football," said Derwin James, Jr. "That's the kind of football we want to play."

Offensively, Justin Herbert led a unit that put up 350-plus yards for the fourth time this season. Austin Ekeler had 123 total yards from scrimmage as the offense scored points on their first five possessions.

Defensively, the Bolts forced a pair of takeaways as James and Ja'Sir Taylor intercepted Bears rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent. The Chargers also denied Chicago on a trio of fourth-down stops, including a pair of fourth-and-1 tries.

And special teams played a role, too, as kicker Cameron Dicker nailed three field goals from 43, 46 and 53 yards out. JK Scott punted just twice on the night.

The all-around performance was on display before and after halftime, as the Bolts double dipped for 10 points.

Donald Parham, Jr. caught an 11-yard touchdown pass with only four seconds left before halftime to give the Chargers a 24-7 lead at the break.

The Bolts, who won the toss and deferred to the second half, took the ball after halftime and added to their lead on Dicker's 53-yard field goal.

"We kind of finished the 2-minute before the half with a big-time score, then came out in that middle-eight portion and had a 7-minute drive," Staley said. "I know it finished in a field goal, but that 10-nothing in the middle-eight was important in this game.

"I just thought that our guys played fresh and I felt like they played with energy, and it was in all three phases," Staley added.

All in all, it was the Bolts most complete performance of the season. And one of the best overall games in recent years.

"I think every win is important. But this one, we saw all three phases get after if — special teams, offense, defense. I think that's what we needed," Herbert said. "That gives us the confidence going forward.

"A win like that is huge," Herbert added. "We'll get after the film and we'll keep getting better. There is a lot to improve, but a lot to look forward to."

2. Herbert shines in primetime

Chalk it up as another stellar performance from Herbert in primetime.

The Bolts quarterback completed 31 of 40 passes for 298 yards and three scores to go along with no interceptions and a passer rating of 122.7.

"I saw really good rhythm and timing. I thought that he was decisive. When he is playing like that, he is going to have numbers like that," Staley said. "I just thought that his feet and his eyes were working together and that is when he is at his best.

"Our guys did a good job of protecting the passer and our receivers, tight ends and backs really did a good job. I thought that [Herbert] was able to check it down a couple of times and keep drives moving," Staley added. "On third down, I thought that we were pretty good. A big-time performance by him tonight."

Herbert was lights out in the opening half, completing his first 15 pass attempts against Chicago. The quarterback ended up going 21 of 25 for 212 yards and three scores before halftime.

"It was awesome. I thought we had a great plan," Herbert said. "We went out there executed, knew exactly what we were going to do.

"We had a great week of practice. I'm not surprised that we had great success moving the ball," Herbert added. "We have the players and we had the plan, so it worked out well today."

The key to Herbert's strong showing? (Besides him being a good quarterback).

The Chargers offensive line didn't allow a single sack on the night.

"We got back to our fundamentals," right tackle Trey Pipkins III said after the Bolts gave up five sacks last week to the Chiefs. "We know if we give No. 10 the time then he can do some absolutely ridiculous things. It was good work all around."

Get an inside look at the postgame celebration from the Chargers 30 - 13 win over the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium!

3. Johnston gets involved

Quentin Johnston entered Week 8 with seven catches for 64 yards through six games.

The Chargers rookie wide receiver nearly matched those numbers on Sunday night as he hauled in five passes for 50 yards in his best game of the season.

"Just a confidence booster," Johnston said. "But at the end of the day, I don't feel like I did anything different other than just staying consistent at practice and continuing to work. Just build that trust and relationship with the quarterback.

Johnston later added: "Not getting too high on this little stepping stone. Continue to stack days and reflect on what I did, but also be critical on myself for what I didn't do."

Johnston drew a defensive pass interference call a few minutes into the second quarter and later recorded a 3-yard catch.

But the 2023 first-round pick really got rolling in the Chargers 2-minute drive before halftime, picking up gains of 11 and 12 yards on back-to-back plays.

Johnston then made his presence felt in the red zone of the same drive by gain six yards on third-and-3 to move the sticks.

"He's a stellar athlete," Herbert said. "He's one of those guys that whenever you get the ball to him, something special is going to happen.

"I knew that it hadn't gone our way, connecting with him, the first couple of games, but I knew if we were patient, we were going to get him the ball and something good is going to happen," Herbert added. "He stepped up big-time today and we're expecting big things from him."

Keenan Allen added: "He was able to show up on big plays, get down the field, yards after catch. Just be what he's supposed to be."

Johnston's final catch also came on third down, as Herbert tossed a back-shoulder throw his way for 18 yards on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter.

Johnston's big night came as fellow wide receiver Joshua Palmer was limited in the game with a knee injury.

"We wanted to get him going. I felt like we had a lot of good plays in the plan for him," Staley said of Johnston. "He made plays tonight, a lot of different types of plays. That third-down conversion on the back shoulder was huge. Got a couple of shallow crosses.

"The more he plays, the more he improves. I've told you guys that all season with him. I think you're seeing that. The more that he figures out how to play, you're going to see the production because he is certainly capable," Staley added. "I'm proud of how hard he's worked. You can see that he's earning the trust of the quarterback more and more. He just needs to stay on track."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 8 matchup against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football at SoFi Stadium.

4. Parham leads TE group

The Bolts were down a key member of the offense Sunday night as tight end Gerald Everett was out with an injury.

Enter Donald Parham, Jr., who stepped up in a big way with four catches for 43 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown — his fourth score of the year.

"It's really just focusing on doing my job, more importantly just picking up where he [left off]," Parham said of Everett. "He [was] obviously the missing piece in our offense today and so it just important for me to try and step up in whatever way."

Herbert added: "A great job him ... filled that void. It's always tough losing a guy like Gerald. He's a dynamic player who is able to run, catch, do all of those great things that tight ends do. DP has stepped up big time, made some big plays."

Parham's highlight of the night was his touchdown catch just before halftime.

The Chargers led 17-0 before Chicago got on the board with a touchdown of their own.

But Herbert led a 2-minute drive capped off by a score to Parham, who caught the ball at the 5-yard line and muscled his way through three Bears using his 6-foot-8 frame to get into the end zone.

"Once I kind of turned around and I felt the guy, first guy I missed him," Parham said. "I was like, 'I can't just stop now, I've got to go'.

"That all ran through my mind when I turned around. I was like, 'Oh, I could score right here,'" Parham added.

Staley said Parham's performance was reminiscent of the 2021 season when the tight end had 20 catches for 190 yards and three scores.

"I really felt [Parham] tonight," Staley said. "You guys would have covered the team, this was a lot closer to that 2021 version of Donald Parham, who's a difference maker. You saw the run-after-catch, he did that all of 2021.

"He's just continuing to improve. Justin really trusts him," Staley added. "He's a weapon out there because he can beat you vertical, he's really good in the red zone, and then he's giving us that run-after-catch that he was giving us in 2021. That gives us a different dimension on offense."

5. A double-digit victory

Finally, a stress-free win for the Chargers.

And after playing six straight games decided by one score to start the 2023 season, not to mention 12 such regular-season games a season ago, it was clear the Bolts enjoyed having a game in hand this time around.

"100 percent," Pipkins said with a laugh. "Why don't we just do this every time. It's just nice to get a win like that."

Joey Bosa added: "You get one of those every once in awhile. It feels good when you're going into the fourth quarter and you're not nervous that the game can go back and forth on any play. If we get a team in that position, it's important to keep it going and not let them work their way back."

Austin Ekeler said: "Felt good, definitely put ourselves in a good spot to have some other guys get some reps there at the very end. But it feels good to get a win like that together. And to do that you've got to get the whole team involved."

The 17-point margin of victory marked the third-largest under Staley since he arrived in 2021.

The Chargers focus now turns to Week 9 at the Jets on Monday Night Football. New York is 4-3, meaning the Monday matchup will features two of the 10 teams in the AFC who have either three or four wins.

"We've got to stack it one game at a time," James. "Get ready for New York next week."

He later added: "You get that feeling … this is a great feeling for our team. This what we can do when we play a complete game."

Khalil Mack added: "Great team win. Just looking forward to stacking them, getting ready for New York next week."

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