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5 Takeaways: Bolts Look to Reset Ahead of Week 8

5T 10.23

The Chargers are 2-4 as they get ready for a Week 8 primetime home game against Chicago.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's Monday media availability:

1. Resetting ahead of Chicago

The Bolts are six games into a 17-game season, and still have plenty of opportunities left to get things turned around.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley on Tuesday talked about his belief in the locker room and the organization, noting that he is a firm believer than the team can get back on track despite a 2-4 start.

"The people that are on our team understand the quality it takes in the NFL, when you have it, when you don't," Staley said. "Most people who have been in an NFL locker room understand that, and so we know the quality that we have and we've seen it in spurts.

"Again, the way the season started it hasn't been what I think many would have envisioned on our team, but it doesn't take away from the belief that we have in us making it happen," Staley added. "I think those are here on a day-to-day basis understand that better than those who aren't. That's why I think us just getting on the practice field Wednesday, fresh and focused, that we'll be able to put a good practice week ready for Chicago."

The key to a turnaround, Staley said, is to rest things a bit after Week 7.

The Bolts have alternated a pair of losses and wins so far through six games, starting 0-2 before getting to 2-2 before now sitting at 2-4.

Back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Chiefs, Staley said, can't be the focus ahead of a game on Sunday Night Football against the Bears.

"We lost two tough ones to two good teams and I think after you lose two games in a row, you need to, as a group, reset and focus on your fundamentals, focus on the identity of your football team and just put one foot in front of the other," Staley said. "Not be thinking too much about the telescope, making sure you're focusing on the microscope. Just controlling the things we can control, that's all this football team needs to do.

"We've got a good team," Staley added. "Through six games, we haven't gotten the results yet but I think a reset takes the pressure off and gets us focusing on the things that really allow us to perform the way we're capable of."

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 7 matchup with the Chiefs in monochrome

2. Kelley's big day

Much like the offense as a whole, the Chargers ground game had a hot start against the Chiefs before fizzling out in the second half.

The Bolts finished the first half with 15 carries for 99 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown run from Joshua Kelley. The run game had just 11 carried for 40 yards after halftime.

Staley said Kelley's long touchdown run reminded him of the 75-yard score the running back had against the 49ers in the preseason.

"I thought JK was a bright spot for us yesterday. I really felt like he gave us energy in the game, thought he was decisive," Staley said. "It kind of reminded me of when he hit that run against San Francisco in the preseason on that cut back run, it really reminded me of that. I really liked the way we ran the football yesterday and he was a big part of it."

Kelley, now in his fourth season, has a team-high 284 rushing yards this season.

3. Palmer stepping up (again)

It's been a familiar storyline for Joshua Palmer in 2023.

A year ago, the Chargers wide receiver stepped up to catch 72 passes for 769 yards to go along with three scores with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams battling injuries.

Williams is out for the season with a torn ACL, and it's Palmer who is once again rising to the occasion.

"You know the quality you're seeing on the practice field and the game field for three years," Staley said. "He's improved every year as a player and he's got full confidence out there right now, you're seeing it. We have full confidence in him to separate, to win."

Palmer had five catches for a career-best 133 yards on Sunday, with all five receptions going for first downs. Even more, three of his catches came in the clutch on either third or fourth down.

Palmer had the game's longest play with a 60-yard reception in Week 7, and also added catches of 25, 22 and 19 yards against the Chiefs.

"You're seeing a lot of the explosions come his way, too," Staley said. "Where you're seeing him get to the deep part of the field, seeing good run after catch. He's just a complete player.

"You can put him anywhere in the formation," Staley added. "He can beat press coverage outside the red line, in the slot. He's one of the top young guys that I think is emerging in the league."

Palmer has 20 catches for 353 yards and a touchdown this season.

4. Scott finding his groove

JK Scott has bounced back in a big way of late.

The Bolts punter got off to a shaky start earlier this season but has been rock solid of late, including Sunday in Kansas City.

"I thought he was a bright spot and is improving as a player," Staley said. "He hit a couple really big ones in that game that really neutralized their returner and really flipped the field for us.

"I felt like we were doing a good job — when we were punting the football — we were gaining an advantage with our coverage units, which were a big part of that game," Staley added.

Scott had five punts for 261 yards, as his average of 52.2 yards per punt was the fourth-best single-game gross punting average of his career.

He also showed off his pinpoint accuracy, landing three punts inside the 10-yard line, two of which rolled out of bounds at the 3 and 8-yard lines, respectively.

"Hopefully we continue on that trend because he was such a weapon for us last year and he's been good for us at times this year, too. For him to find that rhythm is going to be important for us," Staley said.

5. A look at the pass rush

The Bolts pass rush still ranks among the top of the league entering Week 8, as their 26.0 total sacks are eighth overall.

But Staley said the operation and execution of the pass-rush plan could have been better Sunday against Patrick Mahomes, beginning with him.

The Chargers tallied one sack on Mahomes, which was made by Kenneth Murray, Jr., but otherwise couldn't affect the quarterback on a regular basis.

"Just didn't feel like we were consistently around the quarterback," Staley said. "I give my credit to them, they blocked us. Four, five, six-man rushes, they blocked us well. Just didn't win enough of those matchups.

"And when we win, they didn't have enough impact on the outcome. Just one of those days that can happen at times," Staley added. "I'm more concerned with the loose plays by the quarterback than the actual sack production. It wasn't a good game for us in that phase. I need to do a better job."

Mahomes' ability to get outside the pocket let to multiple explosive pass plays, including a 46-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

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