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Chargers Defense Shines Again in Week 15 Win

Week 15 FTP

Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Keenan Allen, wide receiver Mike Williams and more from Sunday win over the Titans.

The defense is peaking at the right time

The Chargers defense have been tested by two very different offenses in back-to-back weeks — and both times they've delivered.

The Bolts held their opponent under 300 total yards from scrimmage for second straight week, and just the third time this year, as they pulled out a hard-fought 17-14 victory over the Titans.

A physical, tough game was required this week, again without without Derwin James, Jr., Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley credited the defensive mindset as the reason for the two-week hot stretch.

"We have a really good defensive culture right now," Staley said postgame. "We have a lot of guys that believe in each other. What we've had to do is have people step up and play significant roles, and it has brought out the best in them. I really feel like we're playing as a unit."

"Our guys really competed today," Staley later added. "I thought that that was the story of the game, was how our defense played."

The opposing offense that rolled into SoFi on Sunday afternoon was different than the one that the team played last week. In Week 14, the defense prepared for a high-flying, explosive Dolphins offense that had big-play ability through the air.

In Week 15, however, they faced a different challenge — the physical running of Derrick Henry, who came into the week with the second-most rushing yards in the league.

The defensive gameplans changed drastically in terms of approach from one week to the other, but both produced the same results — a win.

The ability to flip from one week to another has been something Staley has talked about since the day he arrived — playing team defense.

"I know that there's still people out, but we got the right guys doing the right jobs and we're playing team defense," Staley said. "Since I've been here, you've heard me say it. Team defense last week against Miami is much different than team defense this week, but we're playing team defense.

"You're seeing all 11 players connected to the gameplan, executing their assignment, their technique and their effort," Staley added. "They're playing with the right energy. I felt like we've played as hard as we've ever played, since I've been here, on defense."

The defense has been able to more than hold their own against different types of offense in recent weeks, a product of the work they put in each week according to outside linebacker Chris Rumph II.

"I think it goes back to every week, we come back ready to face whoever we got that week knowing the challenges they present and going through the gameplan detailed and executing on Sunday," Rumph said. "I think that's what you're seeing from us right now."

Despite the number of injuries that have plagued the defense and team in general, the belief has never wavered within the team. The number of things they've gone through in 15 weeks has led them to this point, and they look to continue to build on it.

"I just think the belief in ourselves, right? The noise, tired of hearing how bad we are," said Sebastian Joseph-Day. "We know we're not bad. Just hearing things and finding a way to fight through that.

"We've gone through a lot more [stuff] that other teams," Joseph-Day added. "That really drives us. We're blessed that we're getting healthy at the right time and not take it for granted."

Red-zone offense perfect in tight contest

The Chargers didn't get into the redzone as much as they would've liked, but they sure did a good job of capitalizing on it.

In two offensive drives that entered the redzone, the Bolts were able to punch it in, including a score early in the fourth quarter that gave them the lead.

Entering the game, the Chargers offense was in the bottom quarter of the NFL when it came to getting a touchdown while in the redzone. Today's redzones drives were the difference, as points came at a premium all afternoon.

"I thought that was one of the bright spots for us today in the red zones," Staley said. "We were 2-of-2 in the red zone. I felt like we'd run the football in both times, which is what we were kind of searching to do.

"I felt the physicality down there, certainly [Austin Ekeler's] second effort and his nose for the end zone," Staley added. "I felt like that was a bright spot for us today on offense."

The topic of red-zone offense was one that was relevant in the week leading up to the game, and the team knew that in a matchup like this, they would need to be productive in any instance they could.

"That was a goal for us," center Corey Linsley said. "We had a feeling the way they were going to play that it was going to be that type of game where we were going to have to be productive, especially in the red zone. Especially in certain situations in terms of running the ball.

"I felt like we were productive in certain situations," Linsley added. "But we're still looking for more. There's more on the bone."

Specifically when it came to running the ball in the red zone, the Chargers struggled in recent weeks.

On Sunday afternoon, both red-zone touchdowns came on the ground — from Joshua Kelley and Austin Ekeler — a development that the Bolts offense hopes they can continue to improve on.

"Some it was given what they were doing," Linsley said about the red-zone runs.. "We knew the onus was going to be on us given the style of defense they play and the looks they were giving us.

But then also, it's something we haven't probably done well enough or done enough," Linsley. "We've put that goal in mind, to get the red zone runs going."

Dicker comes through in the clutch again

A wild rookie season continues for rookie kicker Cameron Dicker.

Set up by a highlight throw-and-catch from quarterback Justin Herbert to wide receiver Mike Williams, Dicker was able to hit his third game-winning field goal of the season.

This was his second with the Bolts, a 43-yarder that put the Chargers over the Titans with only four seconds left.

"He has done such an incredible job and even in practice," Herbert said. "We have so much confidence in him. The way he stepped in, has made his kicks and the way he has gone about it is a true professional.

"We trust him and it was really good to see from him today," Herbert added.

Dicker has been the team's kicker since he was signed to the practice squad in early November, and his familiarity with the team as time has passed made this game-winning kick even more special.

"It's just cool that I know the guys now," Dicker said.

"Before… I didn't really know anyone that well," Dicker said. "You want the team to win and everything, but now getting to know the guys and help them. It's fun."

Dicker earned a game ball, too, as he was perfect on the day knocking through his two extra-point tries in addition to the final kick that gave the Chargers the win.

"A game-changer for sure," Williams said. "Second [game-winner]. A true game-changer. [He] does his job at a high level and we're thankful to have him."

Since joining the Bolts, Dicker has made 14 of his 15 field goal attempts and is perfect in extra-point tries. When the team has needed a big kick, he has delivered.

But it's not something that the team is surprised about, as he as done it since the moment he joined the Chargers according to wide receiver Keenan Allen. Whether it's in practice or in the game, the team remains confident that Dicker will come through when needed.

"That's what a professional is," Allen said. "He's a guy who can come in and do his job when he's called on. He doesn't talk too much, he always shows up to practice and knocks them down.

"In practice, in the game, he's always knocking them down," Allen added. "We have the upmost confidence in him and again tonight, he won the game."

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