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5 Takeaways: Why Week 2 Was Kenneth Murray's Best Game in Years

5Takes Murray

The Bolts are 0-2 and are getting ready for a Week 3 road date with the Vikings.

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

1. Praise for Murray's performance

Kenneth Murray, Jr. had some added responsibility Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

The Bolts linebacker responded with perhaps his best performance in years.

With fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks inactive, Murray wore the green dot on his helmet and relayed defensive play calls in from the sideline.

He also was a force all over the field, finishing with 10 total tackles and two tackles for loss along with a sack and quarterback hit.

"I thought it was Kenneth Murray's best game since I've been the coach," Staley said. "I thought he had a winning performance.

"I thought his communication was outstanding in the game, his physicality and toughness were outstanding in the game, I thought he gave us pass rush," Staley added.

Staley specifically praised Murray's play in the run game as Titans running back Derrick Henry was mostly held in check with 80 yards on 25 attempts.

"There was just a lot of positives to take away from his performance and I think one of those performances, especially considering the running back," Staley said. "I thought that was a really good matchup in the game, him matching up against [Derrick] Henry and got a lot of respect for the way he played [Sunday]."

Murray also flashed his pass-rush skills, too, by wrapping up Ryan Tannehill for a fourth-down sack with just over 8 minutes left in the first quarter.

According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Murray's sack on Tannehill was 2.31 seconds, the fastest sack recorded by any defensive player so far this season.

2. The message of 0-2

The Chargers sit at 0-2 after the first two games of the season but have lost both contests by a combined five points, the same point differential as the 1-1 Lions. (Denver is also 0-2 and has a minus-3 point differential).

Staley said on Monday that although the end results haven't gone the Chargers way through two weeks, he likes the toughness and commitment his squad is playing with.

"I think this team knows that we've been through two tough games," Staley said. "And I think that our guys know this group top to bottom — 1 through 48 — is playing I think the right way, playing really, really hard.

"There's a lot of pride in that room. I think everything that has happened on film, that you can say were mistakes from our first two games, are correctable. We have the right people to correct them," Staley added. "I think there's confidence in who we have and how we're doing things. We're just going to focus on making the improvements each day so that we can create that confidence for game day."

Staley said he will continue to rely on the Bolts veteran leadership to help right the ship with 15 games remaining.

"This is a really mature group, it's a connected group," Staley said. "Again, we're just at the beginning but I think everyone knows what's happening on that film and I think people believe in the type of players we have, the type of coaches that we have to make good things happen moving forward.

"We just need to stay consistent with our process and consistent with the people out there on the field and good things are going to happen for us," Staley added.

The Chargers play the 0-2 Vikings on the road in Week 3.

3. Recapping OT

Despite winning the coin toss to start overtime, the extra stanza didn't go as planned for the Bolts.

The offense fired incomplete on three straight plays and had trouble getting in the correct formation on what turned out to be their final play of the game.

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams shouldered the blame after the game and said he needed to be in a different spot.

Staley broke down the sequence on Monday.

"We were going on a quick cadence. When [Williams] was lined up incorrectly, we didn't allow him to get over there, because of the type of cadence that we were on — because of the crowd noise — it was just kind of that stars aligning," Staley said. "We had a tough play there. We have to do better."

The Bolts then punted it away as the Titans took over at their own 39-yard line. The Bolts allowed a 14-yard run and another eventual first down that brought the Titans to the Bolts 37.

Staley said Monday that he tried to pressure Tannehill, which left Alohi Gilman in coverage on DeAndre Hopkins, but the Titans hit the All-Pro wide receiver for a 14-yard gain.

"We were trying to pressure to knock them out of field goal range … and hopefully create a negative play or a throwaway. He was just able to find him there, good throw and catch," Staley said. "We had pressure in his face but give credit to Ryan for throwing a good pass there."

The Titans ended up kicking a game-winning, 41-yard field goal three plays later.

Take a look back at the Chargers matchup vs the Titans in monochrome

4. Herbert's all-world play

If you missed Justin Herbert's first touchdown pass from Sunday, here's a chance to watch it again.

The Bolts franchise quarterback takes a shot to the face, uses his athleticism to evade the pocket and takes a hit while delivering a dart to Keenan Allen for a score.

All on fourth down in a loud, hostile environment.

"That's as a good of a play as you're going to see in the NFL from a quarterback," Staley added.

NFL Next Gen Stats noted the completion probability on the play was just 24.3 percent, and that it was Herbert's 10th touchdown pass with a sub-25 percentage since 2020, the most in the league.

Overall, Herbert finished with 305 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes while posting a 104.2 quarterback rating.

"I thought Justin gave us a chance to win in the game," Staley said. "He was outstanding in the 2-minute at the end of the game, driving us down the field. Had a couple big-time, fourth-down conversions for us. The first one to Mike [Williams] and the second one to Keenan, the one in the red zone on fourth down."

Staley also noted that Herbert hung tough despite pressure up the middle from Titans defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons and others.

"There was a lot of internal pressure, which is the toughest type of pressure for a quarterback. He managed it well," Staley said of Herbert, who was sacked three times.

Entering Monday Night Football, the Chargers are one of nine teams who have not turned the ball over on offense this season.

5. The CB rotation

The Bolts had four defensive players who played all 65 defensive snaps Sunday in Tennessee, one of which was cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.

The Chargers used a rotation of sorts with the rest of their group as J.C. Jackson (41 snaps), Ja'Sir Taylor (34 snaps) and Michael Davis (24 snaps) all seeing action.

"It was about the game plan. We felt like that would give us the best chance to win," Staley said while also noting Jackson's usage was about getting him up to speed due to his 2022 knee injury.

But Staley also offered some clarity on what the cornerback group could look like going forward.

"We're going to go with Ja at Star [nickel cornerback]," Staley said. "And those three guys on the outside [Samuel, Jackson and Davis] will play, like I said, based on J.C.'s ramp up and then based on their performance in practice and in the game. We would like those guys in a rhythm. Right now it's competitive and we feel like we have three starting corners."

Staley said he does expect that group of three to eventually get pared down to two full-time starters at some point this season.

"As we continue to play these games and perform, the competition will express itself and two guys will emerge and we'll be able to settle on out starting two," Staley said.

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