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5 Takeaways: Chargers Frustrated, Focused on Little Details After 0-2 Start

5T Titans

The Bolts are 0-2 after a 27-24 loss in overtime Sunday in Nashville.

Here are five takeaways from Week 2:

1. Focused on the little details

There were two distinct vibes in the Chargers visiting locker room after Sunday's game.

The first?

"Pissed off. We know we should be winning these games," said outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

The Bolts are now 0-2 through the first two games of the 2023 season. This is on the heels of a two-point loss to the Dolphins in Week 1, meaning the Chargers pair of losses have come by a combined five points.

"It's tough. It's always tough to lose. I don't think there's some magical answer that people keep asking, but I think it's the little things that every single one of us needs to do a little better," outside linebacker Joey Bosa said. "Few plays here, few plays there, being a little smarter, some penalties or whatever it is, I think we come away with a victory.

"But yeah, it sucks," Bosa added.

Mack offered a similar sentiment.

"We've gotta play attention to the details, especially later in the game," Mack said.

He later added: "All across the board, it's about not hurting ourselves."

Besides the obvious frustration, there was also a sense of optimism from players and coaches.

The Chargers are still early in the 2023 season and believe they have what it takes to get things turned around in a hurry.

"We've got 15 games ahead of us," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "We've lost two really tough games right there at the end — an overtime game and one that might as well have been an overtime game.

"We're doing a lot of really good things out there," Staley added. "The mistakes that are being made out there, we can correct all of them."

Quarterback Justin Herbert said: "It's the NFL. Obviously, you never want to be in this position, but I know that we got the right guys in that locker room and we're going to stay together. We're going to stay tough and we're going to get this thing going because it's a long season and a lot of football left. We're not where we want to be right now, but that doesn't mean we can't get there in the next couple weeks."

The Chargers will now get ready for a Week 3 road date with the Vikings, who are also 0-2.

"Keep working," said wide receiver Keenan Allen. "Go back next week, keep working in practice. Got Minnesota next week and we're going to try to figure it out there."

Staley added: "We've just got to do it together as a team. This is the tough side of it here. But this group is capable of it. We're going to find our way and this group is going to show what it's made of."

2. Offense laments 3rd-down woes

The Chargers won the toss at the start of overtime Sunday, meaning a touchdown from the offense equaled a win.

The Bolts couldn't do it as Herbert threw incomplete on three straight plays. The Titans took the field and marched down for the game-winning field goal from 41 yards out.

Perhaps it was fitting than the Chargers final offensive play came on third-and-10, because that was a down that plagued the Bolts offense all afternoon.

Overall, the Chargers converted just twice on 14 total attempts on third-downs.

"We just didn't capitalize on third downs," said wide receiver Mike Williams.

Herbert added: "Just have to capitalize on third down. As an offense we have to get better, so we're going to watch the film to get better at that. Obviously, not what we were hoping for, we're aiming to be higher and better than that, so that's our responsibility as an offense to be better than that. It's something we'll have to focus on this week at practice."

On a day where Herbert was sacked three times, all three instances came on third downs.

"We had a tough time protecting the passer today," Staley said. "We just didn't do well enough in that phase."

"It really started with their front … really good and tough to block," Staley later added.

Running back Joshua Kelley added: "I know they brought a lot of pressures, I know they're getting a lot of penetration. But it's tough, we've got to protect the quarterback. He's a great player … we've just got to make sure he's protected."

Herbert finished with 305 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Allen.

3. Defense hurt by penalties, big plays

On a day where the Bolts defense played well for stretches at a time, the low points were magnified in a big way.

Almost half of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill's 246 passing yards came on two plays.

The Bolts had just scored to go up 11-0 when Tannehill connected on a 70-yard pass that led to Tennessee's first score of the day.

And with the Bolts up 21-17 late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers defense was hurt by a 49-yard gain through the air.

"I thought the two passes were a big story in the game," Staley said.

He later added: "Our guys have to win in pass coverage and respect the deep part of the field and have to know who on the other team can get there. The secondary, we've got full belief in those guys. Everybody in the back end."

The Chargers were also hurt by penalties early in the second half when they were up 14-10.

Derwin James, Jr. was called for unnecessary roughness on third-and-13 that gave the Titans a fresh set of downs. Staley said it was a "bang-bang play."

Later on the drive, Sebastian Joseph-Day was called for roughing the passer after an incompletion on third-and-6. The Titans later scored to take a 17-14 lead.

"We've got to play penalty-free ball, so I take accountability for my roughing the passer for sure, because I definitely cost us, probably three points or whichever points. We've got to be better," Joseph-Day said.

He later added: "It's about not shooting ourselves in the foot, dumb penalties like mine. That's it really. Think about it, those penalties were pretty crucial, including mine, so that's really it. We don't have those penalties we're probably up by 10."

Staley added: "They were costly plays for us … if those don't happen then we're off the field and feel a lot different about ourselves."

4. Bosa shines in Week 2

Bosa barely practiced all week, getting just limited work in Friday before being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.

Bosa looked in fine form against the Titans, notching a pair of sacks in the loss.

"I feel fine. It was a little strained last week but to be able to recover and get back out there and at least help my team a little bit meant a lot to me," Bosa said. "But yeah, I just wanted to be smart.

"The rotation was a little weird, I thought the times I should've been out there probably on third down, but coach rightfully so was just being smart about it," Bosa added. "Feel bad that I was down at all today but I think it was smart watching the plays and I should be able to come back strong next week."

Staley added: "I thought he played aggressively. Says a lot about him that he wanted to be out there."

Both of Bosa's sacks came on third downs and highlighted a big day for the Bolts defense in that area.

Of the five sacks on Tannehill on Sunday, four came on third downs.

"Yeah, I think we got a good rush plan, mixing up the games inside and trying to rush a little better as one," Bosa said. "But wish we could've got him down a couple more times, I think that would have turned the tide completely."

Morgan Fox and Tuli Tuipulotu also tallied third-down sacks, while one from Kenneth Murray, Jr. came on fourth down.

"I thought we rushed the passer well today," Staley said.

5. Bolts run game stymied

A week after rushing for 234 yards in the season opener, the Chargers ground game generated only a quarter of that output against the Titans.

With Austin Ekeler out with an ankle injury, the Bolts managed just 61 yards on 21 attempts.

Kelley had 39 yards on 13 carries while Derius Davis added a 10-yard run.

"They've got a very good front. Good front seven … we weren't able to get anything going today," Staley said.

The Titans were either first or second in rushing yards allowed per game over the past two seasons.

"This is how the NFL works," Kelley said. "If you're not locked in, dialed in the whole game, it's the difference between 0-2 and 2-0."

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