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5 Takeaways: Staley Reacts to Williams' Injury, Praises Bolts O-Line for Strong Play

Mike 5T

The Bolts are 1-2 and are now readying for the Raiders.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley on Monday:

1. Good vibes for Mike Williams

The Chargers received unsettling news Monday that wide receiver Mike Williams will miss the rest of the season after an MRI on Monday confirmed a torn ACL.

"It's the toughest kind of news," Staley said. "Mike's one of my favorites, he's one of our most important players he's a guy who's not only one of our best players, but he sets the example from a team building culture in terms of how you want to work and how much he's improved as a player.

"He had a fantastic game yesterday and was on his way to a huge performance," Staley continued. "It was a huge performance, but probably would've ended up being bigger.

"It's tough, we've just got to lift him up, raise him up. I think you see the value of him after a tough injury, you see the reaction of the guys and just how much he means to us," Staley added. "But we're going to step up for him, and we're going to make sure that this group plays to his standard. That's our responsibility now."

Williams was injured late in the third quarter against the Vikings when he made an 11-yard reception. He had 19 catches for 249 yards and a score this season, with the touchdown coming Sunday on a pass from Keenan Allen.

The focus now turns to adapting on the fly to Williams' absence, something Staley said will be a team effort.

"Everyone is going to have to elevate their game," Staley said. "We've got a lot of good options on our team, obviously Quentin [Johnston] being the first guy that's going to emerge in a bigger role. We've got Derius Davis, who has continued to develop and then that fifth spot is to be determined.

"We know what we have in Josh [Palmer] and Keenan [Allen] and those guys were fantastic yesterday in the game. You guys saw what Josh did last year when both Keenan and Mike were down," Staley added. "Everyone's going to have to elevate their game and it's not just the receiving group, it's going to be the tight end group and running back group as well. Going to have to work through those adjustments here during the week to get ready for the Raiders."

Johnston, the Chargers 2023 first-round pick, has played 48 offensive snaps in three games and has five catches for 26 yards.

The Bolts said this offseason that the wanted him to develop at his own pace, but Staley said that Johnston will now get a chance to contribute on a quicker timeline that initially expected.

"We drafted Quentin with the belief in the player and the long-term vision," Stakey said. "Now he's going to get an opportunity. And now you're going to see more of him.

"All he needs to continue to do is what he's done ever since he's been here, which is continue to make progress on the field," Staley added. "Over time, he's going to make more and more plays for us. We're really happy with him but he's going to get to shine in a bigger way now."

Staley also noted that while the Bolts could potentially look outside the building, he likes the wide receiver room as it currently stands.

"We're going to work through all that," Staley said. "I think our eyes are always going to be on players, regardless of the position, we feel like can help us, but we feel good about the group that we have right here. That's who we have to start with."

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 3 win over the Vikings in monochrome

2. Gotta have it!

Another week, another narrow game for the Bolts.

But after two close losses, the Chargers were able to come out on the right side of things in Minnesota.

The Bolts were clutch late in the first half when Donald Parham, Jr. caught a 1-yard touchdown pass with under a minute to play. The Chargers defense then kept the Vikings from getting any points before halftime, with Michael Davis making a key tackle in bounds that kept the clock ticking.

After halftime, the Chargers defense forced back-to-back punts before the Chargers offense found the end zone on Allen's touchdown pass to Williams.

"I think how we played in the gotta-have-it situations," Staley said of the winning performance.

The Chargers also thrived in the red zone on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Bolts scored on both trips inside the 20-yard line, an improvement from Week 2 in Tennessee.

The Vikings, meanwhile, only scored once on four such trips. The final stop, of course, came in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter when Kenneth Murray, Jr. sealed the game with an end-zone interception.

"Red-zone offense, we were two for two. Our red-zone defense, felt like won us the game. I just felt like situationally, our guys really hung tough there," Staley said.

He later added: "I just felt like situationally, our guys really kept their composure in a tough environment. That environment is one of the best ones in the league, against a team that made the playoffs. It was just a high caliber performance that way. I was proud of the way the guys executed."

Entering Monday Night Football, there had been 25 games decided by one possession or less this season, including all three games involving the Bolts.

3. Kudos to the Bolts O-line

Minnesota brought the heat on Sunday.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings blitzed Herbert on 40 of his 47 pass attempts Sunday, good for an astounding 85.1 percent rate.

Has Staley even seen that?

"No, I have not," Staley said.

Herbert promptly threw for 317 yards and three scores when Minnesota blitzed, routinely getting the ball out before a defender could bring him down. He was only sacked once.

Staley on Monday praised the Chargers offensive line for their stellar play.

"I don't think you ever anticipate [85] percent pressure in an NFL game. And it wasn't just like five-man pressure. It was six and seven-man totals," Staley said. "I felt like our group, it starts with your O-line and your quarterback with your identification process.

"You've got to have a toolbox that you're constantly activating and utilizing throughout the game. You know on any snap that this could happen so you have to be able to evolve it," Staley continued. "You can't just have one plan and that's it for the rest of the game.

"You have to have enough answers for the entire game and I thought our O-line and our quarterback were fantastic, as well as some of the other people involved in the protection whether it was tight ends or backs," Staley added.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Herbert's average time to throw Sunday was just 2.26 seconds, the lowest of any quarterback in the league. Herbert was kept clean on 36 of his 47 pass attempts, a solid number given Minnesota's blitz rate.

Zion Johnson, Rashawn Slater and Jamaree Salyer were among the standouts up front for the Chargers.

Johnson led the team with a pass-blocking grade of 88.7, a stat that also ranked first among guards in Week 3.

Slater's 85.5 pass-blocking grade was fourth among all tackles, while Salyer had a 79.6 pass-blocking grade.

"Zion had a quality performance, I thought he really improved from Game 2 to Game 3," Staley said. "But that entire O-line group played winning football for us."

It was a superb outing in one of the toughest places to play on the road.

"And, by the way, it's in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL," Staley said. "All that happening is when you've got premium crowd noise. I was very proud of our performance yesterday in that way."

Get an inside look at the postgame celebration from the Chargers first win of the season, a 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

4. Evaluating the run game(s)

The Chargers didn't rely much on the run game Sunday, with the Bolts carrying the rock just 15 times.

Those attempts gained just 30 yards, and included a 12-yard scramble from Herbert.

Staley on Monday said he was not concerned at all, especially given Minnesota's penchant for blitzing as detailed above.

"It wasn't going to be a game where the run game was a factor," Staley said. "You shouldn't read into that, it's just the way the NFL is and you can't force something to happen that isn't made to happen in the way that team was playing.

"We've played the game the way we needed to play it," Staley added.

It was a contrast from Week 1 when the Chargers had 40 total carries for 234 yards and three scores. Miami's defense, Staley noted, gave the Bolts chances to get the run game going.

"In the first game, we played the game the way it needed to be played," Staley said. "Nothing to read into offensively in terms of the run game. Our group yesterday I thought executed the game plan just like we wanted it."

Staley also touched on the run defense, which gave up 130 yards on 24 attempts. Minnesota entered the game with just 69 total rushing yards in the first two games.

"It was a little leaky at times. Not up to our standard," Staley said. "Nothing catastrophic by any means, but not up to our standard. But based on how you've got to play that group, we were playing that game a certain type of way, but we need to play better."

The Chargers will face a stern test in Week 4 in Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs.

5. All the emotions

Staley didn't have any words pregame when he met up with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell. highlighted the coaches' friendship and connection last week, but Staley was able to give a post-game report Monday on the vibe surrounding the clash.

"I haven't had a feeling like that. My goddaughter is over there and our kids are best of friends and our wives are best of friends," Staley said. "It was just different. Going against Sean [McVay] last year was the closest thing to it. You're feeling like it's a family member you're going against.

"You'd rather not see him pregame," Staley continued with a smile. "But it was special, for sure. We'll remember it forever. But not easy. Just so much respect for him and how he coaches and how he leads.

"That was a hell of a game yesterday," Staley added. "It felt like a playoff game with that type of caliber of play and that type of intensity."

Staley and O'Connell coached for one season together with the Rams in 2020 as respective coordinators on opposite sides of the ball. The two families became close, and even homeschooled together, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A special moment for us to take the field together," Staley said. "And it was a hell of a game. And I wouldn't have expected anything else."

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