Below are three takeaways from Monday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Uchenna Nwosu and Drue Tranquill:
Nwosu playing the best football of his career
Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu has found his sweet spot in the defense this season that according to Nwosu, has allowed him to play the best football of his career. Nwosu's playmaking ability was on full display against the Bengals by recording two sacks, one of them a strip-sack which he recovered, and two quarterback hits.
On Monday, Nwosu talked about how the conversations between him and head coach Brandon Staley are coming to fruition and what has led to his recent breakout performance the last few weeks.
"That Baltimore week, going into the bye week, is really when I figured out, 'Hey, I can do this,'" Nwosu said. "I've settled in a little bit more, wasn't really trying to push everything ... Once I settled in, [I] knew what I was capable of doing and trusting my path, my coaching, and my practice habits, it just all fell into place. It's all starting to come to fruition. I'm starting to trust the process a lot more now, getting into a rhythm. Hopefully, we can keep this thing going."
In Week 13, the Chargers defense combined for six sacks and forced four turnovers on the day. The Bolts defense put together one of their best performances of the year with a variety of personnel on the field, including rookie OLB Chris Rumph II who recorded his first career sack. Nwosu talked about what allowed him to get free and get to Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
"On the first strip-sack, I was able to get the tackle, work his edge," he said. "Credit to the secondary, those guys held up in coverage, which gave me that extra second that [Bengals QB] Joe Burrow had to hold the ball. It gave me an extra second to get there and get that strip-sack. Rush and cover work together. When the DBs are covering well, we rush well. When we're rushing well, the DBs are covering well. It's all a testament to each other. It all goes hand-in-hand."
Run defense improving each week
In Weeks 11 and 12, Bengals running back Joe Mixon carved up opposing run defenses for a combined 288 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. With a big focus on stopping the run and containing Mixon heading into Week 13, the Chargers were able to execute their gameplan and hold Mixon to 54 yards rushing on the day. The Bolts also capitalized off of a Mixon fumble in a big way that led to a 61-yard scoop-and-score from Bolts corner Tevaughn Campbell.
With a chance to review the film, Staley talked about the improvement the Bolts run defense is making each week after the bye.
"I feel like we've been improving each and every game since the beginning of the season," Staley said. "I told you guys after the bye that I felt like, in the run game, our guys are a lot more confident in their technique and their assignments. I feel like that's expressed itself since the bye against some really good running teams. [Sunday] was no different, was no exception. You're talking about the third-rated back in the league, from a yardage standpoint. In my estimation, he's one of the top runners in the league. This guy is a really complete player. I feel like that aspect of our team is really improving."
Nwosu weighed in on the defense's ability to contain Mixon and the importance of carrying their Week 13 performance into their Week 14 matchup against the New York Giants and beyond.
"We're very prideful about that," Nwosu said. "We just have to keep going. We have to use this game as fuel to build off. We put it on tape, so people know exactly what we can do. We believe that we can do it. If we just keep honing in and keep that the main focus, keep the main thing the main thing, we'll be able to keep this going into next week."
Take a frame-by-frame look at Tevaughn Campbell scooping up a fumble and running it back for a 61-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Odds and Ends
Keenan Allen's two-point conversion pass to Justin Herbert: "Keenan's a guy that has many talents. This guy's a scratch golfer and all that. I haven't seen him on the basketball court yet, but he's a guy that can do a lot of things. He's got a high-level skill set. He's telling me that he can play DB, we'll see if that works out some day. In junior college we did that a lot, with guys going both ways. We'll see if that happens for him in the NFL. I think when you run those plays, you want to run them with people you trust. I feel like he's a guy you trust because there's an element of like, 'What if it was covered,' or, 'Hey, what if, what if, what if?' You want the ball in the hands of someone that can make a good decision and Keenan certainly did that for us."
Staley on Chris Rumph II's performance: "He's just been improving every single week. He finally got an opportunity to have an extended role in the game. I think that you saw that he has commanded the gameplan and that he's a fearless competitor. I think that he made a couple of huge plays on special teams for us. He's been a really a three or four-core special teams guy for us the whole season. We're excited to coach the guy. He has a lot of work to do in his game, but, yesterday, I think that he had three quarterback hits. He had the sack. He just gives us a lot of versatility, too. We like coaching the guy."
Drue Tranquill on limiting Joe Mixon Sunday: "I thought that we played physical at the point of attack. If you throw on the tape, I think that the disruption that you see from our defensive front, it was creating opportunities for [LB] Kyzir [White] and I, [S] Derwin [James Jr.], Nas [S Nasir Adderley] and those second-level players to kind of fill downhill and make plays. It was fantastic. It's something that we're going to have to keep up here these next few weeks."
Staley on the offensive line's performance: "Early in the game, we were really able to get control of the game because of how we were playing up front. I felt like the way they played in four-minute, I liked the way that we ran the football in four-minute when it was a known running situation. I felt like those guys really did a nice job."
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