Injured Joey Bosa still helped Chargers put best foot forward against Chiefs
He began the week in a walking boot and ended it in the Kansas City Chiefs’ backfield.
Joey Bosa didn’t need to practice once in order to produce Sunday in the Chargers’ 30-24 victory over the two-time reining AFC West champions.
Dealing with a sprained foot that had him officially listed as questionable, Bosa answered every question with a performance that, according to Pro Football Focus, included 10 pressures on Patrick Mahomes.
“I was surprised that as the game got going it felt pretty good,” Bosa said Monday. “As the game goes on and is close, the adrenaline’s pumping and you don’t really think about it quite as much.”
The Chargers came back twice in the second half to beat the Chiefs on an afternoon when they mostly contained Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.
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Kansas City had only two plays that netted as many as 25 yards. On 44 passes, Mahomes finished with a per-attempt average of 5.9 yards, the third-lowest mark of his career. The Chiefs’ longest touchdown covered just 10 yards.
Bosa said the Chargers simplified their scheme and focused on not allowing Mahomes to break loose, the pass rushers pushing forward as one and mostly remaining in their assigned lanes.
The defense’s big day began by producing turnovers on Kansas City’s first three series. Asante Samuel Jr. had an interception and Tevaughn Campbell forced two fumbles — both recovered by Michael Davis — in the game’s first 20 minutes.
“When you watch the tape, it wasn’t an accident,” Bosa said. “Those guys were really making it a point to punch at the ball.”
Alohi Gilman came up with a second pickoff in the final two minutes to set up the Chargers’ winning touchdown.
Bosa noted that both of Mahomes’ interceptions came when he was pressured. The Chargers sacked him twice and officially hit him five other times. Bosa and Drue Tranquill split one sack and Kyzir White had the other.
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Also worth nothing, both Samuel and Gilman went to the ground while making their interceptions and stayed down without attempting to stand and advance the ball. Gilman never was touched by a Kansas City player.
Coach Brandon Staley explained Monday that a point of emphasis for his staff has been protecting the ball after securing a turnover, especially when the defender is unsure of his surroundings.
He said too often players jump up and — uncertain of who’s close by — attempt a return only to be hit and fumble the ball back to the offense.
Staley said the Chargers refer to such unclear situations as being “in the city.” When the defender is certain no one’s around him and it’s safe to get up and advance the ball, the Chargers call that being “in the country.”
“We’ve talked about staying down in those 50/50 situations,” Staley said. “And I think both of those situations were kind of that way. So I was really proud of them.”
The Chargers defense also received a boost Sunday from Tranquill, who played a season-high 34 snaps after being limited mostly to special teams in the first two games.
The third-year linebacker split time with Kenneth Murray Jr. and finished with eight tackles, tied with White and Linval Joseph for the second-most on the team to Nasir Adderley’s nine.
“Drue’s definitely earned the right to be out there,” Staley said. “I didn’t do a good enough job in those first two games of getting him in.”
Staley said the weather conditions in Kansas City — hot, windy and dry — necessitated a more aggressive rotation to keep players fresh.
He also cited the need to get his best linebackers on the field, calling Tranquill, Murray and White “three starting-caliber players.” The Chargers’ scheme employs two inside linebackers at a time.
Chargers’ 30-24 road victory over the Chiefs by the numbers
“We need to do a great job here of making sure that our good players are out there playing for us,” Staley said. “Having all three of those guys play for us is going to be a good thing moving forward.”
Up next for the Chargers: the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night at SoFi Stadium.
Bosa said his foot is sore but feels better now than it did a week ago. He said he has no plans of missing practice when the Chargers resume Thursday and called playing on national television in prime time “super exciting.”
“Monday is always fun,” Bosa said, “getting an extra day to recover is also fun.”
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