Despite ‘off week,’ Brandon Staley is pleased with Chargers’ 4-2 start

 Chargers quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Chase Daniel sit on the bench during the second half against Baltimore.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert hangs his head on the bench during a disappointing game against the Baltimore Ravens.
(Gail Burton / Associated Press)

In the two least-productive games of his NFL career, Justin Herbert’s team has lost by a combined score of 79-6.

That’s not a coincidence, Herbert’s immense talent and presence also tied directly to the Chargers’ success.

On Sunday, a comprehensive, three-phase meltdown resulted in a 34-6 loss at Baltimore. The situation was similar in Week 13 last season, when the Chargers fell at home to New England 45-0.

Not even Herbert — the NFL’s 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year — could prevent either calamity.


In the swirling winds and dizzying chaos of M&T Bank Stadium, he repeatedly was out of sync with his receivers as the Chargers appeared nearly powerless when trying to emerge from a 17-0 second-quarter hole.

“He was just a touch off, nothing more than that,” coach Brandon Staley said Monday. “From a timing standpoint, just a little bit off that normal rhythm that he established for the first five games. Days like that happen in the NFL.”

So Herbert is far from a concern for Staley and his staff as the Chargers enter their off week, sitting at 4-2 and with a share of first place in the AFC West.

The Chargers realize their 34-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens isn’t the end of the world, but the team now realizes they have a lot of work ahead of them.

Oct. 17, 2021

Despite their record — against a schedule rated among the league’s toughest to date — the Chargers do have issues.

Most notably:

—They have struggled to stop the run, their 162.5-yard per game average last in in the NFL, and by more than 20 yards.

The Chargers’ defensive front has lacked consistency and experienced problems in both execution and toughness. Last week, safety Derwin James suggested as one solution “whooping the man in front of you.”


Staley called the run defense’s performance Sunday “a step forward,” noting that the 187 yards the Chargers allowed on the ground included a 22-yard scramble by Lamar Jackson.

He also credited the defense for surrendering only 327 total yards even though the Ravens possessed the ball for 38 minutes and ran 15 more plays than the Chargers.

“I felt like, with our physicality, we did take a step forward with our front and our edges,” Staley said. “It’s not where we want it to be yet. But I felt like we definitely improved.”

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, left, talks with Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
Coach Brandon Staley’s Chargers got smoked in Week 6 by the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh, right.
(Gail Burton / Associated Press)

More encouraging still, reinforcements appear to be on the way. Linebackers Kenneth Murray Jr. (ankle) and Drue Tranquill (chest muscle), defensive tackle Justin Jones (calf) and safety Nasir Adderley (hip) are expected back soon.

Staley said the experience gained against Baltimore can only help. He specifically mentioned how the Ravens challenge run-support rules.

“That’s a game that’s like an NFL teaching session because there’s a lot that you can apply for the rest of the season,” Staley said. “You can really teach your defense at a high level off that film. We’re going to get a chance to do that.”

Takeaways from the Chargers game vs. Ravens. The Chargers had been very successful on fourth-down attempts, until this trip to Baltimore to play the Ravens.

Oct. 17, 2021

—A lack of depth was exposed against the Ravens when the Chargers were soundly defeated on special teams.

They don’t have an explosive returner, and Sunday gave up a 47-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half, leading to a touchdown drive. Baltimore’s Devin Duvernay also had a 14.7-yard average returning three punts.

As opposed to a team such as Kansas City, which features speed on special teams, the Ravens take a more powerful approach. The Chargers have struggled to keep up with both options.

“You got to match personnel better on special teams,” Staley said, “because we lost a lot of field position in the return game.”

During his news conference, Staley mentioned the possibility of acquiring more talent. He called exploring that avenue “the responsibility we need to have for our team.”

The NFL’s trade deadline is Nov. 2.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 34-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday — scoring and statistics.

Oct. 17, 2021

—Rookie Tristan Vizcaino beat out incumbent Michael Badgley in part because he has a stronger kicking leg. Vizcaino’s accuracy, however, remains a question.

He has missed five extra points over the last four games. Vizcaino is six of seven on field goal tries, but the Chargers have not attempted a field goal since Sept. 26.

His progress will be closely monitored after the break.

“I think these next two weeks, we’ll learn a lot,” Staley said. “We’re going to go look at the film. We have six games of kicks to learn from, and we’ll see where we go with it.”