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Brandon Staley looks for reset for Chargers, but the same problems have persisted during his tenure

Brandon Staley is looking for a reset for his Los Angeles Chargers after two straight losses and a 2-4 start to the season.

It’s a good idea in theory — and when playing Madden — except the Chargers have already had their bye week and many of their problems have persisted throughout Staley’s three-year tenure as coach.

Sunday’s 31-17 loss to Kansas City showed the Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a division title, and their odds of returning to the playoffs are getting longer.

In an AFC that has 10 teams at .500 or better, Los Angeles is tied with Tennessee for the second-worst record in the conference. Only Denver and New England are worse at 2-5.

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On Monday, Staley was more focused on the immediate issues than the big picture.

“The fundamentals focus needs to be on the identity of your football team. Just put one foot in front of the other and not be thinking too much about the telescope and make sure you’re focusing on the microscope and things we can control,” he said.

This year’s Chargers have a lot in common with the teams from Staley’s first two years.

Staley was hired after coordinating the Los Angeles Rams’ top-ranked defense in 2020, but the Chargers have had one of the league’s worst defenses since he took over. Over the past three years, they are 30th in points allowed per game (25.0), 28th in yards allowed per game (361.2), 30th in stopping the run (135.5 yards per game) and 29th in third-down conversions (teams are converting 43.4%).

Even worse is the defense’s propensity to allow big plays. The Chargers have allowed 37 plays of at least 40 yards during Staley’s tenure (only Washington is worse with 39), and opposing teams are converting 29% of the time on third-and-long (7 yards or more). The Chargers allowed two plays of at least 40 yards by the Chiefs, including a 46-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the second quarter.

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The Chargers utilized zone coverage on 65.2% of dropbacks in the first half, even though they have allowed the fourth-highest passer rating in zone under Staley and Kansas City has the league’s second-best passing attack against the zone in the same period.

Mahomes was 19 of 23 for 252 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers’ zone. He was excellent while facing man coverage, too: 13 of 19 for 172 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Staley and the Chargers played zone on nearly 60% of the second-half plays and were more effective.

Staley said he is not considering relinquishing play-calling duties on defense.

Under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Chargers are still struggling to move the ball in the second half. They have been shut out after halftime in two of the last three games due to inconsistency from the running game and Herbert facing pressure.

Staley does not think the broken middle finger on Herbert’s left, non-throwing hand is a factor.

“He’s just like a lot of the other players that are dealing with (injuries), but he’s been able to perform,” Staley said. “I think you’ve been able to see him throw the football at a high level. I don’t think it’s impacted the way that we call or play the game.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Cameron Dicker made a career-long 55-yard field goal during the first quarter, which is tied for the third-longest in franchise history. Dicker is 27 of 29 on field goals since joining the Chargers last season. His 93.1% accuracy rate his fourth-best in the league during that span.

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WHAT NEEDS HELP

Protecting Herbert. He was sacked five times by the Chiefs to tie a career high. In the past three games, Herbert has been under pressure on 46 of his 109 dropbacks. The 42.2% rate is fifth-highest among starting quarterbacks, which is a concerning trend for an offensive line that is missing center Corey Linsley and has struggled for most of the season. Herbert was 17 of 30 for 259 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

STOCK UP

WR Joshua Palmer had a career-high 133 yards on five receptions. Palmer’s 60-yard catch on a post route in the second quarter set up Herbert’s 7-yard TD pass to Gerald Everett that tied the game at 17. Palmer has 12 receptions for 269 yards in three games since Mike Williams went down with a season-ending knee injury.

STOCK DOWN

WR Quentin Johnston. The first-round pick was expected to help pick up the slack and become a more appealing target for Herbert after Williams’ injury, but the opposite has happened. Johnston has been targeted seven times the last three games and has only two receptions for 38 yards.

INJURIES

S Alohi Gilman has missed the last two games with a heel injury, and there is no timetable for his return. TE Gerald Everett suffered a quadriceps injury in the third quarter and did not return.

KEY NUMBER

55 — Games it took Derwin James to reach 400 career tackles. That is the quickest a defensive back has reached that milestone.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers make their second prime-time appearance in three games when they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.

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