The Chargers defense knew how tough a matchup they would have on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Three weeks into the new season, they are facing Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce.
After the game, head coach Brandon Staley said it was like facing the Golden State Warriors with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. That's how explosive the offense is for the Chiefs.
Staley, along with defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill came in with a clear plan on Sunday.
"You got to assess how you're going to play that team," Staley said.
They let the Chiefs offense get away with some things but did two key things take the ball away and limit the explosive plays.
"I feel like you have to take the ball away in order to beat that team," safety Derwin James said. "You see that with four turnovers, they still was in the game. We got to keep getting turnovers against this team, and like I said, we gave ourselves a chance to win today."
On the opening drive, the Chiefs drove to the 29-yard line when Mahomes no-looked towards receiver Marcus Kemp but it was behind him, so it was popped into the air, and a diving Asante Samuel Jr. intercepted the pass. His second interception in the last two games.
"I'm more than impressed because, like I said when we drafted him the first day, he's a dog, and he's showing that every week," James said about the rookie cornerback.
The Bolts were missing cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who is dealing with a shoulder injury. Last game, they decided to put James in the slot, but they put cornerback Tevaughn Campbell in the slot this week and let James play his game.
On the next two drives, Campbell made an impact. First, Hill caught a pass, and Campbell was playing catch up, but he punched the ball out of his hands, and cornerback Michael Davis recovered it.
The offense would score on a Keenan Allen four-yard touchdown.
Kansas City was driving yet again when running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was running the ball when Nasir Adderley and Campbell combined for a tackle, but Campbell yanked the ball out of the back's hands. It was recovered by Davis again.
Austin Ekeler finished turnover with a 16-yard touchdown reception.
"Tevaughn Campbell, I feel like he was the really the MVP out there today," James said.
That was three turnovers in the first half, which led to only three points by Kansas City.
Mahomes and CO. came out in the second half looking for blood. They scored two touchdowns right away.
The Chiefs took a page out of the Dallas Cowboys playbook on Sunday, which was to make the Chargers defense try to stop them from running the football. They couldn't.
Edwards-Helaire was getting positive yardage at will. He finished the game running the football 17 times for 100 yards. Kansas City had 186 yards on the ground on 30 attempts.
It was tough to slow down the run, but the Chargers defense was able to limit the homerun plays that are typical to see from K.C. They held this offense to 5.8 yards per play.
"I felt like our defense really, really, really competed today," the head coach said.
Another impressive feat was the pressure the defensive line got on Mahomes. They were consistently getting in his face, especially defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Mahomes was sacked twice, with one of those coming from edge rusher Joey Bosa.
He was questionable coming into Sunday with an ankle but was able to play and make an impact.
"Joey Bosa exemplified the warrior spirit that you need in order to beat a team like this," Staley said. "When you're not feeling great, you need your premium players out there. Derwin James got nicked up. He comes back out because he's got a warrior spirit, and that's what you need when you play teams like this. It's all hands on deck."
The defense allowed three touchdowns in the second half while the offense responded with two, but on the fourth opportunity, the Chargers defense was at it again. Mahomes threw a pass up to Kelce, and it was a sliding interception made by Alohi Gilman.
Herbert would finish the game off with a touchdown pass to Mike Williams.
"I love ten (Herbert) back there," James explained. "Like I've been saying, we try to get the ball to him as much as we can because we know what they're going to do with it. When our offense gets stopped, they're really stopping themselves, so we try to get the ball to them as much as we can."
The Chargers took the ball away four times, held the Chiefs to two big plays (both made by Kelce), and held Hill to only 56 yards.
"Certainly with four takeaways, that's like a perfect situation," said Staley. "They're just a really tough team to play against, if you don't, because they score the ball so prolifically. So, to be able to take away some of their terms, create more opportunities for your offense, and then change the field position. I felt like that was really critical in the ballgame today."