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Key defensive observations from the Chargers 31-20 defeat of the Bills

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Los Angeles Chargers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers took care of business in Buffalo. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a picture-perfect win, but they made the cross-country trek, played a solid first half of football, and rode a 22-point halftime lead all the way to a victory.

On the one hand, the team bounced back from a humiliating loss to Kansas City by winning a game we all expected them to win. They stopped the run, harassed Josh Allen, recorded five sacks and forced two turnovers, and did several things you’d expect them to build on moving forward. That, in and of its self, is encouraging.

On the other hand, the secondary blew several coverage assignments, the pass rushers missed a handful of potential sacks due to undisciplined rush angles, and Desmond King committed a horribly bone-headed taunting penalty that extended a Buffalo possession and led to points. In other words, they were far from perfect.

With that said, let’s look at my top offensive takeaways – good and bad – from Sunday’s game:

  • Derwin does it all: Derwin James was all over the field on Sunday, recording eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass break up. James played all over the field and made a massive impact in run support, in coverage, and as a pass rusher. He was the best player on the field regardless of team or position.
  • The rookies carried the day…again: Uchenna Nwosu had a sack and a couple of pressures, Kyzir White recorded three pass break-ups and an interception, and we already talked about Derwin James. They were the most impactful and most reliable aspect of the defense all day long and continued to show why the team selected them in the 2018 NFL Draft.
  • The first half game plan was nearly flawless: At least from a game plan perspective, the Chargers did almost everything right on defense in the first half. Gus Bradley cut his playmakers loose, stacked the box, harassed Josh Allen and let his corners press the Buffalo receivers. I’m still not sure why he seems to be so committed to Kyle Emanuel, but he drew up some fun blitz packages and put his best players in position to succeed.
  • Too many blown coverage assignments: While the score may not reflect it, the Chargers secondary did not play well in Buffalo. Kyle Emanuel, Des King, and Jahleel Addae all blew several coverage assignments, leaving a variety of Bills receivers wide open downfield. Josh Allen completed five passes of 20+ yards, but he also left at least four big plays and two scores on the field because he either didn’t see open receivers or made poor throws. There is a good chance a competent quarterback cashes in on more of those opportunities, and we’re discussing a very different outcome in the days following the game.
  • Rock bottom for Desmond King: I think it’s safe to say Desmond King suffered through the worst game of his Chargers career on Sunday. The nightmare began with a bone-headed taunting penalty that extended a Buffalo scoring drive and kept on rolling with several blown assignments. It looked like the Bills identified Des as someone who gambles on underneath routes and tried to pick on him with double moves; a tactic that worked regarding getting their receivers open downfield, even if Josh Allen failed to deliver the ball.

That pretty much does it for my defensive observations. Unlike last week, I thought Gus Bradley did a much better job of identifying and attacking Josh Allen’s shortcomings, and I’m especially encouraged by the way he cut Derwin James loose in a variety of roles. The blown coverage assignments and mental errors notwithstanding, I was pretty happy with how the Chargers got after Josh Allen and felt like there is enough there to build on moving forward.

What are your defensive observations from the Bills game? Let me hear them in the comments section below.