The LA Chargers' 31-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 was a tale of two (bad) halves. In the first half, the Chargers' defense did not show up to play and allowed over 300 yards of offense and 24 points to be scored.
Then, when the defense buckled down in the second half and held the Chiefs at bay, the offense could not hold up its end of the bargain. The Chargers did not score in the second half. Between Justin Herbert's red-zone interception and the last drive of the game, the Bolts did not have a single first down.
Why the Chargers sputtered offensively is unclear, although the fanbase has accepted that Justin Herbert is not playing to the best of his abilities and needs to be better. Defense, however, is a bit easier to pinpoint. The Chargers made adjustments at halftime to play more man coverage in the second half against the Chiefs. The results spoke for themselves, with many fans wondering why this wasn't the plan all along.
After the game, head coach Brandon Staley pushed back to a question asking why the Chargers didn't play man in the first half, saying that the team "played plenty" of man coverage. However, the post-game quotes from Staley's very own players tell a different story (h/t Daniel Popper, The Athletic).
Brandon Staley doesn't have the Chargers on the same page
Staley did take ownership of the loss after the game, outwardly saying that he needed to be better and it did not fall on anyone but himself. This was a fitting response considering how this game played out, as Staley and the defensive staff may have overthought the game plan in the first half.
This has been a constant trend for Staley's defense in Los Angeles. Staley comes from the Vic Fangio tree, which believes in making defenses as complex as possible to hinder opposing quarterbacks. The Chargers run a lot of cover six and various other defenses that require every single person to be on the exact same page.
This team isn't on the same page, and the results have shown. All it takes is one small mistake, or one smart tight end to exploit the zone, and it all falls apart. The ceiling might be higher in Staley's complex defense if everything works perfectly but we all know that is not the reality of football.
The coaching staff has not properly put its players in positions to succeed defensively. When the Chargers made the adjustment in the second half it freed up the defense. Michael Davis was able to do more of what he was good at. Derwin James was able to step in as the "Travis Kelce stopper". The results spoke for themselves.
Unfortunately, Staley is not Marty McFly and can't go back in time to convince himself to simplify the defensive game plan before the opening kickoff. Hopefully, this game can at least be an eye-opener for the rest of the season as the Chargers try to salvage a disaster.