Defensive lapses worry Chargers' Staley going into playoffs

Brandon Staley is more concerned about the Los Angeles Chargers defense than he is about having a short week to prepare for Saturday night's AFC wild-card matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After a solid four-game run, the Bolts defense reverted to giving up big plays and struggling to stop the run in their 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos. The loss did not have any bearing on Los Angeles' playoff seeding after Baltimore was defeated by Cincinnati.

The Chargers (10-7) got the fifth seed and the right to play AFC South champion Jacksonville because of a better conference record.

“We didn’t play very well in the secondary. We gave up far too many explosive plays yesterday. Individual breakdowns," Staley said.

The Chargers allowed at least three pass plays of 50 yards as well as 205 rushing yards. While Staley did rest some players during the second half, the secondary breakdowns happened against starters.

It was the fourth time the Chargers have given up at least 200 yards on the ground. Opposing teams averaged 5.42 yards per carry against Los Angeles, which is the highest a team has allowed since the merger, and the sixth highest since 1932.

In Jacksonville's 38-10 victory against the Chargers on Sept. 25, the Jaguars rushed for 151 yards and Trevor Lawrence threw for three touchdowns. Both teams though have had plenty of changes since that game.

“I think our seasons are probably similar that way in that we played our best football at the end. They’re a complete football team; offense, defense and special teams,” Staley said of the Jaguars. "What makes a team a formidable team, those elements are still there, and they’ve improved. We have a lot of respect for this football team.”

The Chargers will go through a walkthrough Tuesday before ramping up practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Staley said the evening start on Saturday allows them to be a little more relaxed flying to Jacksonville on Friday.

“We’ll be able to get in Friday evening and not be in a hurry to do anything. Whenever we have a night game, we do the team meeting stuff the day of the game," he said. "Friday, there won’t be anything football-wise, per se, when we get to the hotel. Wake up on Saturday, have some meetings, and then get ready to go play.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Lots of receiving options. The Chargers are the first team to have six players with at least 500 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in a single season — WR Keenan Allen, WR DeAndre Carter, RB Austin Ekeler, TE Gerald Everett, WR Joshua Palmer and WR Mike Williams. It had been previously done eight times with five players, with the most recent occurring in 2018 with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Limiting big plays. The Chargers allowed nine plays of at least 20 yards against the Broncos, including two touchdowns. According to Sportradar, that is tied for the most they have allowed in a game since first tracked in 1991.

Los Angeles has given up 72 plays this season of at least 20 yards, third most in the league.

STOCK UP

Drue Tranquill. The fourth-year linebacker had six tackles and finished as the team leader with 142. Tranquill, a free agent at the end of the season, has 93 solo tackles, which is seventh in the AFC.

STOCK DOWN

Asante Samuel Jr. The cornerback got burned on a 52-yard reception by Freddie Swain during the fourth quarter. It was the longest catch Samuel has allowed in his two-year career.

INJURIES

WR Mike Williams bruised his back during the first half, but that shouldn't impact his status for this week. LB Kenneth Murray Jr. had a stinger, but will practice this week. CB Bryce Callahan (groin) should also return to practice after being inactive.

OT Rashawn Slater, who suffered a biceps injury in the Jaguars game, may have an outside chance at being designated to return.

“He is making progress. Similar to the way we handled (OLB) Joey's (Bosa) situation, you guys will get a sense of that when he is getting close to a return to practice," Staley said. “He is making progress. I am proud of the way he has come back and worked hard to give himself a chance to play.”

KEY NUMBER

10 — The number of 100-yard rushers the Chargers have allowed, which is a franchise record. According to Sportradar, it is the 17th time since the merger a franchise has allowed 10 or more in a season. The previous time it happened was in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers have won their past two games on wild-card weekend. They beat Cincinnati in 2013 and Baltimore five years later.

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Joe Reedy, The Associated Press