He was discussing his defense’s struggles against the run Wednesday when Brandon Staley noted that football is “such a great team game.”
The Chargers’ head coach was making the point that stopping the run isn’t just about the big bodies up front playing well but rather the entire defense working together.
“Just like on offense, they say, ‘OK, sacks are just about the O-line,’ ” Staley explained. “Well, it’s not. It’s about your quarterback. It’s about your protection plan. There are a whole bunch of things.”
The reference was timely since protecting Justin Herbert is another issue that recently has surfaced for the Chargers.
Coming off a career-worst five-sack game in Week 11 against Kansas City, Herbert was sacked another four times Sunday in Arizona. In 43 starts, he has had only one other game in which he was sacked as many as four times.
Despite the consecutive rough outings, Staley said he is pleased with the fact Herbert has held on to the ball.
“Each sack has a story and you have to make sure you look at it,” Staley said. “I just think the one thing that Justin has proven is that he is an outstanding decision-maker and that he’s really strong with the ball.
“Although we have had nine sacks, we have had zero fumbles. That is important to be strong with the football. That’s how you win games in the league, protecting the football and taking it away.”
Herbert’s two lost fumbles this season came on sacks — in Week 3 against Jacksonville and Week 7 against Seattle, both home losses for the Chargers.
He has been hit 23 times over the last two weeks, according the NFL’s game-day statistics, and 32 times the last three games.
San Francisco’s Nick Bosa and Kansas City’s Chris Jones hit Herbert four times each and Arizona’s J.J. Watt got him three times.
Now comes Maxx Crosby, fourth in the NFL with 10½ sacks, on Sunday afternoon at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. He had 1½ sacks and six quarterback hits Sunday against Seattle.
Staley called Crosby “as good as it gets.” He was that and more when these teams met most recently just off The Strip. In Week 18 last season, Crosby sacked Herbert twice and hit him two other times.
He took advantage mostly of then-Chargers right tackle Storm Norton, whose stock has fallen so dramatically since that Norton was inactive Sunday against the Cardinals.
The Chargers’ offensive line has been without Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater (ruptured biceps) since Week 3 and lost Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley (concussion) in the second quarter Sunday. Linsley remains in the NFL’s protocol, his status for the game against the Raiders in doubt.
Right tackle Trey Pipkins III also didn’t practice Wednesday because of a knee injury he has been dealing with for several weeks.
The Chargers could start the game in Las Vegas the way they ended the game in Arizona, with two rookies, an undrafted free agent and a reserve making up 80% of their offensive line.
Staley said success on first down will be a key to protecting Herbert against the Raiders.
“Staying out of known passing situations,” he said, when asked to explain. “When you’re on the road, it’s loud and you’re playing against quality rushers, you multiply your chances of putting yourself at risk.”
The Chargers remain hopeful that Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa will make it back this season after undergoing surgery for a groin injury. He hasn’t played since Week 3. Staley said he doesn’t think the Chargers’ status as it relates to the playoffs will impact Bosa returning.
“I don’t think that is his mindset or ours,” Staley said. “He’s making good progress. We’ll see when he gets back out there. We’re going to make sure that he is ready to go, though, and be the Joey that we know he is.”
Safety Derwin James Jr. (hip), wide receiver Mike Williams (ankle), Pipkins III (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin) didn’t practice Wednesday. … Safety Nasir Adderley (thumb) worked out on a limited basis, safeguarding his injury with a large protective club on his right hand.