On a night that the Chargers offense struggled to get it going, it was the defense that led them to a 20-6 victory over the New York Jets.
The Chargers’ defense sacked Zach Wilson six times, led by 2.5 by Joey Bosa, who got the only sack last weekend against the Bears. He said after the game, he was finally starting to feel healthy.
Bosa needed a performance like this. The Chargers defense needed a performance like this.
The defense has been under fire all season long because while they have turned the ball over and sacked the opposing quarterback, they didn’t when it mattered — late in games.
On Monday night, they didn’t have to get to that point, as they started the game off making their presence felt.
After the first Jets possession, Thomas Morstead punted it away to Derius Davis, who, after a good move, headed 87 yards to the end zone for his first career punt returned for a touchdown.
Wilson had the Jets offense driving when he hit Garrett Wilson for a seven-yard reception when safety Alohi Gilman knocked it loose, recovered by Derwin James.
After a Chargers punt, Wilson again had the offense moving after an Xavier Gipson 19-yard reception. A couple of plays later, Bosa beat right tackle Billy Turner to strip the ball away and recovered by the Bosa.
Justin Herbert got the ball moving to the one-yard line when he handed it off to running back Austin Ekeler for the touchdown.
They got off to a much-needed 14-point lead.
There were 2:34 left before halftime when Wilson had the Jets offense facing third-and-ten. He dropped back and was taken down by Tuli Tulipulotu. It led to a Cameron Dicker 55-yard field goal as time expired.
Coming out of halftime, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett made necessary adjustments because Wilson made plays of 31, 8, and 16 yards.
The Jets quarterback faced second-and-eight at the Chargers 11-yard line when Khalil Mack took down Wilson. A play later, Bosa and Morgan Fox combined for a clutch third down sack.
On the next Jets drive, Wilson was taken down by Bosa yet again on third-and-eight on the Chargers 37-yard line.
The Charger’s defense came up clutch anytime the Jets got into their side of the field. They took the ball away three times. They sacked Zach Wilson eight times.
Offensively, the Chargers offense struggled. Yes, Ekeler scored two rushing touchdowns, but it was a tough night for the offensive line and Herbert. They allowed him to be sacked five times.
To his credit, Herbert didn’t turn the ball over, which the Jets’ defense was able to do to Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts.
He led a 68-yard drive with about 2:35 left in the 3rd quarter that shaved off over eight minutes of the clock and was finished off by a Dicker field goal to put them at a 20-6 advantage.
On that drive, while facing third-and-four, Herbert threw a pass toward the sideline that looked too high, but Keenan Allen climbed a later, yanked it down with one hand and came down with it. That catch officially made Allen the 54th player in NFL history to surpass 10,000 receiving yards.
Late in the fourth quarter, Mack’s second sack of Wilson came in strip fashion, which was recovered by Gilman and returned to the one-yard line. Ekeler punched it in to finish the game off.
This is going to happen at times; one night, the offense will be the driving force to a victory while the defense struggles or vice versa. Monday night, it was the defense that put in the work.
The Chargers pass rushing trio of Bosa, Mack, and Tuipulotu sacked Wilson a combined 8.5 times and stripped him twice.
Sitting on the “in the hunt” of the playoffs at 4-4 and one game behind the 5-3 Bengals, Steelers and Browns — the Chargers have a chance. They will need to fix performances like this from their pass rush to try and make that happen, similar to 2022.