COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) β€” Brandon Staley didn’t know Sean McVay when McVay interviewed him to become the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2020.

Staley only spent a year on McVay’s staff before becoming coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021, but the two have developed a deep friendship.

Staley will face his former boss for the first time in a co-tenant battle at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, with the Chargers hosting the Rams.

Staley said he still exchanged texts with McVay during the season, but those conversations were put on hold this week.

“I don’t have a lot of time to talk on the phone. When I do, I mostly talk to my family,” says Staley. “It’s nice to have friends and people who know you well.”

Staley was interviewed by the Rams through his friendship with Rams assistant Chris Shula. He and he McVay only spent a year together, but he clearly saw the game in the same way.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. I have friends there for life,” Staley said. “At the same time, we’re good friends, but we’re also great competitors. The game is going to be about competition.”

McVay said he was not surprised that Staley went from coordinator to head coach in just one year.

β€œHe had more drive, motivation, love and passion for the game than anyone I was around.

Staley and the Chargers (9-6) made the playoffs for the first time in four years, while McVay and the Rams (5-10) tied the 1999 Denver Broncos for the most losses among defending champions at the Super Bowl. Recorded.

The Rams have been out of the postseason pursuit for some time, but McVay said the challenge of the season has lifted him up.

“I think it’s a shift in perspective,” said McVay, who is 2-3 in the regular season and has made the playoffs with his former assistant. “This doesn’t mean you don’t wear it on you. .

offense needs work

The Chargers’ main focus in the remaining two games will be improving their still-struggling offense despite the return of wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

For the first time in his three-year career, Justin Herbert has not thrown a touchdown pass in consecutive games. The Chargers have his fifth-lowest touchdown percentage in goal-to-goal situations at 60.7% (his 17 TDs in 28 trips). They also went 11 straight games without a touchdown in the third quarter.

baker cooking

Baker Mayfield will try to lead the Rams to their third win at SoFi Stadium since joining the team at waivers from Carolina. He has completed more than 69% of his passes in his three games on McVay’s offense, recording 571 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception. A strong effort against the Chargers will be consolidated as a valuable commodity when Mayfield reaches his agency free in March.

Soar at the right time

The Chargers defense finally got it all together in the final three games. Bolt posted his league-lowest 34 points and his 225.3 yards per game in wins over Miami, Tennessee and Indianapolis. The pass rush also generated 13 sacks, second only to Philadelphia with 19 sacks. During that period, the Chargers improved from 26th to 29th in total defenses.

Those numbers could continue to improve over the next two games. The Rams have the 31st offense in the league, and the Broncos, who host the Chargers in Week 18, are 25th.

surge in sales

The Rams rarely produced turnovers during their season-ruining six-game losing streak, but the defense belatedly produced 12 takeaways in the last five games. After four interceptions while blowing through the Broncos, the Rams’ defense is poised to face Herbert, who has thrown three interceptions in his last two games.

Keep an eye on…

running back. Chargers’ Austin Ekeler has his 16 touchdowns, which makes him the NFL-leading player and could be the first player in 16 years to score 20 or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons. The Rams’ Kam Akers posted his season-high 118 yards last week against Denver.


Greg Beecham, AP Sports Writer for Thousand Oaks, California, contributed to this report.


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