May 23, 2024

On the first snap of the game Sunday, the Chargers yielded a 41-yard pass completion, a play that would end up being the longest of the night for either team.

From that reeling start, the defense quickly rallied, and, just three plays later, Joey Bosa overwhelmed Chicago left guard Cody Whitehair to sack Tyson Bagent and end the Bears’ opening series.

“I’m just trying to have a little more fun out there,” Bosa explained later. “I mean, every week is so serious. There’s always so much riding on every game. You can get caught up in the stress and all that.”

Bosa and the Chargers went on to enjoy a relatively relaxing 30-13 victory at SoFi Stadium, the veteran edge rusher returning to something closer to his usual form as he plays through a broken left big toe.

Sunday marked Bosa’s third game back after missing the Chargers’ Week 4 victory over Las Vegas. His playing time has continued to ramp up as he has been able to practice more with his injury healing.

“I feel like I always play better when I get to practice,” Bosa said. “I was able to practice full speed. I just went through a week normally finally. … It was a great week. I’m excited to keep stacking them.”

Bosa, who also had a fourth-down stop on a running play late in the third quarter, finished with four tackles.

“It’s just good to see him healthy,” coach Brandon Staley said. “He was battling through a bunch those first three, four weeks. Now he’s been able to put three consecutive weeks of practice together where he feels like he’s got his legs and his gas tank full. [So] you’re going to see the playmaking.”

In the second half, the Chargers’ defense stopped Chicago on fourth down twice and ended another series with a fourth-down interception by safety Derwin James Jr.

Bosa’s opening-drive stop — the only sack of the game on either side — was the perfect statement for a defense that would dominate much of the night.

“It’s always good when you got 9-7 out there rolling,” fellow Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “You can always tell the difference when he’s out there.”

Q answers the call

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson, left, breaks up a pass intended for Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston.

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson, left, breaks up a pass intended for Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston. Johnston was targeted six times by quarterback Justin Herbert and had five catches.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Rookie Quentin Johnston had his most productive day as a pro, finishing with five receptions for 50 yards. A first-round pick, Johnston entered Sunday with only seven catches for 64 yards on the season.

“We wanted to get him going,” Staley said. “We had a lot of good plays in the plan for him. He made plays tonight, a lot of different types of plays.”

Johnston’s output included four catches that picked up first downs. He also drew a pass interference penalty for another first down.

After struggling to find himself and his place in the offense, Johnston looked more comfortable Sunday as quarterback Justin Herbert targeted him six times.

“Kind of just proving to myself that I belong here,” Johnston said. “With the first few games I had, I did OK. But, honestly, it wasn’t what I was used to. I had to learn to be patient [and] still keep that confidence.”

Johnston’s emergence could prove vital as the Chargers try to remain relevant in the AFC despite a damaged wide receiver group.

They already are without Mike Williams, who is out for the season because of a knee injury. Joshua Palmer also is battling a knee injury and missed time against the Bears.

“The more he plays the more he improves,” Staley said of Johnston. “You’re seeing that. The more he figures out how to play, you’re going to see the production because he’s certainly capable.”

Fehoko for six

Chargers receiver Simi Fehoko (87) gets past Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) for a first-quarter touchdown.

Chargers wide receiver Simi Fehoko gets past Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson for a first-quarter touchdown.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If Johnston’s performance was a pleasant surprise, Simi Fehoko’s was even more surprising.

Signed off Pittsburgh’s practice squad in September, Fehoko scored his first NFL touchdown on a nine-yard pass from Herbert late in the first quarter.

The catch also was Fehoko’s first as a Charger as he appeared in his third game with the team. A fifth-round pick (out of Stanford) by Dallas in 2021, Fehoko had three career receptions before Sunday.

“As soon as I caught the ball, I sort of blacked out a little bit,” Fehoko said, laughing. “It was awesome.”

More second-half ‘O’ woes

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert talks with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore during the second half against the Bears.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert talks with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore during the second half against the Bears.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Up 24-7 at halftime and 30-7 entering the fourth quarter, another lackluster offensive second half for the Chargers was somewhat obscured.

Their point production after halftime included just a pair of Cameron Dicker field goals, from 53 and 46 yards.

Over their past four games, the Chargers have scored only one touchdown in the second half. Dicker has kicked three field goals during that stretch.

“I don’t think that we finished the game plan like we can,” Staley said. “We can get two or three touchdowns there and make that kind of a monster game. But that’s why you go back to work.”

Staley credited Chicago’s defense, particularly against the run. The Chargers gained only 25 yards on 15 attempts in the second half. They averaged 2.2 yards per carry for the game.

In his own words

“There’s going to be some things we need to improve on, for sure. It wasn’t like it was this perfect performance. But I like the level of play. I thought the level of play, the style of play was much more what we’re capable of.” — Staley on his team’s overall showing

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