Chargers’ Brandon Staley assumes responsibility after his team fails to keep pace with the Chiefs

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He repeatedly took the blame (over and over) and continuously noted the poor execution of his players (time after time).

Yes, it was a full-system, entire-defense meltdown Sunday for the Chargers, who were steamrolled in the first half and remained far too flat the rest of the afternoon in a 31-17 loss to Kansas City.

“The blame is mine,” coach Brandon Staley said. “No one else’s. I just gotta do a better job of getting us off to a good start in the game. And that’s not what happened.”

The Chiefs’ two brightest stars — tight end Travis Kelce and quarterback Patrick Mahomes — were blindingly brilliant over the first 30 minutes.

Kelce had 100 yards receiving by the middle of the second quarter and Mahomes 300 yards passing by halftime as Kansas City opened a 24-17 lead and then squeezed the Chargers dry over the final 30 minutes.

“We just didn’t execute very well in the first half,” Staley said. “We didn’t rush them or cover them well enough. It was both things happening at the same time. And, like I said, it’s my responsibility.”

The stunningly rocky start was just the latest sour chapter for a defense that has been exposed often this season. Entering Sunday, the Chargers were last in the league in passing yards allowed per game.

Read more: Chargers’ 31-17 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs by the numbers

Though Staley said his defense “played plenty of man in the first half,” a move away from zone-based coverages sparked a decidedly better showing after halftime.

Mahomes over the first two quarters: 20 of 23 for 321 yards and three touchdowns.

Mahomes over the final two quarters: 12 of 19 for 103 yards and one touchdown.

Taylor Swift, left, celebrates with Brittany Mahomes as they watch the Chiefs beat the Chargers.

Taylor Swift, left, celebrates with Brittany Mahomes as they watch the Chiefs beat the Chargers. (Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

Kelce over the first two quarters: nine receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown.

Kelce over the final two quarters: three receptions for 36 yards and no touchdowns.

“I think a lot of people don’t really want to play man against them,” safety Dean Marlowe said. “But you got to, I think. You gotta just bow up. Forget the Xs and O’s. You just gotta go out there … and play and fight.”

After noting, “In the second half, [we] made good adjustments,” Staley was asked why the Chargers didn’t make adjustments in the first half.

“We were making them,” he said. “We just tightened ’em up as the game went on. Our plan going into the game, we just didn’t execute it well enough. In the second half, we did.”

To attempt to combat Kelce, Staley said the Chargers “wanted to populate the middle of the field.”

The results instead reflected the open space Kelce and the Chiefs found while streaking through the Chargers’ secondary. Before halftime, Mahomes had five completions of at least 28 yards.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws against the Chiefs during the first half.

Those connections included passes to Kelce for 53 yards, to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 46 yards and to Rashee Rice for 37 yards.

Mahomes burned the Chargers from the pocket and while on the move, continually fleeing from any pressure that was generated for the type of athletic throws that had Marlowe, afterward, calling Mahomes “one of the best in the history of the world.”

By the time the Chargers went to more man coverage, the damage had been inflicted and there was no recovering for the Arrowhead Stadium visitors.

Safety Derwin James Jr. was asked if defending Kelce one-on-one in more of a man scheme is the better approach.

“That’s how I feel,” he said. “There’s so much off [the route] tree … with Mahomes scrambling. [In] zone, they’re going to find the hole. So, [you] just gotta lock up, man.”

The Chargers’ defense did lock up the Chiefs for the most part over the final two quarters. But then the offense stalled, failing to score a second-half point for the second time in three games.

Here’s how the Chargers’ five possessions over the final two quarters ended: three punts — each coming after a three-and-out — and two interceptions.

“Just didn’t operate with any consistency in the second half,” Staley said.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill.

The Chargers produced only 125 total yards and 85 net yards passing after intermission.

Down 24-17 in the third quarter, they were moving into position for a possible tying touchdown when quarterback Justin Herbert had his third pass intercepted this season.

The Chargers had third-and-goal at the Kansas City eight-yard line when Herbert’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Charles Omenihu. The ball popped into the air and was picked off by cornerback L’Jarius Snead.

The Chargers then didn’t manage as much as another first down until the final three minutes after they had fallen behind by two touchdowns.

Herbert, who had another interception on a final desperate heave, finished 17 of 30 for 259 yards. His lone touchdown pass was a seven-yarder to Gerald Everett midway through the second quarter, tying the score 17-17.

Ultimately, the Chargers’ offense couldn’t do enough to make up for everything their defense didn’t do, either. They fell to 2-4 — the AFC West-leading Chiefs improved to 6-1 — with their second consecutive loss.

“It’s a tough sport,” Herbert said. “It requires tough people and we got a tough locker room in there. It hasn’t gone our way the past couple of games. But no one’s going to panic. No one’s going to quit. No one’s going to give up.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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