The Chargers are happy with their special teams after offensive dud in win at New England

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Even though the Los Angeles Chargers continue to be out of synch on offense and defense, their special teams unit continues to excel.

The Chargers' punting, kicking and return units rose to the forefront in Sunday's 6-0 victory over the New England Patriots. According to Sportradar, it was the 33rd time since 1960 a team has shut out an opponent while not scoring a touchdown.

“When we got here, it was among the worst in the NFL and now we’re among the best in the NFL,” coach Brandon Staley said about his special teams group.

In Ryan Ficken's second year as special teams coach, the Chargers have become disciplined in preventing big returns. Ficken has also been instrumental in the development of rookie Darius Davis, who is handling both punt and kickoff returns.

Cameron Dicker provided the points with a pair of 38-yard field goals, but punter JK Scott was the most instrumental by placing a franchise-record seven punts inside the 20-yard line, including four inside the 10.

Scott leads the league with an average hang time of 4.85 seconds, which is a big reason why opponents' fair-catch rate of 40.4% is tied for fourth best.

The Chargers' punt coverage team has allowed 133 yards on returns, which is seventh-best in the league.

“I’m not saying this to be humble or whatever, but I don’t try to think about the results or the stats anymore. I used to do that a lot but I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy each opportunity to the best of my ability," Scott said.

Davis leads the league in punt return yards (316) and average (16.6). Six of his 17 punt returns have gone for at least 19 yards, including a 34-yarder late in the second quarter that set up Dicker's second field goal.

“I think that it’s unique for a rookie returner to come in and handle both duties," Ficken said recently about Davis. "We know that there are going to be some growing pains at times, but he has done a great job — his film study, to the practice habits out here. Just understanding how to be patient with the returns and knowing that his blockers, they’re going to do a great job of blocking and setting up whatever return it is for us. Just making sure that we’re patient with it and stay to it.”

Dicker is 19 of 20 on field goals this season and has missed only two of his 40 attempts since joining the Chargers last October. Ficken said the one thing he appreciates about Dicker is his composure.

“He’s very consistent on his approach, not just in the games but out in practice he’s a professional,” Ficken said last week. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a 55-yarder, 58-yarder, a PAT, he has the same mindset and he’s going to approach every kick the same way. That’s what I’ve been really pleased with, how he’s approached the game.”

The shutout, the Chargers' first since 2017, helped snap a three-game skid and improved them to 5-7. Four of Los Angeles' final five games are in the division, including two in a three-week span against Denver.

WHAT’S WORKING

The pass rush. The Chargers had five sacks against the Patriots, the fifth time this season they've had at least that many. They are tied for third in the league with 41 sacks, which surpasses their total of 40 from last season. Khalil Mack got to New England's Bailey Zappe twice and vaulted into the league lead with 15 sacks, also tying his career high from 2015.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The offense failed to score a touchdown for only the second time since Justin Herbert became the Chargers' quarterback in 2020 (both have been against New England). Kellen Moore was brought in as coordinator to make the unit more balanced, but struggles in the run game keep making the Chargers one-dimensional. In horrid weather conditions, Los Angeles ran for only 29 yards on 24 carries. Herbert passed for 212 yards in the rain and wind.

STOCK UP

WR Quentin Johnston. The first-round pick had a season-high 52 yards and had his second five-catch game of the year. It was a bounce-back game for Johnston, who missed the second half of last week's game against Baltimore due to a rib injury and dropped a pass late in the fourth quarter two weeks ago at Green Bay that would have put the Chargers in field goal range.

STOCK DOWN

TE Donald Parham. The fourth-year pro dropped two passes after not having a reception last week. Parham also had a drop on a third-down pass two weeks ago.

INJURIES

Los Angeles came out of the game healthy.

KEY NUMBER

102 — Catches for Keenan Allen, which leads the league. He is also the sixth receiver in league history to have at least 100 catches in five or more seasons.

NEXT STEPS

Two division games in an 11-day span. The Chargers host Denver on Sunday and then play a Thursday night game at Las Vegas.

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