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5 Takeaways: Bolts Show Complete Offensive Performance Against Rams


The Bolts are 10-6 after a convincing 31-10 win over the Rams.

Here are five takeaways from Week 17:

1. The offense was humming

The Chargers have won four straight games and are rolling at the time of year where teams hope to be playing their best.

And in a 31-10 walloping of the Rams on Sunday, it was the Bolts offense that led the way.

The unit — which had battled inconsistency of late — put up 431 yards of total offense, including 192 on the ground, in the group's most complete performance in nearly four months.

"I think that performance is more indicative of the group that we have on offense," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "I think you saw kind of a complete performance by our group from start to finish.

"I felt like our guys really played together today," Staley added. "I thought we played as hard as we've played on offense. That was a big goal of ours today, just play harder than we've ever played.

Justin Herbert added: "I thought that it was good for us to play consistent football on offense. All four quarters, I thought that we moved the ball pretty well. We did a lot of good things up front. We made some plays down the field. Overall, I thought that it was a great performance."

Herbert threw for 212 yards and a pair of scores, but the headline was a Bolts running game that came to life at a critical time of year.

Austin Ekeler ran for 122 yards on just 10 carries, including a 72-yard score in the second quarter that was the longest run of his career. It topped a 71-yarder against Cleveland earlier in the season where he was tackled inside the 5-yard line.

"It was blocked perfectly. We were running power, everything was kicked out, able to get through the corner," Ekeler said. "I got caught earlier in the year, so the only thing on my mind was, 'Speed, speed, speed, don't get caught.'

"I was able to get in there," added Ekeler, who scored twice on the ground to reach 18 total scores on the season.

Staley highlighted the importance of a team effort on the long touchdown run.

"A big crack [block] by [Keenan Allen] there. It was well blocked up front, but then you have to have your receivers blocking in the run game to get the splitter," Staley said. "It was a decisive run. It was a downhill run. I liked the way that we ran the football today.

"That was an example of all 11 guys playing their tails off, and a great finish by Austin, too, to get into the end zone," Staley added.

Entering Sunday, the Bolts rushing attack that had averaged just 84.9 yards per game entering Sunday. They had that by halftime against the Rams and piled it on in the second half.

Overall, the 431 yards put up by the offense is the unit's third-highest total of the season.

And with playoff football just two weeks away, it's the perfect time for the Chargers offense to find their stride.

"December football is when you want to peak," Corey Linsley said on New Year's Day. "The goal is to find a way to win and get the ball rolling so to speak in December and snowball then into the playoffs.

"I feel like we're hitting our stride, especially four-game win streak," Linsley added. "Huge confidence builder, huge momentum, everything, man. It's good."

Ekeler said: "There's something to that, being able to peak at the right time. I'm sure all of us have heard that. We're playing well, finally offensively put a game together. We were able to score pretty consistently. That's what it's going to take when we're coming down here in the end. I think we're trending in the right direction."

2. Mike Williams amazes again

We are going to try and find the words for the catch Mike Williams made Sunday in the second quarter.

Williams had seven catches for 94 yards against the Rams, but one stood out above the rest.

Williams, of course, downplayed the highlight-reel play.

"I just kind of react to the ball," Williams said. "Justin put the ball in areas where I can go up and make a play and I just try to make a play on it."

But Williams' coaches and teammates were quick to offer praise and adoration for one of the best catches of the entire NFL season.

"Mike's a cheat code. The best way to describe Mike is that he's a cheat code," Morgan Fox said. "We were talking about it on the sideline that he's just out there playing backyard ball. Just throw it up and he'll get it. Having a guy like that is awesome."

Staley added: "As a pro coach, you get to witness a lot, you get to see a lot of special. But then there are some that are just more special than the rest, and that was certainly one of them."

Williams later made another wild catch, this time on the opposite sideline. Both were with one hand.

"You're not going to see two catches like that by any wideout in the league," Staley said. "He's playing with so much confidence, and you know who he's going against over there, too. He's one of the best in the league.

"I think that's what we've seen for the last few years out of Mike Williams is that he is one of the premier players in the league," Staley added. "We certainly play a lot better when he touches the ball and touches the ball in the deep part of the field. He was able to make a bunch of big plays for us today."

Williams' acrobatic grab — uhhh, the first one — came right in front of the Rams sideline.

If you watch the replay, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay doesn't even reach for the challenge flag since it was right in front of him. And Rams wide receivers coach Eric Yarber also appears to get Williams' attention and acknowledge the insane catch.

The Chargers ran a play right away to ensure the Rams couldn't challenge it, but Herbert commented on the catch after the game.

"I don't know how anyone else does anything like that," Herbert said. "He is about as special as it gets.

"I wasn't able to watch the replay on the videoboard, and so we got up to the line of scrimmage just to get a play off to make sure that maybe he was in bounds," Herbert added. "I'm definitely going to have to watch that one again."

You should, too.

3. Defense shines again in 2nd half

Make it back-to-back shutouts in the second half for the Chargers defense.

After keeping the Colts off the scoreboard in the final two quarters Monday night, the Bolts did it again against the Rams in Week 17.

Staley said he was glad to see the second-half effort after an up-and-down first half.

"I really love the way we played in the second half. I thought that in the second half, that was the type of team that we've been playing with for the last three games," Staley said. "I was very pleased with our second-half performance.

"I felt like we were connected. We competed," Staley later added. "There were some runs that weren't up to our standard in the first half. At halftime, I thought that we made some good adjustments to play better in the second half."

The Chargers gave up 221 total yards in the first half, including 131 on the ground. More than half of those rushing yards came on a 42-yard run and then a 23-yard touchdown on third-and-3.

"The toss-crack, it just it ruins your day. You feel like you had a good thing going, and then that toss-crack goes for 40-something [yards]," Staley said. "Then, the third down run for 23. Outside of those two runs, I was really happy with how we played."

The Bolts tightened up in the second half, allowing just 56 yards the rest of the way. Only 35 of them came on the ground as the Chargers outscored the Rams 14-0 in the second half.

"There's some things we have to fix. We gave up some rushing yards," Fox said. "So we'll go back and look at that and see how we can fix that. Just keep getting better every week."

4. Bosa makes his return

About 45 minutes before kickoff Sunday, Joey Bosa was shown on the video board going through a pregame workout.

The crowd at SoFi Stadium roared that No. 97 was back.

Bosa, who tore his groin in Week 3, returned to practice this week for the first time since his injury. He was activated off Injured Reserve and played a decent amount of snaps against the Rams in his first game action in four months.

"It was great," Fox said of Bosa's return. "Having a guy like him … he's a warrior just coming back. Having him back on the field with the attention he demands, it was nice to have him back."

Bosa was in on a few tackles, and while he didn't record a sack, generated pressure at times, too.

He was close to Baker Mayfield in the first half on a play where the quarterback threw it away and was called for intentional grounding. The penalty helped take the Rams out of field goal range.

Staley said Bosa will continue to work his way back, but that Sunday was a good first step for him.

"I was glad to see him out there. He improves our chances significantly," Staley said. "I think it was very important for him to get out there and play because the players know that they need to football shape, they need to get their pads on, they need to go play, they need to know what it's like to go in and out, playing with pace.

"You need to get all that football stuff acclimated so that you can go be your best. It was a good step for him today. I thought that he had a couple of really good rushes out there today," Staley added. "More than anything, it's just him playing the game and getting that accumulation of snaps so that he can be better next week."

5. Looking ahead to seeding

Sunday's win moved the Chargers to 10-6, their first double-digit win season since 2018 … the hat last time the Bolts made the playoffs.

It also ensured that the Chargers can finish no worse than the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture. 

But with a Week 18 tilt still remaining in Denver, the Chargers regular season has one game left.

Herbert and other starters didn't play in the final part of the fourth quarter, as Staley opted for rest for his key guys.

With either the fifth or sixth seed still in play in Week 18, what is the Bolts plan for the regular-season finale?

"I think that we're going to try and go as high as we can go," Staley said. "I think that is going to be our mission, to keep our guys healthy, but we're going to try and attack next week so that we can get that the highest seed that we can get.

"I think that sets you up the best for success. For us, we really want to play our best football," Staley said. "We'll make sure that if we come out of this game with anything, injury-wise, that we're smart. As you saw in the fourth quarter, we were able to sit Justin and stuff like that. Our mission is to get into the playoffs playing at a high level."

The Chargers can get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday combined with a Ravens loss. A Bolts win and two Bengals losses would also do the trick.

Cincinnati hosts Buffalo on Monday night in Week 17.

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 17 matchup against the Rams at SoFi Stadium!

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