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5 Takeaways: Bolts Show Fight, Togetherness in Week 16 


The Chargers fell 24-22 to Buffalo on Saturday night and dropped to 5-10 on the season.

Here are five takeaways from Week 16:

1. Plenty of fight

After a whirlwind past nine days, Chargers Interim Head Coach Giff Smith's message was simple going into Saturday night.

"Going into the game, we wanted to keep it close and have a chance to win it at the end," Smith said. "But we wanted every player to fight for each other, no matter what.

"If there was ever a guy that wasn't going to do it, we were going to pull them out," Smith added. "We didn't have any of that. They fought. They fought every play."

Smith's message was received loud and clear, as the Bolts had juice from the start as they jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.

"Going into the game, I truly felt like they play hard. I really did," Smith said. "My question, going into the game, was how would they react the first time Buffalo punches you in the face?

"We go up, and then Buffalo scores [twice], 14 to 10, that could be where you crash and burn," Smith added. "They rallied and they fought. That's a step in the right direction."

Chargers players praised Smith's leadership during a tough stretch that saw changes to the Bolts front office.

"It was great," Austin Ekeler said. "Giff's done a great job keeping us together and making sure that he's implemented his message which is the family aspect of bringing everyone together, play for each other … make sure you leave everything out there.

"When you do that, you're going to be excited to go play again," Ekeler added. "That's what we saw there and looking forward to playing for him again next week."

Derwin James, Jr. added: "A lot of energy, not just [Saturday] but throughout the whole week. All week long we had fun and executed, we just came up a few plays short. You saw a team that was out there trying to fight hard."

Easton Stick said: "He was awesome all week. He told us that was the plan going into it, let's get this thing to the fourth quarter and find a way to win it. Obviously, came up a little bit short. But, the way that he rallied the guys this week, and you saw how hard we played, that's a credit to Giff and that's a credit to the guys in the locker room. He did an unbelievable job this week."

The Bolts were officially eliminated from playoff contention Saturday night, but players felt a sense of pride in their performance on the field.

"We had all hands on deck," James said. "Every guy was in."

Alohi Gilman added: "We're obviously disappointed about [the loss]. But we fought to the end."

2. Dicker perfect in primetime

Forget trying to get to the Pro Bowl.

At this point, perhaps Cameron Dicker deserves some All-Pro votes.

The Chargers kicker drilled all five of his field goal tries in primetime while also adding an extra point.

And these all weren't chip shots either, as Dicker made three kicks from at least 40 yards (40, 45 and 47) while also drilling a 53-yarder that gave the Bolts a late lead.

"Felt good, operation was clean," Dicker said. "It was good [Friday] being able to hang out with everybody and enjoy time. I think it led to everybody playing for each other.

"The field goal unit did their job and was blocking everybody. Everything was smooth," Dicker added.

Smith said postgame that the Bolts were expecting "a heavyweight fight" and that "we were going to play it a little close to the vest" in terms of fourth-down aggressiveness.

That meant relying on Dicker, who has now made 24 of 25 field goals this season and all 35 extra point tries.

"That was the plan going in, that we were going to use him," Smith said. "Dicker, he's a cool cat. Kickers are different, but we sure are glad that we have him."

Dicker added: "Just finishing the year strong and continuing to do what we and see where it can take us. Have some fun with that."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts' Week 16 matchup against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium

3. Gilman forces 2 takeaways

The Chargers won the turnover battle 3-0 on Saturday night with Gilman leading the way.

The Bolts safety picked off Josh Allen early in the third quarter when the Bills quarterback was trying to hit Stefon Diggs for a deep touchdown pass.

"I just saw Josh Allen kind of have that half roll that he's been doing," Gilman said. "A lot of times it's kind of like a throwback or something, so I kind of read it, had enough depth to overlap and undercut the route."

Gilman late forced a fumble midway through the fourth quarter that was recovered by Nick Williams.

Gilman's teammates weren't surprised by his timely plays.

"Baller," James said. "He works hard every week. Lo is a guy we can count on and he had two big plays in this game."

Rookie AJ Finley added: "Alohi, he's always out doing what he's got to do. You know Lo is going to be where he's got to be. You can always depend on Lo and today was a true example of that, being in the right place at the right time, making plays, just having fun with it."

Finely caused the Bolts first takeaway of the night when he stripped Bills punt returner Deonte Harty.

"I felt when I wrapped him up, I kind of had a grip on the ball so I was like, 'I'm going to try to rip out and see if I can get it'. And it came out," Finley said.

4. Stick leads inspired effort

Stick's second NFL start went much better than his first.

"The more that you play, hopefully, the better you get," Stick said. "Definitely felt comfortable. I felt comfortable with the plan."

He later added: "I thought that we prepared well, just the execution in some critical situations, obviously, is why we're sitting here feeling the way that we're feeling."

Stick completed 23 of 33 passes for 215 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

He also showed off his wheels by rushing for 25 yards, including for a 1-yard touchdown that was the first rushing score of his career.

"I'll tell you, he really battled. He's a tough guy," Smith said.

"He definitely showed that he's an NFL quarterback. We were proud of the way he played and we'll continue to move forward with him," Smith added.

Quentin Johnston said: "I feel like even when Easton wasn't playing, he's always been real sharp on everything as far as plays, reads and stuff like that. I had confidence before he even stepped on the field."

Take a look at some of the best photos of the Chargers fans showing out at the Week 16 matchup with the Bills

5. James plays different defensive role

James has seemingly played anywhere and everywhere over the past few seasons on defense.

The Bolt safety was mostly in one single spot Saturday night and he played near the line of scrimmage for almost the entire game against the Bills.

"Going into the game, we really thought that it wouldn't be that much base [personnel]," Smith said. "We haven't played much base, didn't see it becoming much base, but you saw the Pony looks with the two backs and it created more of that.

"We really wanted him close to the line and playing fast. He played really well. he really did. He played a good game," Smith continued. "Sometimes it goes that way. If we would have known that, we would have maybe done some things a little different.

"But that was the plan moving in, so that he could be close to the line, and we needed him," Smith added. "He played physical."

James, who didn't play hardly any deep safety in Week 16, said he was on board with the scheme.

"[Smith] told me before the [game] coming in how he was going to use me," James said. "I felt like it went good.

"It was something new that I had to get used to but it was definitely something different," James added.

James also noted that he'd be fine having a similar role in the Chargers final two games of the 2023 season.

"I trust Coach Giff and what we've got going these last few weeks of the season," James said. "It doesn't matter what group is out there, I just want to win."

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