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5 Takeaways: Gutsy 2-Point Play Leads Bolts Past Cardinals 


The Bolts are 6-5 after a clutch and chaotic 25-24 road win in Week 12.

Here are five takeaways from the Chargers win over the Cardinals:

1. Going for the win

Forget overtime. The Bolts came to Arizona to win.

And that's exactly what they did, as the Chargers executed a perfect 2-point conversion late in the game to secure a 25-24 road win in Week 12 against the Cardinals.

"Smooth like chocolate milk," Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said of the conversion.

Let's set the scene.

The Chargers had trailed most of the game, including for most of the fourth quarter, when they faced first-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 18 seconds left.

Justin Herbert found Austin Ekeler for a 1-yard score to make it a 24-23 game, and there was little doubt the offense was staying on the field.

"I really believed in our offensive football team. I believed in our quarterback. I believed in the play call," Staley said. "We executed it well the entire week and I felt like it would have good answers against the defenses they might play and we wanted to finish the game on our terms."

Herbert added: "I imagined that we were going to go for it, just because that's kind of how aggressive we play and I love that about our coach. Didn't know the exact play call, so I was just going to hear it and call it and we went with it."

"I was holding it up, too," Keenan Allen said with two fingers in the air. "We gotta go. We gotta go."

That set up a brilliantly called and executed 2-point play as Herbert found Gerald Everett wide open for the points and a 25-24 lead.

"That's the way it was schemed up … just trying to get the guy to overplay it, like he did," said Everett, who initially went outside before juking his way to the middle of the field. "Justin gave a great throw and I just did my part.

"You sell it, sell it, sell it … the stick-flat concept works so efficiently," Everett added. "You hope they over play it."

Once the play call came in, Everett said he was ready for the opportunity.

"Just wanting it. Some guys shy away from those moments, but my number was called and I wanted the ball," Everett said. "The team knows no one wanted it more than me. I gave Justin that look and we knew."

Staley said the Chargers began preparing to go for two even before they got the ball for their final possession.

And there was a consensus from all involved that the Chargers would go for the win.

"They kind of prepped us on the sideline," said rookie Jamaree Salyer. "Me, I'm always an all-in type of person anyways so I want to go for two.

"I figured we had a good chance. We rep that play all the time," Salyer added. "I felt pretty confident about it, so [we] made a play."

There's little doubt how much the Bolts needed this game, as a loss would have dropped them below .500 for the first time since Week 3.

Instead, on a day where Wild-Card contenders such as the Bengals and Jets won, the Bolts kept pace to remain just one game back of a playoff spot.

"We had to win this one, for sure," said Derwin James, Jr. "If want to get to where we want to get to, we had to win this one."

The Chargers are 6-5 and remain in ninth place in the AFC playoff picture, but they took a big step in keeping their postseason hopes alive with a clutch 2-point play Sunday afternoon in Arizona.

"It was just a gutsy win for our team and we showed a lot of heart in the fourth quarter," Staley said.

2. Herbert comes up clutch

The Bolts franchise quarterback was on full display win Week 12.

And, after two weeks of the Chargers falling short in a late 2-minute drill, Herbert made sure this time was different.

"Lost a bunch of players throughout the game, he never flinches," Staley said. "There was a lot of pressure in that second half and he always keeps poise and never loses his belief. I thought he made a lot of winning plays on that two-minute drive, just a lot of big plays.

"When you really needed him in the clutch, he delivered. What I told the team was the two weeks prior, a two-minute drive, it didn't go down for him," Staley added. "That's what it's like when you're a quarterback in the NFL, you're not going to make every two-minute drive. But the thing he has going for him is that our entire organization believes he's going to make it, so he brought us back. Game ball for him, big time performance, we wouldn't have won without him."

Herbert's overall stat line saw him complete 35 of 47 passes for 274 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 109.7.

But he was money on the final drive, completing six of seven attempts for 48 yards and the touchdown to Ekeler.

"Just keep swinging. We've dealt with a bunch of adversity this year and we haven't flinched. I wish it went differently the past two weeks," Herbert said of close losses to the 49ers and Chiefs. "The defense did a great job of getting us the ball and stopping them and letting us go down and score.

"For us to be able to get that opportunity today and figure it out for our defense, we've got so much respect for that side of the ball that we just want to hold our own," Herbert added.

Herbert threw touchdown passes to Allen, DeAndre Carter and Ekeler in Week 12.

But his biggest play might have been a third-and-7 screen play for 10 yards to Ekeler that Herbert audibled to on the final drive.

"We were running low on the play clock. We got out there and lined up pretty late," Herbert said. "I think there might have been eight or nine seconds (on the play clock). Got [Ekeler] to come back, saw the look that we wanted, killed it, and he made a great play on it.

"The offensive line got out and made their blocks but (Ekeler), to be able to extend it," Herbert added. "He's done that all year, so to be able to see that from him we're not surprised with all of the success that he's been having."

One play later, Ekeler was in the end zone, which led to the go-ahead, 2-point play.

"The way Justin played today is what makes him so special," Staley said.

3. Bolts defense thrives late

On the whole, the Chargers defense didn't have the prettiest performance.

Arizona racked up 366 yards of total offense, including 226 in the opening half. And there were long gains allowed both on the ground and through the air.

But in the final stanza?

The Bolts defense came through by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs in the force quarter before Arizona's last-gasp drive went nowhere.

"I feel like we played great in some spots," James said. "We played great in the fourth quarter. But, I feel like some spots we could've been better in."

All in all, the Chargers defense allowed 16 total yards on the final 11 plays they were on the field at State Farm Stadium.

Down 24-17, the defense took the field with just under 11 minutes left as Arizona had the ball at its own 6-yard line.

The Cardinals lost a yard on a run and threw incomplete before a third-down play was short of the sticks. It led to Arizona's first punt of the entire game.

Arizona then took over at its own 25 with 7:34 to go. A pair of passes gained five total yards before an incomplete pass forced another punt.

Finally, with 2:19 left, the Cardinals had the ball at their own 10. Arizona was stuffed for no gain before Michael Davis recorded a sack, which led to another third-down completion short of the sticks.

It was a third consecutive three-and-out forced by the defense, and allowed the Bolts offense enough time for some heroics of their own.

"Their last four drives were empty drives for them … I felt like we kept our poise and I felt like we made a lot of winning plays down the stretch," Staley said.

4. James does it all

You want to see an All-Pro player at work?

Look no further than what James did against the Cardinals. 

The do-it-all defender tallied eight total tackles (five solo) with an interception, a forced fumble and pass deflection.

"He's a playmaker. He's a special guy, a great leader in our locker room and to have a guy like that on our team is a huge favor to us," Herbert said. "He works as hard as anyone. He does everything the right way and not surprised at all by how much success he's having too."

James made his presence felt on the opening drive by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Sebastian Joseph-Day.

Later, James showed off his coverage skills when he was matched up in single coverage against DeAndre Hopkins on fourth-and-1.

Arizona tried a deep ball down the sideline, but James outworked the All-Pro and came away with his first interception of the season.

The Bolts won the turnover battle 2-0 on Sunday, and James was a key reason why.

"Derwin James was fantastic in the game," Staley said. "He was just our heart and soul on defense."

James said he was glad his performance could help keep the Bolts playoff hopes afloat.

"It feels amazing. It feels good," James said. "We have to come out and do it again this week and keep stacking them."

5. Bolts show plenty of fight

Another week, another double-digit deficit in the first quarter.

Yet the Chargers once again found a way to squeak out a win.

This isn't new territory for the Bolts, who also trailed by at least 10 points in games against Cleveland, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta earlier this season.

The Chargers won three of those four contests, and have now won four of five in such games including Sunday's victory over the Cardinals.

"It builds confidence," Everett said. "We play from behind so much, I feel like when we jump out on teams, there's nobody that can mess with us. We have the confidence, the talent, the work ethic. We just believe in each other.

"In this league, everybody is talented and everybody gets paid," Everett later added. 

Staley praised his team for once again hanging tough when the circumstances weren't ideal on the road.

"I think in a game this tight, for us to go behind 10-0 and us to keep that belief on the road when it's loud and you lose a couple of plays on errors and for our guys to show the resilience, the heart and soul," Staley said. "Hopefully fans don't get tired of hearing me talk about the heart and soul of your team, you're going to have to find it on the road when you're behind and when you're in a two-minute [drill].

"So, this group has a lot of it, we've got a lot of quality leadership on this football team and we came here to win, and it's that simple," Staley added. "We came here to win and that's what we did there at the end of the game."

Get an inside look at the Chargers celebrating their Week 12, 25-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium!

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