The Bolts are 6-5 as they enter the final six weeks of the 2022 season.
Here are five takeaways from Monday's media session with Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley.
1. The Bolt Fam comes through
The Chargers needed every ounce of energy and fortitude to get a Week 12 win, delivering in the clutch in the final minutes for a 25-24 victory over Arizona.
And while players and coaches came through when it mattered most, there was little doubt the Bolt Fam played a role, too.
A large contingent of Chargers fans were on hand at State Farm Stadium and made their presence felt. It didn't go unnoticed.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Sunday's outpouring of support continued a strong showing from that aspect this season.
"It was significant. I am not blown away anymore by it because I think, you guys that were in Atlanta three weeks ago, when we went to Atlanta, there was a huge contingent," Staley said. "I know that when we took the lead, there was just that chant that came out at the Atlanta game. I think what is awesome about our brand and our fanbase is that you know that it is growing because it is going everywhere.
"It's going on an East Coast game in Atlanta, a daytime game. It's going to Arizona," Staley continued. "You really see that powder blue. It's hard to miss when you go to an opposing stadium. I know that we had it at Houston. That is another game that stood out.
"I mean, shoot, when I was back home at Cleveland, you saw a bunch of powder blue," Staley added. "It means a lot and I think that our fans are seeing how we play, hopefully, and falling in love with all of our players. There are a lot of great players to root for. Hopefully, they know how much we appreciate them."
The support on the road has helped the Chargers to a 4-2 road record so far this season.
The Eagles are currently 5-0 away from home, but the Chargers are now one of nine teams across the league with four road wins.
The support from the Bolt Fam helped the Chargers pick up a thrilling road win in Week 12 and keep pace in the AFC playoff picture.
2. Pass defense shines in desert
Kudos to the Chargers pass defense for stepping up against a talented roster Sunday.
Arizona's offense features plenty of star power, including former first-round picks at quarterback (Kyler Murray) and wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Marquise Brown). Tight end Trey McBride was a second-round pick this past spring.
Yet the Bolts allowed just 185 net passing yards on the day, which was their third-best total given up this season.
"When you take a look at Arizona, they have like five first-round receivers on their team," Staley quipped Monday.
Hopkins had 87 receiving yards and a score, but the rest of Arizona's playmaking cast was held in check.
Staley praised cornerback Michael Davis for his play, especially after he went down awkwardly in practice Thursday. Davis was listed as questionable to play with a knee injury but played all 66 defensive snaps in the win.
Staley detailed what happened in practice with Davis:
"He was just defending a '9' route on the sideline. He went up for it and there was a collision there, kind of," Staley said. "I think it was more like just scary than anything. I think it happened on the way up, but he was OK. It was touch-and-go there for a second, and then he was OK.
"We all knew he was OK on Friday, that he was going to be fine," Staley added. "You're waiting on Saturday to see how he is feeling and stuff like that. He came out of the game OK."
Davis then recorded an overall grade of 72.2 from analytics website Pro Football Focus, which was the second-highest on the team behind Derwin James, Jr. (73.2).
"I just thought he covered well. I thought he tackled well yesterday and just showed a lot of toughness," Staley said of Davis, who received a game ball for his play. "I feel like, I said it in my speech, I really wish he had that interception at the end because it just would have capped a really, I thought, quality performance by him.
"I think as a coach you are always trying to point out the example of your players playing tough and rugged and doing it right and I thought that he played well yesterday," Staley added.
James also got a game ball after he forced a fumble and recorded an interception. Staley praised Bryce Callahan, Asante Samuel, Jr., Alohi Gilman and JT Woods for their contributions Sunday.
"I thought that one of the big reasons why we won the game yesterday is we kept the passing game in check," Staley said. "You guys know, that is a really prolific group over there."
3. Carter's career year continues
The Bolts have rotated through a handful of wide receivers this season due to a myriad of injuries.
The only player at that position to play in every game this season?
DeAndre Carter, who set career highs Sunday with seven catches for 73 yards. Carter also scored his third touchdown of the season (more on that below), which tied his career high in a single season.
Speaking of that, Carter has already set personal bests in the passing game with 38 catches for 452 yards.
Oh yes, his 20-yard punt return in the fourth quarter also sparked the eventual game-winning drive.
"He's been an invaluable player for us. Just a true example of a professional," Staley said. "He's an example of who we want to try to build this football team with because he does so many things for us. He plays a lot of different positions … he is our returner in both phases.
"He has just made a lot of winning plays for us the entire season and he has been there for us in the clutch," Staley continued. "He has earned the trust of Justin [Herbert] and our offensive coaches in every way.
"Then, certainly, in terms of the special teams culture, I think you are seeing he has had an outstanding year on punt returns for us. I think you can see his experience and his play-making ability express itself in that phase for us," Staley added. "As you guys saw yesterday with that 20-yard return, was really big for us. Just a consummate pro and super excited that he plays for us."
Carter found the end zone in the second quarter on a 33-yard score Sunday that gave the Bolts a 14-10 lead.
Carter actually began the play far away from where he'd end up, starting on the far right of the formation before going in motion.
At the snap, Carter broke up the field down the left sideline. Joshua Palmer, lined up in the slot, gets a clean release off the line and eventually runs a dig route about 12 yards down the field.
It's a brilliant play by Herbert, who avoids pressure and moves to his left knowing Arizona is in zone coverage. With multiple Cardinals defenders locked in on Herbert, Carter is left all alone.
He hauled in the pass at the 10-yard line and waltzed untouched into the end zone for the Bolts first lead of the game.
And Carter, who is usually a good quote in the locker room, provided this gem when describing the play.
"Probably one of the easiest in my career," Carter said. "Nobody guarded me. So, 'Hey, Justin, great job finding me.' Easy walk in."
4. Evaluating the run defense
The Bolts run defense has continued a season-long trend of allowing plenty of yards.
On Sunday, Arizona racked up 181 rushing yards, which marked the eighth time this season the Chargers have allowed at least 130 yards on the ground to an opponent.
Staley on Monday echoed a constant them in which most of the big gains allowed are happening to the outside and not simply up the middle.
"We had to tackle better yesterday," Staley said. "We, certainly, missed some tackles that contributed to some big gains — or bigger gains, I should say. It's just playing team defense.
"Yesterday, our tackling on the perimeter was at the heart of a lot of the plays," Staley added. "I think that they were trying to get the ball to the perimeter. I thought that our fits inside were fine. The balls were on the edge. That's where we got hurt yesterday."
Staley noted that facing a scrambling quarterback like Murray is likely going to inflate your rushing yards allowed. The quarterback had 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
But Staley also went into detail about his overall defensive philosophy, noting that — more often than not — he would much rather give up chunk plays on the ground than through the air.
Put another way, allowing a 15-yard run is better than giving up a 50-yard pass.
"You just know that it takes a lot of five-yard runs to equal a 40-yard pass, and you have to start with that premise," Staley said. "It will always be that way."
Staley again reiterated that the Chargers run defense needs to improve as a whole, and that it's not just on one or two players.
But overall, he would prefer to be better against the pass than the run.
"If you're the 24th-ranked run defense versus the 24th-ranked pass defense, go look at the difference," Staley said. "That's what it is in the NFL, and it's the same way on offense.
"No one talks about run offense," Staley added. "If you're top-five in the NFL in passing, but let's say you're bottom-five in running, you're always going to gain a lot more yards than a team that runs for a lot and doesn't throw for very many. That's our standpoint, just globally, in how we look at it."
For context, the league's 24th-ranked run defense (Dallas) allows 131.9 yards per game. But the 24th-ranked pass defense (Arizona, ironically) allows 245.4 yards per game.
The numbers show that inflated yards, stats and numbers all come from the pass game.
The Chargers will now get ready to face a raiders offense than can do both.
Running back Josh Jacobs leads the NFL with 1,159 rushing yards and is coming off a career-high, 229-yard performance in Week 12. Davante Adams, meanwhile, is fourth in the league with 999 receiving yards.
5. A few injury updates
Staley provided a handful of injury updates Monday, but didn't go into detail on them.
Center Corey Linsley, who left in the second quarter with a concussion, is in the concussion protocol.
Right tackle Trey Pipkins III re-aggravated a sprained MCL injury he's been battling since Week 5.
"He is going to be day-to-day. A lot of bumps and bruises, otherwise," Staley said of the roster.
That includes Herbert, who was kicked in the shin and was limping in the locker room, but appears to be OK.
As for Mike Williams (ankle) and Joey Bosa (groin), Staley said he had "nothing new to report."
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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