The Chargers are 5-5 heading into Week 12.
Here are five takeaways from Monday's media sessions with Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, wide receiver DeAndre Carter and cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.
1. Bolts turn focus to Cardinals
The Bolts have completed perhaps their toughest two-game stretch of the season.
And while the Chargers were there late against San Francisco and Kansas City — teams that have made Super Bowl appearances in recent seasons — the Bolts ultimately came up short in both instances.
"It's encouraging, but disappointing at the same time because we're kind of banged up right now and we're still able to win these games against two of the best teams in the NFL," said cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr. "That gives us encouragement. We just have to get the wins and keep stacking and get better each week."
The Chargers lost by nine combined points to the 49ers and Chiefs, and also held the lead deep into the fourth quarter in both games.
The back-to-back losses have dropped the Bolts to 5-5 and out of the current AFC playoff field.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Monday that he took some solace in the fact his team has been right there and said he expects another solid week of work in the coming days.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time. Our focus is going to be on Arizona," Staley said. "We played two really tough games in a row in primetime against two, as you guys know, really quality teams, and they've been great games. I feel like our level [of play] has been high. I think we know exactly where we stand right now, in terms of the context of the NFL landscape.
"What we need to keep doing is making improvements on our football team, continue to get guys back and make that progress going into the next game. We have to put that one behind us," Staley added. "As tough as it is, last night, and the week before — that's real, those types of games — but you can't let those guys affect your next one. We have to come back on Wednesday with a lot of purpose for Arizona because they're a good team."
Samuel and wide receiver DeAndre Carter both echoed Staley's message.
"Every week, in the NFL, it's a sense of urgency. Guys lay it on the line every week, they empty the tank. We go out there and give it our all," Carter said. "We might not always execute the way that we want to, but we all go out there and play with our whole heart and try to make it go.
"I don't think that the urgency, necessarily, changes because we play with that every week," Carter added. "We definitely know that, right now, we are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. We have to go get this win at Arizona and, hopefully, put some wins together."
Samuel said: "We just have to worry about one week at a time. We have Arizona this week. We can't look past them. They are a great team, great players. That's our one spot right there. We just have to focus on them and get the win against them."
The Cardinals (4-6) play the 49ers in Monday Night Football in Mexico City.
Take a look back at the Chargers Week 11 prime time game against the Chiefs in monochrome
2. An update on Mike Williams
Mike Williams' return to the field from a high ankle sprain included an acrobatic sideline catch for a 15-yard gain.
But that was the only catch of the night for Williams, who played just six snaps before leaving in the first quarter and not returning.
"He kind of had a reaggravation of it last night," Staley said of Williams' ankle. "We are going to find out a lot more in the next couple of days about his possibilities for Wednesday's practice, but not a significant re-injury."
Keenan Allen also returned to action with five receptions for 94 yards. Carter noticed the impact that duo had on the game.
"Having Mike and Keenan back, it obviously helps our offense. They're two of the best receivers in the league," Carter said. "Defenses will play us a little different when they're out there. We were able to take advantage of it early.
"I really wish Mike would have been able to be out there for the whole game, it probably would have been a little different story for us," carter added. "Definitely, those two guys being out there helped us move the ball a little better."
In other injury news, Staley provided an update on linebacker Kenneth Murray, Jr., who left with a neck injury.
"He had a stinger that did not resolve last night," Staley said, "but he is better today."
Tight end Gerald Everett missed the game with a groin injury.
3. Bosa, Kelley on different timelines
Staley also provided updates on a pair of players who are currently on Injured Reserve.
Outside linebacker Joey Bosa is back in the building, but Staley said Monday that a return to practice wasn't imminent.
"I don't have one that is updated, no," Staley said when asked if anything had changed with Bosa's status.
It's a different story for running back Joshua Kelley, who has dealt with a sprained MCL but is on the mend.
Kelley can be activated off Injured Reserve this week after missing the required four games, and is in line for a potential return against the Cardinals.
"I think you should see him back in practice this week," Staley said.
Kelley has rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown this season.
4. Recapping the final drives
There was plenty that happened in the final one minute and 46 seconds Sunday night after the Bolts took the lead.
The problem was, not much of it went the Chargers way.
The Bolts defense took the field with a 27-23 lead and 106 seconds left, only to allow a 75-yard touchdown drive to the Chiefs that spanned just six plays.
The Chargers allowed an 18-yard pass play to open the drive before the Chiefs quickly faced third-and-4 from midfield. But a holding call extended the Kansas City drive instead of making it fourth down, and the Chiefs scored three plays later.
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce beat Derwin James, Jr., on a crossing route before scoring on a 17-yard play.
"Two special players who are going at it. Man-to-man, single safety," Staley said. "He made a good catch and was able to turn it up. Give credit to him. There is no one else in the world I would rather have covering him."
Staley on Monday said the Chargers simply couldn't come up with a signature play to seal the deal.
"Just rush and coverage at the end, I have to do a better job. Our guys left it all out on the field in that last drive," Staley said. "There weren't any of these wide open zone completions where no one is there and no one is having to work for anything.
"They just made their way down the field," Staley added. "We were playing them nose-to-nose and they made some plays to finish it."
The Bolts got the ball back with 31 seconds left and needed a field goal to tie it, but that drive ended with a sack and interception.
"We just didn't execute — everybody, all 11 players on the field didn't execute," Carter said. "Those guys made plays and we didn't.
"We have to make sure that the next time we get into that situation, we're ready for it," Carter added. "Get everybody on the same page and go do what we have to do to go put points on the board and win the game."
5. Growing pains for Johnson
The Chargers have played 700 offensive snaps this season, and only two players have been out there for every one of them.
Guards Matt Feiler and Zion Johnson have been the ironmen through 10 games.
Staley was asked about Johnson, a rookie first-round pick, on Monday.
"He's progressing. Any time you play a team that has an inside player like Chris Jones, I thought in the first game against them, Zion did really, really well," Staley said. "I thought that last night he had some good snaps, and then there are going to be some snaps where he is learning.
"He is a rookie. He is seeing things all of the time for the first time and we're glad we have him," Staley continued. "He's going to continue to progress. He's one of us, for sure.
"Any issues that Zion has is purely going to be from an experience standpoint because he has all of the right tools to be working with," Staley added. "He is a great guy, a hard worker, and we're going to keep playing well around him as we go."
Johnson has played the most snaps of any first-round rookie offensive linemen this season.
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