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Chargers Have Plenty at Stake in Final 2 Weeks

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The Bolts are 9-6 and going to the postseason with two regular-season games remaining.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's Tuesday media session.

1. Plenty to play for

The Chargers have punched their ticket to the playoff dance as a Wild Card team. That much we know.

After that? There's still plenty that remains up in the air.

Entering Week 17, the Bolts could end up with either the Nos. 5, 6 or 7 seed. And their first-round opponent could be a half-dozen teams depending on how the final two games play out.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said the Bolts will take a "game-by-game" approach against the Rams and Broncos, noting that some players who are dealing with injuries could possibly be rested to ensure their availability for the postseason.

But Staley also mentioned that he wants the Chargers to be peaking at the right time — which is entering the postseason and not in Week 16 — meaning there is still plenty at stake in the coming weeks.

Staley gave a lengthy answer when asked what type of mindset he wants his team to establish between now and mid-January.

"I think our goal as a team is to treat every week like a playoff game, like the Super Bowl in terms of the approach. You treat it like it has a life of its own," Staley said. "The type of attention to detail, the type of energy, the level of stamina that the NFL requires, that's what we're hoping to build here and I think that we are continuing to do a better job of that. We're definitely not there yet.

"I think your mindset has got to be engineered that way because that's what the great, I think, teams do is they have that discipline in their approach, the consistency in their approach," Staley continued. "I think that is what the end of the season represents because I think that for every team it is a little bit different. There are still teams that are fighting to make the playoffs and then there are some teams who are in. What you are trying to do is play your best at the end.

"I think that is what in these last two games going into the playoffs is we want to create the type of confidence within our football team that we are playing our best or we feel like there is a vibe here where we can beat anybody because of how we are playing," Staley added. "I think that is something that is going to be a big mission for us over the next two weeks is to improve as a football team."

The Bolts and Rams will kick off Sunday at 1:25 p.m. from SoFi Stadium after that game was flexed out of Sunday Night Football. The Chargers are the home team in Week 17.

2. Injury updates on James, Bosa

Staley provided a few injury updates Tuesday afternoon.

Derwin James, Jr., was ejected from Monday night's game and immediately entered the blue medical tent.

Staley said after the game that he was in the concussion protocol, which is where he remains.

"He is in the protocol right now," Staley said. "As I mentioned after the game, I thought that he was in good spirits, but he is in the protocol. We're going to be day-to-day with that."

The only other injury to report from Week 16 was an ankle sprain for fullback Zander Horvath, but Staley said he wasn't sure about Horvath's practice availability for the upcoming week.

Finally, the waiting game continues with Joey Bosa.

"We're going to take that on a day-to-day basis," Staley said. "We will let you know when we open that window and when he is out there participating in practice."

The outside linebacker has been on Injured Reserve since Week 3 with a groin injury.

3. Van Noy making an impact

Kyle Van Noy, much like the Chargers defense, is on fire right now.

The veteran outside linebacker recorded a sack Monday night, marking the third straight game he's done so. That's the first time Van Noy has accomplished that in his career.

Staley on Tuesday said he's been impressed with Van Noy's work ethic in his ninth season.

"What I think has been awesome to see and where I think he has really improved this season is in his individual pass rush," Staley said. "He has always been a set-up guy and that's one of his famous, sort of vintage, traits. I think his individual pass rush has really improved.

"He has worked hard at it. I think him and [OLB] Khalil [Mack] teaming up and with him being with Bosa and those guys, just sharing how to rush and stuff like that, I think he has been really rushing the quarterback hard."

Van Noy's sack Monday night came midway through the fourth quarter and was one of seven total sacks on the night.

Let's breakdown the big play from Van Noy, who is wearing No. 8 at the bottom of the formation and is lined up against Colts right tackle Braden Smith.

Screen Shot 2022-12-27 at 2.32.01 PM

Van Noy begins by stutter-stepping a bit before trying to get by Smith with speed around the edge.

But, as Staley described Tuesday, Van Noy's smarts came into play and he recognized where quarterback Nick Foles was at in the pocket.

Screen Shot 2022-12-27 at 2.32.30 PM

"The worst place to be in the NFL rushing the passer is past the quarterback," Staley said. "You don't see Kyle high and these fly-bys that allow these quarterbacks to take off. He knows how to rush within the context of the rush plan."

Van Noy pivots back up the field once he realized Foles is trying to head up the field a bit. The quarterback was flustered and felt pressure on his backside from Mack, who had nearly driven rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann into Foles' lap.

As a result, Van Noy pounces on Foles for a sack, one that featured a great effort from Van Noy and his teammates.

Screen Shot 2022-12-27 at 2.32.54 PM

"It has meant everything to us," Staley said of Van Noy's impact of late. "Definitely one of his best games last night. Just kind of a vintage Kyle Van Noy game. Doing a lot of jobs at a high level, running the show.

"He's a guy that can really connect your defenses as an edge player, which is rare because he kind of thinks like a behind-the-ball linebacker. He thinks like a green dot," Staley said. "He thinks like a coach. You can kind of see that on the tape. There are a lot of things where he makes you smile as a coach because you know he is taking care of it."

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 16 win in Indianapolis in monochrome

4. Offense focused on points, red-zone success

The performance from the Bolts offense Monday night featured a bit of everything.

There were big plays and solid performances, with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler all making an impact.

But there were some miscues, too, including penalties and a pair of failed trips on four ventures inside the red zone.

Both of Cameron Dicker's field goals were under 25 yards, meaning six total points could have been 14 if the offense had executed better.

Here's what Staley said Monday about the red-zone production:

"hen you get down in there in the red area — you know, over 80 percent of the touchdowns in the NFL happen inside the red area — and when you get in the red area, you have to score the ball," Staley said. "We, obviously, had a couple of opportunities last night. We had four opportunities and we were 2-for-4. If you score touchdowns on those drives, that's eight more points, and when it's 28-3, you're feeling different about the movie.

"We just have to get into sync together because we're moving the football, and there are a lot of good plays in there, but it's just been up and down," Staley added. "It's going to take everybody. It's not just one person. I wish I could tell you that it's just this one aspect of the offense — this one person — but, it's not. It's just all of us playing together and creating that rhythm and timing that will lead to scoring the football because we have good enough players, we have good enough coaches, we just have to put it all together."

Entering Week 17, the Bolts offense is averaging 355.0 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the league.

But their 22.1 points per game would be the lowest amount with Justin Herbert under center in three seasons.

Staley said while yards are nice, points will be an, ahem, point of emphasis heading into the postseason.

"I'm not worried. I have so much confidence in our players and our coaches," Staley said. "I think what we have yet to establish is that consistency of the rhythm of our offense and producing consistently, in terms of scoring the ball.

"I think that we've moved the ball all year long," Staley added. "If you look at our yardage and stuff like that, even when guys were out, we were still moving the ball at a high level, we just haven't scored the ball at a high level this year. That is something that is important to me, understanding what it takes to score the ball."

5. Early look at the Rams

Staley knows the Week 17 opponent well.

So, too, do players such as Sebastian Joseph-Day, Troy Reeder, Morgan Fox, Gerald Everett and Sony Michel.

All of them were with the Rams in recent years, and some helped the other Los Angeles team win a Super Bowl a season ago.

Even though the Rams are 5-10 and out of playoff contention, Staley said he knows what kind of product the Rams will roll out in Week 17.

Just look at their 51-point performance Sunday against the Broncos, which is the second-highest point total by any team this season.

"The thing that stands out to me is just respect — respect for everybody that is in that organization; coach, player, front office," Staley said. "I know the caliber of coaching that goes on at that place. I know the caliber of players that are over there, who we are going to have to compete against. I think that was on display the other day.

"They have had a really challenging season. I think that you can see the leadership of that team, both coach and player, in how they played against the Broncos," Staley added. "There are a lot of generational, Hall-of-Fame type of players on that field for them. There are a lot of people who have won a ton of football games, having been in the Super Bowl, playoff games. They demand our full attention."

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