The Chargers dropped a heartbreaker in Week 11 against Kansas City in primetime.
At 5-5, the Bolts season has reached its most important point thus far.
Here's a breakdown of news from the Chargers 12th week of the season:
Monday: Sitting at 5-5
The Chargers dropped a close one at home to the division rival Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.
The loss moves them to .500 as they enter Week 12 and with the AFC West title likely out of the equation, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley talked about the level of urgency there is around the team to try and make a playoff push.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time," Staley said during his day-after media availability. "Our focus is going to be on Arizona. 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."
"We have to put that one behind us. 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," Staley later added. "We have to come back on Wednesday with a lot of purpose for Arizona because they're a good team."
While many wins will be needed to make a playoff push in the grand scheme of things, cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr., echoed Staley that they have to worry about what's in front of them this week — not what's up down the road.
"We just have to worry about one week at a time. We have Arizona this week," Samuel said. "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 Chargers got a big boost in wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on Sunday. Unfortunately for Williams, his return was barred late in the first quarter, as he left the game and did not return the rest of the night.
"He kind of had a reaggravation of [his ankle] last night," Staley said. "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."
Linebacker Kenneth Murray, Jr., also left the game with "a stinger that did not resolve" on Sunday, according to Staley.
The Bolts expect running back Joshua Kelley to be back on the field at practice this week per Staley, as he has reached his four-game minimum of being on Injured Reserve.
Tuesday: Updated AFC playoff picture
The loss on Sunday Night combined with other AFC teams winning put the Chargers in a tough spot. At 5-5, the Chargers are currently sitting outside of the top seven seeds and would miss the playoffs if the season ended today.
As Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith put it in his updated playoff picture, Sunday's game against the Cardinals will hold a lot of weight.
The Chargers dropped to 5-5 Sunday night and also saw teams around them in the playoff race pick up wins. Sunday's game in Arizona is critical for the Bolts if they want to remain in the playoff mix.
In transactional news, the Chargers announced on Tuesday afternoon that they had signed kicker Cameron Dicker to the active roster from the practice squad and placed kicker Dustin Hopkins on Reserve/Injured list.
Dicker has played in three games this season with the Bolts and has not missed a field goal or extra point thus far, including a long of 47 yards.
Wednesday: Back on the practice field
The return to practice field was a chance for the Bolts to reset and put the past in the past.
What matters now is Week 12, and despite how the last couple of weeks have gone for the team, Staley's message to the team remains to be focused on Arizona and putting the rest behind them.
"The big picture is just about what is happening in front of us right now, which is today's practice, and then who we are playing this week, which is Arizona," Staley said. "You have to be able to put losses like the last one behind you. I think that there is a lot of energy that goes into all of these games.
"What you have to do is be able to get your energy back so that you have the right type of preparation today," Staley added.
Still, safety Derwin James, Jr., is disappointed that the team is sitting at 5-5, but knows that there is still more than enough opportunity to continue to be back in the playoff picture come seasons end.
"Disappointed. I wouldn't want to start like that," James said. "But I feel like in the league, in the NFL, you have to keep playing and take it one week at a time.
"Like I said, right now it doesn't look good but if we work hard, keep staying together and come together and not point fingers, I feel like if we look up, we'll like what we see at the end of the season," James added.
What awaits the Chargers is another team that has been hit by injuries — the Arizona Cardinals.
Despite what their record says, the Cardinals are still a dangerous team according to Staley and the Bolts will have to be at their best this Sunday in Arizona.
"I think that they have encountered a lot of challenges this year, in terms of being cleaned out by injuries," Staley said. "They are still a very dangerous team. They have played everybody really tough. The season is not over yet. They still have a really good team."
"They are a very dangerous team and there is a reason why people thought of them that way, because they have a good enough team to beat you. We're going to have to be at our best on Sunday, for sure," Staley later added.
Williams did not practice on Wednesday, as Staley mentioned they would take it "day by day" with them.
Cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin) and outside linebacker Khalil Mack (NIR- rest) both did not participate in practice on Wednesday, while tight end Gerald Everett (groin) and punter JK Scott (right quadricep) were limited.
Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith released his weekly mailbag on Wednesday, where he answered questions about the Chargers playoff chances, the defense and much more.
Thursday: Thanksgiving practice
Happy Thanksgiving from the Bolts.
In an adjusted schedule for the holiday, the Bolts took the field as they continued preparation for Sunday's trip to Arizona.
Since returning to play in Week 11 against Kansas City, Allen participated fully in practice both Wednesday and Thursday — a welcome sight for everyone on the team.
Allen's impact was clear from the jump this past Sunday, as the trust between quarterback and receiver was on full display.
"I think that there's a trust factor between him and the quarterback, as far as knowing exactly where he's going to be and what he's going to do," Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi said. "Not that the other guys aren't running their routes correctly — but when you've got those kinds of reps and you have a receiver with that kind of feel, the quarterback just has the confidence of maybe hanging with him an extra count because he knows he's going to get open or being able to time the throws up because they've got so many reps together."
Specifically on third downs, Allen was a huge safety valve for the Chargers offense. That will be needed this Sunday, as the Bolts will face one of the highest-blitzing teams in the league led by Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph.
"There are certain pressure packages that have kind of been a hallmark of the way [Joseph] operates that are very challenging," Lombardi said. "There's definitely some carryover."
"I've been part of teams that would cross paths with him," Lombardi later added. "There's always long protection meetings when you're facing his defense."
Flipping it to third downs on the defensive side, a couple long third down conversions by Kansas City were crucial to the outcome of the game on Sunday — something defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill is trying to spend more time on.
"We're just trying to spend more time on it," Hill said. "Today was a big third-down emphasis. We try to make sure that we put more plays to stopping the third down, making sure that our guys have the right looks.
"Even in the walk-through, taking the time to slow it down and make sure that we're going through it with the right progressions to make sure that everybody is on board," Hill added. "We just have to spend more time on it, and make sure that we meet more together, so that everybody knows the importance of that execution and that down. That's what we have to continue to do."
There was one new addition to Thursday's injury report, as cornerback Michael Davis was limited with a knee injury. Callahan was upgraded to limited after not practicing on Wednesday, and Everett practiced in full.
In the Thanksgiving spirit, Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith asked a dozen Chargers players five different Thanksgiving-related questions. See what some of the hot takes some members of the Bolts had regarding Thanksgiving food.
Members of the Cardinals also talked about the Chargers ahead of their Week 12 matchup. Check out what Arizona said about the Bolts.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Friday: Back on the road
The Bolts took the field for the final practice before they travel to Arizona and take on the Cardinals on Sunday.
Not on the field on Friday, however, was Williams, who was officially declared as "OUT" for Sunday's contest.
"He's progressing," Staley said on Friday. "He's going to be out for the game. Kind of showed up Wednesday, was at the walk-through and just felt like resting him would be the best course of action."
That means Palmer will step into another big role in Arizona, something he has excelled in the last couple of weeks.
Hauling in over 100 yards in two out of the last three weeks, Palmer has stepped up big time while the receiving core dealt with injuries — something that quarterback Justin Herbert is not surprised about.
"With a couple of injuries, we really needed him to step up and he's done a great job of that," Herbert said on Friday. "We knew it during camp, that he was going to be a special player. A couple injuries go down, and he's got to step up and he did.
"He answered the call. He's out here after practice catching passes, he's doing all the right things so I'm not surprised about his success," Herbert said.
Traveling to Arizona on Saturday, the Bolts will be back on the road — a situation they are 3-2 in, with both losses by one possession.
The Chargers have played each team well on the road, and Staley credits the leaders of the team for the group to be ready to play no matter the location.
"Our mindset has been good the whole time, really since I've been here," Staley said. "We have a really good mindset. I think that it starts with the leadership of your team, with guys who have been there and done that.
"We have a lot of guys who have accomplished a lot in this league. Now, they're doing it together with this team," Staley added.
In addition to Williams being out, Michael Davis was listed as "QUESTIONABLE" and safety Nasir Adderley was listed as "DOUBTFUL". All other players that were listed on the injury report came off of the list.
Prior to Friday's practice, Smith talked with Darren Urban, who covers the Cardinals for azcardinals.com to preview Sunday's primetime matchup.
Also on Friday, Smith released his Final Thoughts ahead of the game against the Cardinals in Arizona.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Friday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Videos of the Week
Mic'd Up | Bryce Callahan
Chargers cornerback Bryce Callahan was mic'd up during the Week 11 primetime matchup vs the Kansas City Chiefs.
Playmakers | Know Your Opponent with Dani Sureck
The Arizona Cardinals team reporter joins Hayley Elwood on the latest edition of Playmakers podcast to discuss Kyler Murray's return, how the Cardinals look to improve defensively and more.
Chargers Weekly | Cards on Deck, Updated AFC Playoff Picture
Matt "Money" Smith and Chris Hayre recap the Chargers Week 11 loss to the Chiefs, break down the AFC playoff picture as it stands and preview Sunday game against the Cardinals.
Questions from a Popeyes Box | Michael Bandy
Chargers wide receiver Michael Bandy answers questions from a Popeyes box including which movie he would watch the rest of his life, which instrument he wishes he could play and more.
Tweets of the Week
Bolt Up for 2023!
Secure your 2023 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.