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Bolts Focused on Maximizing Opportunities in Final 5 Games


The Bolts are 6-6 with five games left in the 2022 season.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and wide receiver Joshua Palmer from Monday's media sessions.

1. Knowing where they stand

Get ready for a five-game sprint for a postseason spot.

The Chargers are 6-6 and currently occupy the No. 9 spot in the AFC playoff race.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer detailed the team's mindset heading into Week 14.

"We need to win the rest of these games," Palmer said. "For us, the playoffs really started last week. Just locking into details and doing our individual jobs to the best of our abilities."

The Bills, Chiefs, Ravens and Titans currently lead their respective divisions. And with one of three Wild Card spots the most likely way for the Bolts to get into the postseason, here's where that race stands as of Monday afternoon.

5. Bengals (8-4)

6. Dolphins (8-4)

7. Jets (7-5)

8. Patriots (6-6)

9. Chargers (6-6)

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Monday that the teams knows exactly where they stand right now.

The Bolts will host the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football this weekend. Miami is spending the week on the West Coast after playing San Francisco, a team the Chargers saw just a few weeks ago.

"They know where we're at in the AFC," Staley said of his team's mindset. "They're aware of, 'Hey, there's two teams with nine [wins], two teams with eight [wins], there's a couple teams with seven [wins] and you know, there's two teams with six [wins]'.

"So, we're a game out right now and we're playing a team with eight wins this week, a team that's a good football team," Staley added. "A team that played a team that we played recently.

And while the big-picture focus is on the playoffs, Staley said he wants his team to focus on the task at hand each day this week in preparation for the Dolphins.

"It's about this week. You guys have heard me say it after the bye week, the games do mean more as you go," Staley said. "Every week they're going to mean more and more because you're getting closer to the end and there's a lot at stake in terms of positioning, but you got to pour yourself into that week, and that's where our focus is, on Miami.

"My focus is on getting our team back physically, getting us back physically, getting a couple of players back, and having a good week of practice, finding out how to win this game," Staley added. "That's where our approach is going to be this week."

The Bills host the Jets and the Bengals host the Browns in Week 14. New England is on the road in Arizona for Monday Night Football.

2. Injury updates

Staley provided a handful of injury updates Monday afternoon.

Trey Pipkins III, who missed Sunday's game with a knee injury, is considered day-to-day. Corey Linsley is still in the concussion protocol, while Zion Johnson is day-to-day with a shoulder issue suffered against the Raiders.

Mike Williams is also day-to-day with an ankle injury but Staley provided some optimism with him.

"I think that you should see him, at some point, in practice this week," Staley said.

Donald Parham, Jr. is expected to return to practice this week after being put on Injured Reserve a month ago with a hamstring injury. Once he does practice, the Chargers have a 21-day window to activate Parham to the active roster.

On defense, Sebastian Joseph-Day, who left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter, has a sprained MCL.

"We will know a little bit more, in terms of his status for this week, in the next few days," Staley said.

Bryce Callahan is day-to-day with a core muscle injury. He had a pick 6 in the first quarter against the Raiders but left the game in the second half.

Staley also said things are "status quo" with Joey Bosa's groin injury.

3. A team effort in pass protection

Justin Herbert was under pressure from the get-go Sunday, as the ball was swatted away from his hand on his first drop back in Las Vegas.

It was a sign of things to come, as Herbert would eventually be sacked five times and hit 14 total times against the Raiders.

The Chargers offensive line at one point featured four players who weren't starters when the season began, but Staley said a new-look unit wasn't the sole reason for the high-pressure rate.

The Bolts also struggled to run the ball effectively in the game, and a tough third quarter saw the Chargers three-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit after halftime.

"I think the cumulative effect of all those factors adds up to the pressure. I think that being behind in the game — late in the game, when you're having to work your way back, when you're down 24-13 — that's a contributing factor," Staley said. "At the beginning of that ball game, I think you could tell that their gameplan was to try and heat it up and force people to be on islands a little bit.

"I thought that we adjusted well throughout the game and made some good protection adjustments as the game went on," Staley added. "I liked the communication, in terms of how we were able to get that done."

But Staley noted that Herbert getting hit has been a constant theme of late, as the quarterback has now been sacked 14 times over the past three games.

One bright spot has been Herbert's ball security of late.

"There has been pressure the last three weeks, that's for sure, but I think that Justin has done a good job of protecting the football. I've mentioned that in other weeks, but I think it has been a bright spot for us," Staley said. "We've been able to protect the football and stay out of those killer takeaways that just give you no chance.

"We're going to keep working hard at it, keep working on our mixture of run and — the types of passes, the type of runs," Staley added. "We're trying to take pressure off of the O-line the best we can. That's such a big part of what we try to do here. We're going to keep working hard at it as we go, try to get some guys healthy on the O-line and keep it moving."

The Chargers run game ranks 30th in yards per attempt (3.74) and the Bolts are 31st overall with 84.7 rushing yards per game.

"I think you have to try to feature premium looks," Staley said of getting that unit going. "You have to try to play premium hands in the run game. Then, the types of runs that are available, pairing that with advantage passing looks."

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 13 game in Las Vegas against the Raiders in monochrome

4. Fixing the inconsistencies

The Bolts found themselves in another close game Sunday.

And the seven-point outcome in Week 13 marked the ninth time in 12 games where the final outcome was decided by one possession or less.

On Monday, Staley lamented some missed chances that could have helped put the game out of reach.

Even early on, the Chargers executed a fake punt on the first possession and got a takeaway to ignite their second one … but the Chargers didn't get any points in the aftermath.

"I think that when you can have the advantage off of a takeaway — when we fake a punt, things like that, where that's kind of a change of a possession — you have your opportunities to really separate in the NFL," Staley said.

While the Chargers 10-0 lead could have been even bigger, the Bolts also missed a chance to pull away to open the second half.

Up 13-10, the Bolts fumbled on their first possession and quickly saw that lead evaporate.

"I think that that is something that we haven't been able to do yet this season — truly separate to where you can look at that score and it's 21-3 at the beginning of the second half," Staley said. "Then you go down and score [Sunday] and it's 21-10. Instead, you fumble. I think that we have missed on our opportunities to separate this year.

"That's why these games have been tight, as you know. You've been at these movies, they're tight. I know that we're trying hard. It's just going to come down to execution," Staley continued. "We have to execute as a unit. We have to capitalize on our opportunities. Then, you have to make the winning plays. We haven't been able to do that yet consistently.

"We've been able to do it, at times, but we haven't been able to do it consistently. Those are the things that we have to learn to do as a team, to feed off of each other. It's the same way offensively," Staley added. "When they have a big-time touchdown, defensively, we have to have a three-and-out stop or a takeaway. Feeding off of each other in that way. We have to continue to search to play like that. It's been inconsistent, but we're, obviously, committed in trying to change that."

5. More explosive TDs allowed

Through a dozen games, the Bolts defense has allowed 33 total touchdowns.

More than one-third of them (13 in all) have been plays of 20 yards or more.

A trio of those touchdowns came in Week 13 from Raiders stars Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs.

Jacobs opened the scoring with a 20-yard run in the second quarter. The third frame was all Adams, as he caught touchdowns of 31 and 45 yards.

"[Adams] is a really good player. He made some plays yesterday," Staley said. "The touchdown run from Jacobs was poor setup, we weren't aligned right to the tight end side of the formation, which was a disappointing one.

"It's just going to come down to covering and tackling better. It certainly changes the game when you give them up," Staley added. "That was the story yesterday, the explosions, because there were a lot of really good plays there in the heart of that game, but the big ones were big for them yesterday."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 13 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders

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