The Chargers are back above .500 once again.
A Week 14 Sunday Night Football win moved the Bolts to 7-6 and with another big AFC game coming up, the team has a chance to set themselves up well entering the last month of the season.
Here's a breakdown of news from the Chargers 15th week of the season:
Monday: Victory Monday
The Chargers enjoyed a big Victory Monday, as they were able to bounce back with a 23-17 primetime win over the Dolphins.
The story of Sunday night was that it was one of the Bolts most complete and impressive defensive performances of the season, as they held the explosive Miami offense to 219 total yards and 17 points.
And they did it without starting safety Derwin James, Jr., defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and cornerback Bryce Callahan.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley talked about the defense and their disguises, as it was apparent and a big part of the Week 14 win.
"As you know, that's a big tenet of how we play, is that post-snap rotation," Staley said. "That's something that we kind of feel like is a hallmark of the way we play. What we try to do is coordinate the disguise so that it's believable. We want you to feel like it's one thing and then it becomes another thing after the snap."
"We just wanted to make sure that we were well-coordinated in the things that we were disguising last night and buy ourselves a count post-snap because they're such a big play-action team," Staley added. Our safeties, our linebackers and Ja'Sir Taylor, they did a really nice job yesterday."
Taylor, a rookie sixth-round pick who has played mainly special teams this season, stepped in place of Callahan and more than held it down.
His play earned the praise of Staley, as he pointed back to his traits he knew since before the draft.
"I'm really proud of Ja," Staley said. "I'm not surprised because he's done an outstanding job on special teams all season long. He has a lot of the characteristics that we value in the secondary. That's why we drafted him.
"We did a lot of legwork on him pre-draft. I think he's exceeded everyone's expectations, for a rookie," Staley added. "I think, probably, his best characteristic is his make-up. He's poised, very competitive, really smart and an instinctive player. Normally, that's a pretty special combination."
The win moved the Bolts to the seventh seed in the AFC as of Sunday night. The win was a good rebound following last week's tough loss and also a big one, which is one of the reasons the locker room had that reaction to the win according to running back Austin Ekeler.
"I guess all of our games have been so tough this year it seems like," Ekeler said. "When were on like a little losing streak, I don't even know how many losses, like three in a row or something like that, we're finally able to get a game where we won."
"Just to get a win, especially when we are coming down to the end of the season where it's crunch time and then we have the playoff picture in sight, it's definitely emotional," Ekeler later added.
Tuesday: Chargers make a move in AFC playoff picture
The Patriots win over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football dropped the Chargers to the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture.
Still, the Bolts win on Sunday nearly doubled their playoff chances and as Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith mentions, consistency will be the key down the stretch.
The Chargers entered Week 14 with a 30-percent chance to make the playoffs, but that number shot up after a win over Miami. The Bolts will now look for consistency as the final four games await.
The Chargers will have another opportunity to improve their AFC record and face a playoff-caliber opponent this Sunday when they take on the Titans.
To read Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith's full AFC playoff picture breakdown, click here.
Wednesday: Bolts begin Titans week
The Chargers participated in a walk-through on Wednesday for the second-straight week, as they geared up to face the AFC South-leading Titans.
Participation was estimated, but Callahan, Joseph-Day and tackle Trey Pipkins III all participated in a limited fashion.
James, however, was estimated to not have participated, and his status remains day-to-day.
"Day-to-day. Today would have been a rest day for a lot of guys," Staley said on Wednesday. "We're going to try and get him back, but we are definitely going to err on the side of patience. We'll let his body talk to us."
James and everyone else's status will be a topic as the week progresses, but the Bolts expect to see another big target back on Sunday.
Staley expects to get back tight end Donald Parham, Jr., who has been on Injured Reserve since early November, on Sunday. His return will be a big boost for the offense not only in the passing game, but in the run.
"I'm excited to get [Parham] back. I'm really proud of him," Staley said. "He's been extremely patient. His patience has been tested. To get him back, it's going to be great to have him back in there. He has been a very productive for us."
"To get more tight ends in the game, adding him into the mix with [TE] Gerald [Everett], [TE] Tre' [McKitty] and [TE] Stone [Smartt], we think that that is going to hopefully be a thing that helps us down the stretch here," Staley later added.
Staley specifically mentioned Parham's blocking, an area he showed effectiveness in last year.
His return may be able to help a running game that the Chargers are emphasizing, especially in the redzone.
With limited space available in the redzone, being able to run the ball effectively can go a long way in turning a field goal into a touchdown. Staley says the team is working hard on it and is an area for improvement.
"There's not a lot of space to throw it down there," Staley said. "You lose the vertical space down there. Going that way is a great way to be an effective red zone team. Running the ball is different, in terms of how people do it — some people get in big groupings, some people spread you out.
"To be able to hand the ball to your back, I think that is a great way to do it." Staley added. "Just finding that consistency, for us, in how we run the football down there, I think is important. We're working hard at it and it needs to improve for our team."
While the circumstances aren't exactly the same at this point this year compared to last year, Staley did say in what areas he and the team learned that can help him this year.
Specifically when it comes to managing this final stretch, Staley hopes that what he and the team learned last year can come in handy these final four games.
"After last season, I knew that you have to engineer your whole program for this time of year, for December," Staley said. "We tried to do that last year, but just making the subtle tweaks to the schedule and getting the guys fresh and playing well and the focus. Their routine at the end of the year I think is really important.
"Bringing them together the best you can and I think hopefully getting healthy at the right time," Staley added. "Getting your guys back healthy at the right time. Getting that addition that can help you go play well on Sundays. Learned a lot, for sure, and we will see."
Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith released his weekly mailbag on Wednesday, where he answered questions about the playoff chances, the defensive performance in Week 14 and much more.
Earlier this week, the Bolts continued an 18-year tradition of surprising local elementary school students with brand new bikes for the holidays! Chargers OLB Khalil Mack, DL Morgan Fox, WR DeAndre Carter, K Cameron Dicker, DL Otito Ogbonnia, LB Derek Tuszka, and LB Tyreek Maddox-Williams joined the Bikes for Kids Foundation and Pechanga Resort & Casino at Mayo Elementary school where they were greeted by over 150 deserving second and third graders. The bikes were built by Bolts Community Crew – powered by Pacific Premier Bank – volunteers the Saturday prior, and kept hidden from the students until the players revealed the news.
Thursday: Offense getting healthier; Derrick Henry coming to town
The offense saw the boost that having a healthy wide receiver core can have.
Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a season-high 367 yards on Sunday night — the first full game with both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi hopes that as the final couple games progress and they continue to get back pieces, the offense can get even better.
"We have gotten a little healthier," Lombardi said. "Getting Mike [Williams] back and Keenan [Allen] getting healthier, we're hoping maybe Donald Parham comes back this week. We're hoping Trey is able to play.
"I feel like we're getting as healthy as we have been since Game 1 or 2," Lombardi added. "Getting all of those pieces incorporated back in, getting them in game shape, all of those things are going to be huge as we get down the stretch."
Meanwhile on the defensive end, the statuses of James, Joseph-Day and Callahan remain the focus.
Their participation in Thursday's practice did not change relative to Wednesday, as James did not participate again.
Still, the defense looks to build on their recent success, but face a different challenge this week compared to Week 14. While Miami came in with an explosive pass game, the Titans will present a different challenge.
"It's the problem everyone in the league has been having, trying to stop this 6-foot-3, 250-pound back," Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill said about Titans running backDerrick Henry. "What you figure out is that it takes everybody. You can't get tired of doing it.
"We have to make sure that our guys stay motivated throughout the whole game and get the run game stopped," Hill later added.
Henry enters Week 15 with the second-most rushing yards in the league (1,199) and continues to play at the level he has in recent seasons.
Whether or not members of the defense will be able to go or not, Hill and the defense know that they will have to have multiple Chargers players on him for all four quarters.
"I just think it takes everyone on the defense," Hill said. "We all have a responsibility, but post-that responsibility, we all have to be in pursuit. We can't think that just based off of the fits that we have that one guy can get him down."
"Try to get as many guys to his body and hits on him as much as we can because that big guy, we hope we can wear him down, but he has shown that he can persevere and push through," Hill later added. "We know it's going to take all 60 minutes."
Also on Thursday, Chargers.com talked to wide receiver Mike Williams about his return to action, big play ability and the potential of the offense as they approach this final stretch of the year. To read the full feature on Williams, click here.
Members of the Titans also talked about the Chargers ahead of their Week 15 matchup. Check out what Tennessee said about the Bolts.
Friday: Injury updates before Week 15
The Chargers took the field for the final time on Friday and are hoping to get back some reinforcements for Sunday.
Both Callahan and Pipkins practiced in full on Friday, and listed as "QUESTIONABLE" for Sunday's game, while Joseph-Day was limited.
All will be game-time decisions according to Staley.
"They were all in practice this week," Staley said on Friday. "We got to see them out there. Physically, they were good enough to practice and we'll see for gametime."
As for James, his status for Week 15 was "DOUBTFUL".
The Bolts will look to carry last week's momentum into this week, as a win can go a long way in the AFC playoff picture.
Herbert will look to build off of the last game, as he threw for a season-high 367 passing yards. As he continues his third season in the league, Herbert talked about the process of being more comfortable now compared to when he came into the NFL.
"I think one of those things when you come into the league is you just want to earn everyone's respect, you want to earn your trust, you want to be yourself, be genuine," Herbert said. "I feel like we've grown really close together as a team the past couple of years.
"I know that I've got everyone's back as well as they've got mine," Herbert added. "As long as we're playing together and we're playing fast, we're able to kind of relax and just cut loose."
One of the reasons is also Allen and Williams, whose return this past Sunday changed a lot for not only Herbert, but the offense in general.
Herbert talked about what both bring to the offense, similar but in different ways.
"Mike and Keenan are both incredible athletes," Herbert said. "I think Mike is one of those guys that has done a great job in those 50/50 balls and just beating man coverage.
"Keenan, same ways, he's able to just separate and cause that separation," Herbert added.
Prior to Friday's practice, Smith talked with Jim Wyatt, who covers the Titans for their team website, to preview Sunday's matchup.
Check out the best photos of the Chargers Friday practice at Hoag Performance Center
Videos of the Week
All In: Episode 8 | The Ultimate Competitor
The eighth episode of 'All In' titled 'The Ultimate Competitor' gives an all-access look at Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and his competitive drive that has allowed him to continuously show out in clutch moments.
Truth or Dab | Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack
On the third Chargers edition of the Hot Ones special, Truth or Dab, watch as host Sean Evans asks the Chargers outside linebackers questions and gives them two choices: tell the truth, or suffer the wrath of the Last Dab.
Mic'd Up | Austin Ekeler
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was mic'd up during the Week 14 win vs the Miami Dolphins.
Playmakers | Know Your Opponent with Amie Wells
The Tennessee Titans associate director of broadcasting joins Hayley Elwood on the latest edition of Playmakers podcast to discuss this Sunday's matchup, the Titans offense and much more.
Chargers Weekly | Passing Attack Hits Stride With Titans Up Sunday
Matt "Money" Smith and Chris Hayre recap the Chargers Week 14 win over the Miami Dolphins and preview the Week 15 matchup against Tennessee
Questions from a Popeyes Box | Gerald Everett
Chargers tight end Gerald Everett answers questions from a Popeyes box including whether he would travel back in time or to the future
Tweets of the Week
Bolt Up for 2023!
Secure your 2023 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.