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Final Thoughts: Bolts Look to Complete Perfect October


Welcome to Week 7, where the Bolts will host the Seahawks on Sunday at 1:25 p.m. (PT) from SoFi Stadium.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of the Chargers-Seahawks matchup:

1. A perfect October?

The Chargers enter Week 7 with a chance to win their fourth straight game, which would be an impressive feat considering where the team was a month ago.

When October began, the Bolts were coming off a double-digit home loss to Jacksonville, which was their second straight loss and dropped them to 1-2.

At that point, injuries to Justin Herbert, Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater and others were mounting as the Chargers tried to get control of the ship.

But they did just that, rattling off road wins in Houston and Cleveland before squeaking past the Broncos in overtime at home on Monday.

"Our team has really stuck together," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "We've tried really hard to figure it out.

"Seattle is an excellent team and we know what we're facing on Sunday at 1:25," Staley added. "We're facing a really good football team coming off a really big win. We're going to need to be at our best … we're really going to have to take the field with the right type of energy and focus."

As of now, the Bolts sit at 4-2 overall with a 2-1 mark in the AFC West. The Chiefs are also 4-2 but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their Week 2 win.

Nobody is looking at playoff positions yet, but the Bolts know stacking together wins now can only help down the road.

And, while every season is a different journey, the Bolts could try to follow the path of the 2018 Chargers.

That team also started 1-2 before winning four straight games before a Week 8 bye. The 2018 team ended up 7-2 and eventually 12-4 and in the playoffs.

We'll see if the Chargers can replicate that success, but it will start with a home win Sunday against Seattle.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Friday practice at Hoag Performance Center

2. Allen's status, depth at WR

Keenan Allen has been hard at work behind the scenes while trying to rehab from a hamstring injury that popped up in Week 1.

Now, it appears the Chargers wide receiver is close to returning, as Staley said Friday that he is a "game-time decision."

Allen worked in both individual and full-team drills this week, which was a big step in his comeback.

"Felt solid. Felt good on the game speed," Allen said. "Obviously, it'll ramp up if I play. I think I felt comfortable."

However, here's the scenario that Allen (and the Chargers) face:

Allen could play this week if he feels good enough. Or, it's conceivable that he takes another week off, especially with a Week 8 bye that would give him even more time to rest.

"We've come this far, so patience is a virtue. We won't put him out there unless we know he can go," Staley said. "How much he goes? Obviously, first game back so he'd be on a pitch count [if he plays]."

Allen said: "Yeah, if I'm on the fence, then I don't even think it'll be a questionable thing. It's either yes or no at this point, whether I can or I can't. If I can, then I will."

While Allen's status remains up in the air, we know that wide receiver Joshua Palmer and tight end Donald Parham, Jr., — both of whom have concussions — will not play Sunday.

"Anytime you have one or two receivers out, you have to make sure you fill in that production other places with your tight ends and backs," Staley said. "That's where I think our coaching staff does a great job [saying,] 'These are the players we get to play with, let's go figure it out together.'

"The good news is that Justin has a rapport with all those guys," Staley said.

With Palmer out and Allen questionable, that leaves three fully healthy wide receivers on the active roster in Mike Williams, DeAndre Carter and Jason Moore, Jr.

Staley said some procedural roster moves would have to be made in order for someone like Michael Bandy or Joe Reed to be active Sunday.

3. Looking for more red-zone offense

The Chargers offense has had no problem getting into the red zone, as their 25 possessions inside the 20-yard line are tied for the most in the league.

But finding the end zone has been a different story, as the Bolts have scored on just 12 of those trips. That 48-percent success rate ranks 24th in the league.

"I'd say it needs improving," Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi said Thursday about the red-zone offense. "We're getting down there a lot, but we need to come away with touchdowns.

"A lot of that comes down to running the ball a little bit better and executing some of the plays better, having a better plan, everything," Lombardi said. "Not as good as we want."

Herbert added: "I think we've done a good job. There's always room for improvement. I think we've done a good job moving the ball up and down the field. Obviously, you would love to score as many points as you can but we played a good defense last week so we'll have to do our best to have a good plan, execute and try to put up as many points as we can."

The Chargers are tied for the league lead (with Seattle) with 10 red-zone field goals. Those include three of Dustin Hopkins' four field goals Monday, and all three of Taylor Bertolet's field goals against the Browns.

Herbert said Friday that that area of focus can improve as the year goes on, similar to what happened last year.

The Chargers scored in the red-zone at a 55-percent clip through four games (11 of 20) in 2021, but ended the season as the league's No. 4 red-zone offense with a 64-percent success rate.

"It's a long season, there's a lot of football left," Herbert said. "We're going to do what we can to put up as many points as we can. Obviously, we've been down a couple of guys. Losing Keenan is never going to help you, so we've got to be better.

"We've got to put up points in the red zone. Thankful for Dustin Hopkins last week stepping up big time, getting us just enough points to win the game," Herbert added. "Sometimes it doesn't have to be pretty, you don't have to put up super amount of points or stats. As long as you get the job done, that's the most important part."

4. Bolts punt coverage unit thriving

Through six games, the Chargers punt coverage unit has been elite at their jobs.

That was obviously highlighted Monday when Ja'Sr Taylor forced a muffed punt that Deane Leonard recovered. The heads up play by the pair of rookies gave the Bolts necessary field position to get the overtime win.

But that unit has excelled on every other return attempt, too, as they have allowed just 36 punt return yards on 11 attempts entering Week 7. 

That 3.3 return average is the lowest total allowed by any NFL team. 

"That's good, we want to stay there, stay No.1," Taylor said. "That was one of our goals this season, just to improve our special teams unit and I feel like we are doing a good job at that.

"The buy-in by all the players … we have extra meetings that we call for players-only for special teams," Taylor added. "Just digging in on the plan and really committing because sometimes people put special teams on the back burner, but not here. We take that really serious."

A necessary component in that league-leading unit? Punter JK Scott, who can unleashed high and lengthy kicks that don't allow for much of a return.

"He has a trait that's elite. His elite trait is hangtime," said first-year Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken, who spent the past 15 seasons in Minnesota. "That's why it was very intriguing to bring him here. I really liked him the last couple years, obviously watched him when he was with Green Bay going against him.

"He's a very elite punter with the hang time and distance," Ficken said. "It can be the difference between a fair catch, a returned ball. It's a difference of several yards, so we got to make sure it's complimentary of that and good distance with it so we're not outkicking our coverage."

The Seahawks have returned a league-low three puts for only 15 yards.

5. Wary of some Seattle rookies

Seattle has eight rookies currently listed on its 53-man roster, but two have caught the Chargers attention this week.

Cornerbacks Coby Bryant (fourth-round out of Cincinnati) and Tariq Woolen (fifth-round out of Texas-San Antonio) are both off to hot starts in their career.

Woolen just won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and has an interception in four straight games.

"He's a very good playmaker," Herbert said of Woolen, who is tied for the league lead in picks. "That's very apparent in the past couple of games.

"He's done a great job all year of playing corner and being up and aggressive on guys," Herbert added. "He's caused a lot of turnovers… to be able to see that on film, you definitely have to be aware."

Woolen also recovered a fumble in Week 6 that was forced by Bryant, who leads the league with four forced fumbles thus far.

"They run to the ball and the turnovers are what really sticks out," Lombardi said. "They get the ball out. It has always been a hallmark of Seattle, regardless of their scheme, and so ball security is a huge emphasis this week."

The Chargers are 4-0 this season when they have either won or tied the turnover margin, and are 0-2 in the pair of games they have lost that battle.

The Chargers celebrated Halloween on Tuesday in partnership with Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation by inviting young patients and their families to the team's headquarters at Hoag Performance Center. The fifth annual event included a special trick-or-treat trail through the team facility, arts and crafts and one-on-one time with Coach Brandon Staley and players including Drue Tranquill, Morgan Fox, Khalil Mack, Trey Pipkins and more!

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