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Final Thoughts: Bolts Ready for Primetime Showdown with Broncos


The Chargers are 3-2 entering Monday night's showdown with the division-rival Broncos.

Here are five final thoughts ahead of Week 6:

1. Bolts are ready for primetime

The lights will be bright at SoFi Stadium.

The Bolts are set to host the Broncos on Monday Night Football, with kickoff scheduled for 5:15 p.m. (PT).

Besides the Week 6 matchup being a division tilt (more on that below), Chargers players and coaches know all eyes will be on them.

"Anything you get a primetime game, it's another opportunity to show the world what you got," said running back Austin Ekeler. "It's another opportunity to get so much exposure because everyone is watching that one game.

"I remember last year during primetime, I had some pretty big games and I remember my following just jumping up," Ekeler added. "There's so much benefit from it besides just the actual winning of the game. Definitely looking forward to it."

Sure enough, Ekeler is looking for his third straight performance of at least 125 yards from scrimmage on Monday night.

Quarterback Justin Herbert has shined bright on the big stage, too, with seven touchdown passes, no interceptions and a passer rating of 114.7 in his career.

Defensively, safety Derwin James, Jr., had an interception in his lone Monday night appearance, and cornerback J.C. Jackson has also played well in primetime, too.

With millions tuned in on Monday night, the Bolts can make a statement and raise their national profile in the only game of the night.

"It's exciting. I mean, you only get so few Monday Night Football games a year," said running back Joshua Kelley. "This one is against a really good team, a really good defense.

"I'm excited man," Kelley added. "Like, I'm really juiced. It's going to be fun."

2. A key AFC West clash

By the time Week 6 is over, the NFL season will be one-third of the way complete.

For most teams, the first month-and-a-half has been a bit of a feeling out process that has involved both ups and downs.

As of Saturday afternoon, 20 teams across the league had either two of three wins, with the Bolts and Broncos among them.

The initial third of the season is about finding out who you are, and the next portion is above getting things in gear before a playoff push in the final stretch.

Entering Week 6, here's a look at how the AFC West stacks up:

Kansas City (4-1 overall, 2-0 in AFC West)

Los Angeles (3-2, 1-1)

Denver (2-3, 0-1)

Las Vegas (1-4, 1-2)

The Chiefs lead the division as of now, but Monday's matchup between the Chargers and Broncos is a pivotal one, especially for the Bolts since it's at home.

A win would move the Chargers two games above .500, but also give them a winning record in the division for now. That can't be overstated, especially as the playoff picture rounds into form in the coming weeks.

"Homefield is so important in the NFL, and in your division you have six of these games that are really tight," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "You know each other really well and they count for a lot. Anytime you can play a team the first time around at home, you want to take advantage of it.

"Anytime you play in a division like ours, any game — no matter where it is — is going to be tight," Staley added. "That's why Monday night is going to be an exciting game."

3. Open competition at safety

In Week 5, Alohi Gilman got the start at safety over Nasir Adderley. Staley said it was an open competition going forward to determine which player would start on a weekly basis.

On Saturday, he expanded on why the competition was opened up, and how it could impact the rest of the team.

"Good for our football team. Nas has responded, as we knew he would, and so has 'Lo," Staley said. "We know that we have two quality safeties, as you guys will know at the game how that plays out.

"But I feel like it's been good for our football team, and it's not just that position, either," Staley added. "It's everywhere on the team. Just because the season starts [one way], that doesn't mean how it's going to finish. You want that on your team, because it means you have depth. That's what we're trying to establish. You have to earn your way."

Gilman provided a clutch moment against Cleveland with a red-zone interception late in the fourth quarter that kept the Browns out of the end zone.

"I feel good, obviously it was fun to be out there with the rest of the guys and get a little more snaps," Gilman said. "Happy we got the win, but still got a long season. That's kind of in the past, I kind of forgot about it already so I'm just focusing on the new week."

As for the competition with Adderley, Gilman said it's all about being a tam player. 

"Nas is my guy, we're close, I got a lot of respect for him," Gilman said. "So, healthy competition that's football, that's kind of how you want it.

"Nas is my guy, whatever happens throughout the season, the [safety] rotation, I mean I support him and he supports me," Gilman added. "So whatever happens for the best for the team, we will go make it happen."

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

4. He's still Russell Wilson

The Chargers defense is on high alert against the Broncos offense.

Even if Denver's current stats don't look so great.

Entering Sunday, the Broncos rank 30th in third-down percentage (30.56), and are last in both red-zone success (21.43) and goal-to-go situations (33.33).

But with Russell Wilson at the helm, Staley and others know a big game could be just around the corner for the quarterback and his cast of playmakers.

"You have a decade worth of film of Russell Wilson," Staley said. "If you need a reminder, and we've given our guys reminders, there's a decade worth of film of him being one of the top players in the league.

"They have all the pieces to be successful," Staley added. "Sometimes it just takes time."

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill said Wilson and the Broncos are simply going through a bit of a transition. The quarterback spent the first 10 seasons of his career with Seattle before being acquired in a blockbuster trade in March.

"Russell is a Super Bowl champion. He's still finding his rhythm within that scheme. A new person moving into a new scheme, but he has command," Hill said. "You know that he knows what he is looking for, having experience in this league. He still can make all of the throws.

"His 9 ball is still one of the prettiest in the league. The more and more opportunities that he gets, with him and [Broncos Head] Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, in that system, and they get it grooved out, we know that good things are going to happen," Hill added. "We all know Russell — if he gets going, it can be a scary movie. That can happen at any point, so we have to make sure that we're prepared and ready to go."

Wilson was listed on Denver's Injury Report with a shoulder all week but did not have a game designation and will start Monday.

He's thrown for 1,254 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in five games.

5. Limit the sacks

Earlier this week, Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi was asked for his assessment of how Herbert was playing through five games.

His answer, especially the first part, stood out.

"Really good. I think he's feeling better every week," Lombardi said. "The thing that he is doing so well is protecting the football. We're not getting sacked and I think a big part of that is, obviously, the offensive line and the tight ends and the running backs and the receivers getting open.

"He bails us out of a lot of situations with just the clock in his head and getting rid of the ball if he feels if the protection is breaking down," Lombardi added. "Just keeping us out of bad situations, he's tremendous at it. When he has the opportunity, we know that he makes just incredible plays. I think he's doing fantastic."

Sure enough, the Chargers are tied for first with the Browns with just five sacks allowed this season.

The offensive line deserves credit, as do other blockers around Herbert, but the quarterback has a knack for feeling pressure, too.

Herbert on Saturday described how he's learned to adapt to that early in his career.

"I think it's experience," Herbert said. "I think just seeing it and going through it and having the understanding of seeing different pressures and different types of blitzes, knowing where your odds are, knowing where to get the ball out and where your checkdowns are.

"I think that's a big part of playing quarterback," Herbert added.

The Bolts will need at their best Monday, as the Broncos are tied for the fifth-most sacks in the NFL with 17. Bradley Chubb leads the way with 5.5 sacks, while Dre'Mont Jones has 2.5 and D.J. Jones has 2.0.

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