Here's a breakdown of the news from the Chargers' 18th week of the season:
Monday: 'Built for this moment'
Fresh off of their 34-13 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 17, head coach Brandon Staley broke down the team’s crucial victory that kept their playoff destiny alive. Staley talked about how the Bolts came together to play a complete game against Denver.
"I felt like all three phases had really big contributions to the win," Staley said. "I felt like that was a good thing. I felt like a lot of the things that we discussed, in terms of what it was going to take to win that game, we got accomplished. Then, watching it again this morning, late last night and this morning, there's a lot that we need to improve on. We have to get right to work here on Las Vegas, but I'm really proud of the way that our guys competed yesterday in the game. I really felt like we took that stadium and played with the type of energy and the type of focus that that game required. I'm really proud of those guys."
Following the Chargers' win over the Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders' win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, the Chargers and Raiders' matchup in Week 18 was flexed from the 1:05 p.m. timeslot to Sunday Night Football on NBC. The AFC West primetime battle will be the Bolts' fourth primetime game of the season and second matchup against the Raiders on national television. However, this time, the stakes are different with the winning team going to the postseason.
Safety Derwin James Jr. talked about how the Bolts' season has prepared them for this win-or-go-home opportunity in the final week of the regular season.
"We're definitely built for this moment," James Jr. said. "I definitely feel like that is going to help us…we have to bring our 'A' game. We already know what type of game that it's going to be. Nothing that we did in the beginning of the year matters anymore. All that matters, come Sunday night, is that if you win, you keep going."
Wednesday: Primetime rematch vs. the Raiders
Since the Chargers faced the Raiders in Week 4 of the 2021 season, a lot has happened for both teams since that October game on Monday Night Football. On Wednesday, Staley talked about how the Chargers have learned and grown as a team since then.
"I think we're just a lot more certain of who we are," Staley said. "As a team, I feel like there's so much that's happened in between that we've learned from, so many experiences; wins, losses, injuries, COVID, there are so many things that have transpired that have made our team a better team, a more connected team, a more complete team. That's always your quest, as a coach, is to find your best football at the end."
Last week, Herbert broke the Chargers franchise record for most touchdown passes in a season with his 35th touchdown of the year. This weekend, Herbert needs 29 completions to break the franchise record for completions in a single season. Running back Justin Jackson talked about how Herbert is able to elevate his game when the Bolts play in primetime.
"He's a baller, I mean, what else can you say?" Jackson said. "The dude is an unbelievable player and he heightens his level in those games. I think that's what great players do, so it's awesome having someone like that on your side. It's great to support him in everything we can do, especially as a running back, whether that's protecting him, running the ball, getting out of the backfield as we do a lot here as well or catching the ball for him so he can throw the ball two yards and get 30 or 40 yards on his passing totals."
Thursday: Joey Bosa evaluates his Pro Bowl season
On Thursday, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill talked about how the Bolts defense can put together a plan to defend the Raiders top weapons on offense. One connection Hill has kept his eye on is between quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who leads the team in receiving yards and has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the season. Hill talked about what the Bolts have to watch out for when covering Renfrow.
"He does a good job of being able to separate," Hill said. "He's a multi-cut route-runner, so if you have him covered on the first move, his second and third act is where he separates. We have to do a good job of staying connected to this guy at all times. Even when we think that we have him covered, we have to stay complete until the play is over because he will separate, and those second and third acts, he makes a lot of hay there."
The Raiders defense, led by former Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerbacks Brandon Facyson and Casey Hayward Jr., along with Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, has allowed just 47 points over the team's three-game win streak.
"It's something, I mean, it takes time for that muscle memory to get there," Bosa said. "For me, getting sacks, I guess earlier on in my career, I was too nervous to let the guy go, so I'd just wrap them up and try to get them down and forget going for the ball. Now, I think more than anything, it's just a mindset — always thinking about it. It's how you really change the game, if you're able to get those turnovers."
Bosa was also awarded the Pro Football Writers Association's Chargers chapter's 'Media Good Guy Award' on Thursday with Justin Herbert winning 'Team MVP' for the second-straight year.
Friday: Herbert talks strategy when preparing for big games
Quarterback Justin Herbert has competed in five primetime games in his NFL career where he has scored 16 total touchdowns, accrued a passer rating of 109.5, and has gone 3-2 in those games. In his collegiate career, Herbert played in the Pac-12 Championship game and the Rose Bowl, but Sunday's playoff-like game will arguably be the biggest game of his NFL career. Herbert talked about how he prepares for big moments, like this week’s game, for the Bolts.
"Just to treat every practice like a game," Herbert said. "Every rep like a game rep. I think the experience of going through it and seeing those reps, and seeing a live defense — making sure you're adamant about your focus and your effort, so that when you head into Sunday, you feel comfortable that you've already been there, you've already seen it all, so that you're ready for anything."
In the Bolts' Week 4 game against the Raiders, the team had zero turnovers. On Friday, Staley talked about what the Bolts need to do in order to replicate that performance on Sunday.
"For you to compete and play that way, from an execution standpoint, it really comes down to assignment, technique and effort," Staley said. "I think that that's what execution means, is those three things; knowing your assignment, having command of your technique and then playing as hard as you can play. In order for you to execute, you know that you can't do it alone. Every individual has a role, but then you also have to perform as a unit, as a team. That's going to be the challenge for us on Sunday."
Starting center Corey Linsley logged back-to-back full practices on Thursday and Friday and Staley said Linsley is 'good to go' for Sunday's game.
Earlier this week, tight end Jared Cook and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. were activated off the Res./COVID-19 List, setting up a Week 18 return after they both missed Week 17.
Videos of the Week
This week also brought a collection of videos to Chargers fans, take a look at the top videos released throughout the week.
Chargers Untold: Ms. B's M&M Soul Food Restaurant:
Ms. B's M&M Soul Food, located in Inglewood, was struggling to pay rent after their rent doubled and food costs rose during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Chargers heard about their story, they stepped up and hired Ms. B's to feed their entire team following the Bolts matchup against the Minnesota Vikings to show their support for local businesses.
Film Room: Breaking Down QB Showdown Between Justin Herbert and Derek Carr:
Chris Hayre and Daniel Jeremiah break down game film of star quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Derek Carr ahead of the Chargers Week 18 "win and in" matchup vs. the Raiders.
Mic'd Up: Derwin James vs Denver Broncos:
Chargers Safety Derwin James wired for sound during the Los Angeles Chargers Week 17 divisional matchup vs Denver Broncos. Presented by Hyundai.
No Sophomore Slump for Justin Herbert:
Check out hype highlights of Justin Herbert's sophomore season so far with the Bolts and each of his record-breaking 35 passing touchdowns!
Tweets of the Week
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