Below are three takeaways from Sunday's postgame press conferences with Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler.
Herbert breaks franchise single-season TD record
On Sunday, quarterback Justin Herbert broke yet another record in his Pro Bowl sophomore season by passing Charger greats Phillip Rivers and Dan Fouts for the most single-season passing touchdowns in franchise history with 35. Herbert threw his 35th touchdown in style as well, with a 45-yard scoring pass to Mike Williams that put the Bolts up 34-6 against the Broncos and helped seal their Week 17 victory.
After the game, Herbert talked about what that record means for him, especially as someone who grew up rooting for the Bolts.
"I think it's special because I was a Chargers fan growing up," Herbert said. "I knew about all of those guys. I watched them all. They're football legends. To be able to be even in the same conversation with them is a huge honor. We're not done yet. We still have a big game coming up on Sunday. We're going to need to have a good week of practice heading into it."
Herbert's 22 completions on the day were enough to get him to 800 completions in his career in through 31 games, making him the fastest player to reach that mark in NFL history. Head coach Brandon Staley talked about how Herbert's work ethic has allowed him to break records like this in just his second season in the league.
"When you think about the caliber of players that have played for this franchise, I think it says an awful lot," Staley said. "Justin has worked extremely hard to earn that record. It's not a coincidence that these records are happening for him; it's because of the type of person he is, the type of competitor he is and the type of player that he is."
Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught passes from Rivers and Herbert throughout his career, talked about why Herbert breaking the franchise record doesn't surprise him.
"He's been playing lights out all year," Allen said. "Offensive line has been playing great all year, I think that the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs you know we've all been doing a good job of just making plays. Executing and just doing a good job of helping him out…just allowing him to consistently get ops."
Roberts brings the spark on special teams
Since signing with the Chargers in mid-October, wide receiver/return specialist Andre Roberts has made an impact on the Bolts special teams unit. Roberts has been able to show off his speed and athleticism on a number of kick returns including a 75-yard return against the Kansas City Chiefs, but on Sunday, Roberts was able to finally find the end zone on a 101-yard kick return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Staley talked about the immediate impact Roberts has had, especially on the young special teams players for the Bolts this season.
"His level of professionalism, and what he's been able to create from a culture standpoint, and then, the production on the field," Staley said. "You guys saw a couple of weeks ago against Kansas City what he did for us, you saw today, opening up the game[with a 47-yard return], and then, obviously, being able to finish one later — it's been a huge lift for our football team. He's one of us. He's the type of guy that you love seeing every single day. I'm really proud of him. He got a game ball today."
Running back Austin Ekeler, who rushed for his 18th touchdown on the season, talked about what it meant to the team to see Roberts find success this season and the spark that he provides to the offense as well when they need good field position.
"It was just really cool to see just those guys have success," Ekeler said. "They've been having success here and there but never had that full one all the way down to the end zone and finally got it done…definitely a gem and he's been showing that ever since he's been here."
Bolts defense responds in a big way
After a tough loss in Houston, Staley knew the team needed to respond in a big way against the Broncos. Reuniting the Bolts starting secondary played a big part in that as Derwin James Jr., Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr. all returned for Week 17 against the Broncos.
Staley talked about what he saw from the defense, which held the Broncos running back duo of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams to a combined 73 yards on the ground.
"We were able to play the way that we started out this season playing," Staley said. "I'm just excited about the way our group competed today. I thought our coaching staff prepared our players extremely well. Then, those guys came to play today. I think our secondary performed at a high level, with [S] Derwin [James Jr.] leading the way. I felt like, in the run front, you can't say enough about our front seven and our secondary and the way we attacked the run front today. We tackled extremely well, set edges. I think that had a direct impact on the way we played on third down."
The defense was able to also stop the Broncos on third and fourth down, holding them to 3/11 on third down and 1/4 on fourth down. Staley explained how the entire week of practice and preparation came together on gameday.
"I was just pleased with the way that we performed this week," Staley said. "The entire week; not just here at the game, I felt like we practiced well, we prepared well, and then at the game, felt like we brought the right type of energy, the right type of focus and had the right level of execution today, at the game, against a quality team. For me, it was about this week. It was about our response. I felt like our guys answered in a big way today. I'm really proud of our players, proud of our coaching staff. Today, we needed to play like this. I felt like we really showed what we're made of today, as a team."
With the win on Sunday the Bolts now have a chance to advance to the payoffs with a win next weekend as they travel to face the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 18 of the regular season.
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