Below are three takeaways from Thursday and Friday's press conferences with Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Renaldo Hill and Joe Lombardi:
Herbert and Williams go-ahead TD magic
Quarterback Justin Herbert's late game drives have kept the Bolts in the playoff hunt with a chance to win the AFC West. His partner in crime in those late, go-ahead touchdowns has been wide receiver Mike Williams.
Williams' most recent heroic touchdown was last week in the form of a 53-yard score that put the Chargers back on top late in the fourth against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That type of play was familiar, as Williams has flashed his clutch play-making ability with five go-ahead touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season.
On Friday, Herbert talked about how much trust he has in Williams.
"When we need him most, he steps up," Herbert said. "He is one of those guys that you trust and he's going to make something special happen whenever he's out on the field. He's done an incredible job all year long. He's super trustworthy, dependable, and he works incredibly hard. We're not surprised at all by all of his success."
While the game-winning drives may create stressful moments for Chargers fans, coaches and players, Herbert talked about how those games can be a good thing in the long run. He also discussed how the Chargers can simulate those late game moments in practice.
"It is tough, but you have to be adamant about it," he said. "You have to emphasize it. When you do two-minute and four-minute situations in practice, you have to treat it like a game. You have to learn from it, watch it back and go over the film of it. You have to put a huge emphasis on it in practice so that you have any chance in the game."
Preparing for Broncos offense
After a thrilling Week 11 victory on Sunday Night Football, the Chargers look to carry their success in the AFC West this weekend against the 5-5 Denver Broncos. This week, one of the main focuses was on how the Chargers will defended the Broncos' offensive players in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the receiving trio of Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
On Thursday, Chargers defensive coordinator and former Broncos player/coach Renaldo Hill talked about how the Bolts are preparing for Bridgewater's efficiency.
"We have to do a good job with our disguise plan and try to get different looks," Hill said. "He's going to take care of the ball. When those shots open up, if he has it, he's going to throw it up to those the big receivers he has on the outside line, so we have to make sure that we mix it up and not give him the easy looks. I think that is going to be important for us this week."
On Wednesday, head coach Brandon Staley went into more detail on the top receiving weapons for the Broncos in Sutton and Patrick, and his familiarity with some of the Broncos players.
"Those guys are really, really good players," Staley said. "I have a ton of respect for them. I coached [Broncos OLB] Bradley Chubb, who is really tight with those guys, and I got to know both of those guys. I have a lot of respect for them as competitors. Those guys are 6-foot-4 and play on the outside, and then you get Jerry who is a first-round separator. He's an engine that can play in the slot or out wide. He's good after the catch. They have a very complete receiving corp."
Hill, who played safety for the Broncos for the 2009 and 2010 seasons and served as their defensive backs coach from 2019-2020, talked about the challenge preparing for an opponent that knows you well as a coach.
"I think it's just our guys having to line up and play football," Hill mentioned. "Know all of the tells and things that we want to know, stat lines about who is getting the ball, where they're getting the ball, where they're taking their shots and just try to go out and execute the gameplan. I think that is the biggest thing. I'm sure that they're going to try to do the same thing, but we have to focus on the Chargers."
Growth in the offense & Ekeler's journey
On Thursday, Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who grew up and went to college in Colorado, talked about the consistency he and the Bolts offense are building each week fresh off of his four-touchdown performance in Week 11.
He also gave insight into how the mindset of the Chargers has changed.
"I think the consistency is beginning to grow," Ekeler said. "I think we've actually — whether it's the way we're talking about practice and how important it is or just the mindset, as far as, 'Hey guys, we can't keep going up-and-down like this.' Whatever it is, something has changed as far as our mindset, coming to practice and attacking the week, which has allowed us to look like we're playing better — just more consistent is how I say it."
Ekeler talked about how he was able to reflect on his performance in primetime last weekend and how much that game meant in the journey that he's had as an undrafted running back in the NFL.
"You're just like, 'Man, my journey has come so far,'" he said. "From a little tiny town out in Colorado, to go into another tiny town in Gunnison, up in the mountains in Colorado, and then coming out to L.A., and not really knowing what to expect, but just knowing that, hey, I'll give it everything I can and seeing where that goes. I've just been able to continue to build.
"I think, last week, especially on a Sunday night game, was just a really special time for me to just reflect and be like, 'Wow, it has been a long [time] and a lot of work that has been put into this journey.' I'm still looking forward to it and painting the path going forward, even in the NFL and even outside of the league, trying to help out the community. Even just with the guys in the room, I'm just really grateful."
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