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Bolts Focused on Maximizing Opportunities in Final 5 Games

The Bolts are 6-6 with five games left in the 2022 season.

Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and wide receiver Joshua Palmer from Monday’s media sessions.

1. Knowing where they stand

Get ready for a five-game sprint for a postseason spot.

The Chargers are 6-6 and currently occupy the No. 9 spot in the AFC playoff race.

Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer detailed the team’s mindset heading into Week 14.

«We need to win the rest of these games,» Palmer said. «For us, the playoffs really started last week. Just locking into details and doing our individual jobs to the best of our abilities.»

The Bills, Chiefs, Ravens and Titans currently lead their respective divisions. And with one of three Wild Card spots the most likely way for the Bolts to get into the postseason, here’s where that race stands as of Monday afternoon.

5. Bengals (8-4)

6. Dolphins (8-4)

7. Jets (7-5)

8. Patriots (6-6)

9. Chargers (6-6)

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Monday that the teams knows exactly where they stand right now.

The Bolts will host the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football this weekend. Miami is spending the week on the West Coast after playing San Francisco, a team the Chargers saw just a few weeks ago.

«They know where we’re at in the AFC,» Staley said of his team’s mindset. «They’re aware of, ‘Hey, there’s two teams with nine [wins], two teams with eight [wins], there’s a couple teams with seven [wins] and you know, there’s two teams with six [wins]’.

«So, we’re a game out right now and we’re playing a team with eight wins this week, a team that’s a good football team,» Staley added. «A team that played a team that we played recently.

And while the big-picture focus is on the playoffs, Staley said he wants his team to focus on the task at hand each day this week in preparation for the Dolphins.

«It’s about this week. You guys have heard me say it after the bye week, the games do mean more as you go,» Staley said. «Every week they’re going to mean more and more because you’re getting closer to the end and there’s a lot at stake in terms of positioning, but you got to pour yourself into that week, and that’s where our focus is, on Miami.

«My focus is on getting our team back physically, getting us back physically, getting a couple of players back, and having a good week of practice, finding out how to win this game,» Staley added. «That’s where our approach is going to be this week.»

The Bills host the Jets and the Bengals host the Browns in Week 14. New England is on the road in Arizona for Monday Night Football.

2. Injury updates

Staley provided a handful of injury updates Monday afternoon.

Trey Pipkins III, who missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury, is considered day-to-day. Corey Linsley is still in the concussion protocol, while Zion Johnson is day-to-day with a shoulder issue suffered against the Raiders.

Mike Williams is also day-to-day with an ankle injury but Staley provided some optimism with him.

«I think that you should see him, at some point, in practice this week,» Staley said.

Donald Parham, Jr. is expected to return to practice this week after being put on Injured Reserve a month ago with a hamstring injury. Once he does practice, the Chargers have a 21-day window to activate Parham to the active roster.

On defense, Sebastian Joseph-Day, who left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter, has a sprained MCL.

«We will know a little bit more, in terms of his status for this week, in the next few days,» Staley said.

Bryce Callahan is day-to-day with a core muscle injury. He had a pick 6 in the first quarter against the Raiders but left the game in the second half.

Staley also said things are «status quo» with Joey Bosa’s groin injury.

3. A team effort in pass protection

Justin Herbert was under pressure from the get-go Sunday, as the ball was swatted away from his hand on his first drop back in Las Vegas.

It was a sign of things to come, as Herbert would eventually be sacked five times and hit 14 total times against the Raiders.

The Chargers offensive line at one point featured four players who weren’t starters when the season began, but Staley said a new-look unit wasn’t the sole reason for the high-pressure rate.

The Bolts also struggled to run the ball effectively in the game, and a tough third quarter saw the Chargers three-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit after halftime.

«I think the cumulative effect of all those factors adds up to the pressure. I think that being behind in the game — late in the game, when you’re having to work your way back, when you’re down 24-13 — that’s a contributing factor,» Staley said. «At the beginning of that ball game, I think you could tell that their gameplan was to try and heat it up and force people to be on islands a little bit.

«I thought that we adjusted well throughout the game and made some good protection adjustments as the game went on,» Staley added. «I liked the communication, in terms of how we were able to get that done.»

But Staley noted that Herbert getting hit has been a constant theme of late, as the quarterback has now been sacked 14 times over the past three games.

One bright spot has been Herbert’s ball security of late.

«There has been pressure the last three weeks, that’s for sure, but I think that Justin has done a good job of protecting the football. I’ve mentioned that in other weeks, but I think it has been a bright spot for us,» Staley said. «We’ve been able to protect the football and stay out of those killer takeaways that just give you no chance.

«We’re going to keep working hard at it, keep working on our mixture of run and — the types of passes, the type of runs,» Staley added. «We’re trying to take pressure off of the O-line the best we can. That’s such a big part of what we try to do here. We’re going to keep working hard at it as we go, try to get some guys healthy on the O-line and keep it moving.»

The Chargers run game ranks 30th in yards per attempt (3.74) and the Bolts are 31st overall with 84.7 rushing yards per game.

«I think you have to try to feature premium looks,» Staley said of getting that unit going. «You have to try to play premium hands in the run game. Then, the types of runs that are available, pairing that with advantage passing looks.»

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