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Chargers look to build momentum of stretch run victory – The Denver Post

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By JOE REEDY (AP Sportswriter)

All wins count equally in the leaderboard.

Still, the emotion emanating from the locker room after the Los Angeles Chargers’ 23-17 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night could be the catalyst for a season-ending run and perhaps a playoff spot for the first time in four years.

“It was very cathartic,” running back Austin Ekeler said. “That feeling of like, ‘OK, we’re staying on track. We still have playmakers. Especially when we get guys back, and they can do what we expected of them and what we missed. of them.

Even quarterback Justin Herbert, who rarely shows emotion, was more demonstrative. Herbert gave a first-down signal after a 10-yard run during the fourth quarter that put the Chargers in the red zone, where they would later up two scores on Cameron Dicker’s third field goal.

After the game, Herbert nailed a soccer ball as he entered the locker room.

“It was pretty cool to see Justin break out of his routine a bit more,” Ekeler said. “He’s usually the same guy every time after a win or a loss, as far as I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to come in and get picked up. He’s going to go around and mop everybody up, s make sure everyone is okay, then sit in their locker for the next 20 minutes and relax.

Los Angeles is 7-6 going into the last four games with the possibility of recovering key players.

They benefited from the return of Mike Williams, who had missed four of the last five games with a sprained ankle. Williams had six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.

The defense, which was shorted by three starters, had one of its best games. They gave Tyreek Hill two touchdowns on explosive plays, including an unlikely 57-yard fumble return.

Still, Miami never entered the red zone, as its deepest penetration was the LA 37. The Dolphins had only nine offensive plays in Chargers territory.

With the defense shorthanded, coach Brandon Staley and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill created a game plan that allowed some players who had their first long action to play comfortably.

“What you want to do is take an approach where you feel like you can get group consistency so they can play fast,” Staley said. “Then have enough disguises and variations within that group of what you play – blitzes, covers, all that – that they can get into a comfort zone.”

Staley said Monday he hopes defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (core) can return to practice this week.

The return of key players should bolster a group that will try to avoid last season’s stretch run when the Chargers lost three of their last four to retire from the postseason.

WHAT WORKS

Herbert throws a lot. The Chargers are 2-2 when Herbert has at least 50 attempts in a game. Herbert went for his 21st game for 300 yards and his 39 completions were the second in a game in franchise history.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Score touchdowns in the red zone. The Chargers made six trips to the red zone against the Dolphins but entered the end zone only twice. They had to settle for field goals three times and turned it around on their first trip after DeAndre Carter was stopped at the Miami 2 on fourth-and-goal. Los Angeles is near the bottom of the league in red-zone efficiency, with 23 touchdowns on 48 trips.

STORE

Ja’Sir Taylor. The rookie defensive back, who had seen just 11 defensive snaps in his first 12 games, showed he can hold his own. The sixth-round pick played mostly cornerback with Bryce Callahan inactive and gave up three receptions for 43 yards while being targeted five times. He did not allow Hill a reception the two times he was targeted in coverage.

SOLD OUT

Foster Sarrell. The right tackle continues to struggle in pass protection. Sarell allowed six QB pressures against the Dolphins and gave up 16 in the three games he started in place of the injured Trey Pipkins, who continues to recover from an MCL sprain in his left knee.

INJURIES

S Derwin James (quadriceps) remains day to day. Staley said he expects Pipkins to return to training and TE Donald Parham (hamstring) to be activated off injured reserve. Staley also said it’s possible OT Rashawn Slater (biceps) could be back late in the regular season. Slater was injured Sept. 25 against Jacksonville.

KEY NUMBER

3-1 – Herbert’s record against other quarterbacks selected in the 2020 draft. Herbert is 1-1 against Tua Tagovailoa after Sunday’s win. Herbert also has one win apiece over Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers host the Tennessee Titans, who have lost three straight games for the first time since 2018. Leaders AFC South are the last team Los Angeles will face in the regular season with a winning record.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL



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