COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — It was a catch that Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams shouldn’t have been able to make.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard had denied Williams a free release off the line of scrimmage on third-and-9 in the first quarter before keeping him to the outside on an underthrown ball, only for Williams to climb over the defender to make a juggling 23-yard catch.
“Dude had perfect coverage. Mike just found a way to get the ball,” Chargers cornerback Bryce Callahan said Wednesday.
Wide receiver Joshua Palmer was more effusive in his praise.
“It’s art, you know,” he said of Williams’ latest outstanding performance.
There is also the science that comes with having Williams and Keenan Allen back on the field at the same time, the arithmetic of favorable defensive coverages they dictate and geometry of the space they create.
The Chargers (7-6) believe having both Williams and Allen available for their last four games can make the difference in reaching the playoffs, confidence that comes from how the pair contributed in Sunday's 23-17 win over the Dolphins. Williams had six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown, and Allen had 12 catches for 92 yards.
“They are two of the best to ever do it,” quarterback Justin Herbert said after the game. “To have guys like that on our team, they bring a different energy, a different vibe to our team. ... Keenan and Mike, they were out there making plays.”
The complementary nature of Williams and Allen has been a key piece of Los Angeles' offense over the past four seasons, with Allen moving the chains on crossing routes and other intermediate plays and Williams generating big gains and finding the end zone.
It was just the second time this season they made it through an entire game healthy together. Allen missed time because of a pulled hamstring, and Williams’ high ankle sprain kept him out of four of the previous five games and limited him to six snaps in Week 11 against Kansas City.
Palmer said not having Allen and Williams gave opposing defenses more ways to limit Herbert and his remaining targets.
“Any one of us can make plays, so it puts them in a bind because they don’t know who they might want to double,” Palmer said. “A good example of that was Vegas (in Week 13). Like imagine if Mike was there, you know what I’m saying. Just having to have us be matched up, you have to be willing to sacrifice something.”
That often involves teams playing a safety over the top of Williams to try and eliminate explosive plays. In response, the Chargers used a deep crossing pattern, sending Williams across the field off a play-action fake to free him up for a 55-yard catch against Miami, his 11th play of 40 or more yards over the past two seasons.
Williams also got both feet down for a nifty 10-yard touchdown grab, but it was his catch against Howard that dominated social media. Williams labeled it “pretty good” but not on the short list of his best plays.
To Palmer, it was nothing new.
“Nothing surprises me anymore, honestly, from Mike,” he said. “I’ve seen him do that every day in practice, you see him do it in the game, so it’s almost like when he doesn’t do it I’m surprised.”
With all the pieces finally together, Palmer expects the passing offense can propel the Chargers into the postseason.
“Felt like we can still make some more plays on top of that,” he said. “So it’s really exciting, but it was a long time coming for us, to be honest with you.”
NOTES: The Chargers held a walkthrough Wednesday but estimated that S Derwin James Jr. (quad) would not have participated in a regular practice. Callahan (groin), DT Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and RT Trey Pipkins III (knee) would have been limited. ... Coach Brandon Staley said it was possible that OLB Joey Bosa (groin) could be activated off injured reserve to return to practice this week. ... TE Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring/concussion) is expected to play this week. He has appeared in two games this season and has not played since Oct. 17 against Denver.
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