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Chargers rookie WR Josh Palmer steps up in Keenan Allen's absence

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Just before his team's Week 14 showdown against the New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley emphasized the importance of doing the "little things," with the primary focus on executing in all three phases of the game.

The little things especially mattered on Sunday, without two of the teams' star players: safety Derwin James (hamstring) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (COVID-19 ).

Despite those absences, the Bolts found a way to pull off a 37-21 win over the Giants with all three phases playing their part, right along with the contributions of rookie wideout Josh Palmer.

"I feel like we played with a lot of purpose," Staley said. "I felt like it was a complete performance. When you take a look at how we started that game on defense, forcing five punts -- outside of one play, really played a dominant first half.

"I really liked the way we ran the football today. I felt like it was a hard-fought running game because they have such a big personnel."

Another aspect of the game Staley enjoyed was what Palmer showcased.

Without Allen in the mix, Palmer's number was called on and he scored his second career touchdown when quarterback Justin Herbert faced a third-and-8 and found Palmer right beyond the pylons for a 12-yard score.

"It was fun, it was a great game," Palmer said. "When I came off the route, I didn't really know how much space I had, but when I saw the end zone I ran as fast as I could."

The third-round pick out of Tennessee was targeted a team-high seven times, finishing with five catches for 66 yards and the touchdown.

Staley, though, was not at all surprised by the rookie's ability to step up, based on the amount of work he puts into his craft.

"Since the second he got drafted and came here, he showed a real thirst for his game, a real hunger to work at his game," Staley said. "He's one of these guys that's here early getting into his routine, from a stretching standpoint, a warm-up standpoint. Then it's after practice. He's got his post-practice routine on the JUGS machine and working on releases."

Herbert also acknowledged Palmer's willingness to do the extra. Whether it be spending more time getting reps after practice or watching film, Palmer is constantly doing his part.

"He works harder than anyone," Herbert said. "He's out there after practice on the JUGS machine, catching balls and running routes and getting releases.

"For him to be able to step up, especially when Keenan is down, he's one of those guys that we trust in."

Between Herbert, who became the first player in league history to record 30 touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons, and Palmer, who may be called upon for a heavier workload again if Allen is still out, the Chargers (8-5) are looking to put up a fight for the No.1 spot in the AFC West, taking on the Chiefs (9-4) on Thursday, and Staley said they're already looking ahead.

"We'll be ready. They're a really good football team in all three phases," the coach said. "It's going to be a tough cover there. It's going to be great ball game. It's going to be great for the NFL. We have to get right to work."

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