Chargers’ defense feeling the vibe going into regular-season finale

Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa was talking with his brother Nick the other day. He and the San Francisco 49ers star edge rusher compared notes on their seasons, about the daily toil, about the highs and lows and the cost it takes on a body over so many weeks.

“I’m talking to my brother,” Bosa recalled this past week, “and he’s just worn down from a whole season of grinding. I’m like, ‘I don’t feel too bad. What’s the big deal?’ It’s definitely a unique thing being kind of fresh. I think my body will continue to get better as I’m playing.”

If there was any benefit to sitting out for 12 games because of a groin injury that required surgery in September, Joey Bosa and the Chargers are getting it at the right moment, with their regular-season finale Sunday against the Denver Broncos and the AFC playoffs right around the corner.

Bosa made a triumphant comeback during the Chargers’ 31-10 victory over the Rams last Sunday, playing roughly half of the defensive snaps as planned. Or so it seemed until he revealed several days later that he suffered from food poisoning and was weak from dehydration and fatigue.

But other than that …

“I think there’s a lot of positives to be taken from this,” said Bosa, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. “For me, mentally, just having to deal with pain every single day is kind of draining. Amen (Ogbongbemiga, a Chargers’ linebacker) is like, ‘It seems like you’re in a better mood lately.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it figures.’”

Bosa also returned to a Chargers defense that finally appears to be fulfilling the expectations of so many observers when training camp began back in late July. The Chargers (10-6) have won four consecutive games, after all, going into Sunday’s game against the Broncos (4-12) in Denver.

What’s more, the Chargers are getting closer to full strength with the returns of Bosa and safety Derwin James Jr. from a concussion that sidelined him last week. They are still without several other key players, including cornerback J.C. Jackson (knee) and left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps).

Bosa praised the work of several players who have stepped into the voids created by the injuries, especially defensive back Michael Davis, whose name initially escaped him as he spoke to a pack of reporters. Davis has been particularly effective in place of Jackson.

“I think guys have come in, filling in for people and playing amazingly,” Bosa said. “I think, what the hell is his name? Mike. Bald boy. He’s really stepped up in a big way. Obviously, you know the kind of player he is, but just the way he’s been playing over the last few games. But, yeah, sometimes it’s just a mindset that has to change and you get some confidence.”

Bosa paused when a reporter began laughing uncontrollably at his description of Davis, who dressed across the locker room, unaware of the conversation.

“Do I have something in my nose?” Bosa asked quizzically, prompting more laughter from the reporter and his colleagues.

For the record, no boogers were in evidence.

In a moment, Bosa’s tone became serious again.

Someone asked about the timing of the Chargers’ defense coming together to play at peak efficiency down the stretch and whether it could carry over to the playoffs with Bosa and James returning to the lineup from their injuries. Could this be a mixture of the right things happening at the right time?

“I feel like the vibe around here and the energy is nice,” Bosa said. “It’s positive. Guys are out at practice joking around. In a good way. Not missing their assignments or whatever. Guys are just happy to be around (each other in practice). I think we just have to continue that going forward.”

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Bosa tried to defer to others when asked for an explanation for the defense’s shift into lockdown mode during victories over the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and the Rams over the past four weeks. He gave an answer anyway, in keeping with the theme of the conversation.

“For me, yeah, I was around, but I was hyper-focused on doing my thing and getting back, so I can’t really put my finger on one thing that’s changed,” he said, referring to his rehabilitation work. “But I think it’s the mindset and the confidence, so yeah, those two things I’ll go with. Final answer.”

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