Chargers hang on to defeat the Jets
November 26, 2020
With the Los Angeles Chargers, no game is over until it is over. On Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, the Chargers led 24-6 over the New York Jets at halftime. The Chargers had scored 24 unanswered points and had held the Jets to 82 yards in total offense in the first half. They were cruising to an easy victory and since the Jets had averaged an NFL low 13 points per game, this game appeared to be over.
Then it happened, again. The Jets suddenly caught fire offensively and scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half, closing the gap to 34-26 with four minutes to go in the game. After a punt, the Jets would have a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion, but the drive would end at the Charger 32-yard line with three straight incompletions.
The Jets would close the gap to 34-28 when punter Ty Long ran backwards for a safety with one second left on the clock. After the safety, the free kick from Long was returned by Braxton Berrios, who was tackled at the Jets 41-yard line, ending the game, and giving the Chargers the victory, 34-28. The Chargers had hung on for the victory, ending a three-game losing streak and improving their season record to 3-7.
For the Jets, the loss dropped them to 0-10 for the season and they were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Offensively, this was the best game the Jets played this season. The Jets had scored ten offensive touchdowns in nine games this season. Against the Chargers, they scored four offensive touchdowns. After a miserable first half, the Jets gained 210 yards in offense in the second half.
For the second consecutive game, the Chargers had a punt blocked on their opening possession. Jets defensive tackle Henry Anderson blocked a Ty Long punt attempt and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams recovered it at the Chargers' 29-yard line. Four plays later, running back La'Mical Perine's five-yard touchdown gave the Jets a 6-0 lead. Jets kicker Sam Ficken missed the extra point.
This was the third time in five games that a Charger punt had been blocked. Head coach Anthony Lynn did not mince words about this play, stating: "I'll be real quick about the blocked punt. The young man did not block his man. Okay. He got beat and he got beat bad." The young man Lynn was referring to is rookie running back Joshua Kelly, who's matador block on Anderson had allowed the blocked punt.
The Jets led 6-0 just six minutes into the first quarter. The rest of the first half belonged to the Chargers, with quarterback Justin Herbert taking over. Chargers responded with an 11-play, 66-yard drive, but wide receiver Keenan Allen fumbled and the Jets' recovered on their one-yard line after a 14-yard reception. One play later, the New York gave it right back when Jets quarterback Joe Flacco was intercepted by cornerback Tevaughn Campbell for a six-yard pick-six touchdown.
Michael Badgley's extra point gave the Chargers a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter, a lead they would never relinquish. In the second quarter, Herbert connected with wide receiver Mike Williams for a 39 yard touchdown pass and after a Jet punt, Herbert connected with wide receiver Tyron Johnson for a 54-yard gain to move the Chargers deep into Jets territory. Six plays later, Herbert found tight end Hunter Henry in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass.
The final offensive drive of the first half drive ended in a 44-yard field goal from Badgley. In the first half, Herbert had completed 23 of 31 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Herbert is averaging 299.9 passing yards per game, has thrown 22 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Herbert has become a huge favorite to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The pass to Tyron Johnson was a gem that Herbert floated into the hands of Johnson, who was being covered by a linebacker, Neville Hewitt. In just nine games, Herbert has become one of the NFL's best deep ball passers. His arm and his accuracy on deep passes have helped make the Chargers a threat to attack vertically and helps to stretch the opposing defenses.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, Flacco is also one of the best deep passers in the NFL and has been for years. Flacco, who won the Super Bowl MVP with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, beat cornerback Craig Hayward with a deep pass to Breshad Perriman for a 49-yard touchdown, cutting the Charger lead to 24-13. A 27-yard pass from Flacco to Denzel Mims helped to set-up a 1-yard touchdown run from Frank Gore. Tight end Chris Herndon caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Flacco in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Chargers were relieved to win the game and end a three-game losing streak, but not particularly proud of their performance. After the game, Lynn said of his team's defensive performance, "It could have been better. But we did what we had to do to get the damn win. That was our goal. "Even though we didn't finish the way we wanted to, we won the game. So, it's better than the alternative."
Keenan Allen, who had a terrific game with 16 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown, had an unusually honest appraisal of the defense after the game: "They got to get off the field. You know, third and long, they have to get off the field. Plain and simple. They should have never had a chance to get back in the game. It shouldn't have been that close, for sure."
Defensively, considering the opponent, the Chargers did not have a good day. Special teams, as has been the case all season long, had another poor day. Offensively, it was a mixed bag. Charger running backs rushed 23 times for 46 yards. The Jets, on the other hand, got 94 yards rushing from their running backs on 23 carries and added two rushing touchdowns.
Coach Lynn was not happy with the performance of either line, stating that: "They kicked our tails between the tackles in the running game. It showed in the stat book. We have to get better between the tackles. Normally, we are, but today we were not." The Chargers only had one sack in the game and that came from a rare blitz, with linebacker Denzel Perryman coming up with the sack.
The passing game continues to carry the Chargers in games this season, but there is a risk in riding the arm of Herbert too much. The Cincinnati Bengals lost their young franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, on Sunday to a brutal knee injury. Burrow has been sacked and hit far too often this season. The Chargers had 49 pass attempts and 29 rushing attempts versus the Jets. That is not a good, balanced offensive attack for the Chargers and their young franchise quarterback.
The Chargers travel to Orchard Park, New York this weekend for a game against the Buffalo Bills. The game is scheduled for Sunday, November 29th, with the start time at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time and will be televised on CBS. The Bills are currently 7-3 and in first place in the AFC East. The Bills are led by quarterback Josh Allen, in his third season from Wyoming. Both teams are similar, with explosive passing attacks and good receiving groups. Both teams have struggled defensively at times.
The difference between the two teams has been that one team wins close games and the other does not. The Bills are 5-1 in one score games this season and they are coming off a playoff appearance in 2019. The Chargers are 2-7 in one score games this season. This battle could come down to the performance of the quarterbacks and this would not be the first time they have met on a football field.
Both met in in the 2017 season, when Herbert's Oregon Ducks team went on the road and crushed Allen's Wyoming Cowboys team, 49-13. Herbert played well in that game and Allen did not. This matchup will be played in a similar climate, with the temperatures predicted to be in the 40's at game time. This is also a homecoming of sorts for Lynn, who coached in Buffalo for two seasons and was the offensive coordinator in 2016 for the Bills before becoming the Chargers head coach.