By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Herbert helps the Chargers win in Vegas as they get ready for the Broncos

 

December 24, 2020

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Raiders. The Chargers face the Broncos on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

In an unexpected battle of two former Oregon Duck quarterbacks, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers outlasted Marcus Mariota and the Las Vegas Raiders, 30-27 in overtime, in a Thursday Night game in Las Vegas on December 17th. Herbert was the Ducks starting quarterback from 2016 through 2019 and was selected in the first round (6th overall) by the Chargers in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Mariota was the starting Ducks quarterback from 2012 through 2014 and was selected in the first round (2nd overall) by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft. Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 as the most outstanding player in college football. Mariota signed with the Raiders as a free agent in March of 2020. He was added as a backup to Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr.

The unexpected part came when quarterback Derek Carr was injured on the Raiders' second offensive possession. Carr was running to his right, and he pulled his left groin muscle without contact. Mariota had not played in a game this season, but he was prepared for the moment. In his first offensive series of the year, Mariota drove the Raiders 86 yards in seven plays, with Mariota connecting on a perfect 35-yard pass to tight end Darren Waller for a touchdown, to give the Raiders a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.


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Herbert had given the Chargers an early lead with the opening drive, going 78 yards in 12 plays, a drive that took 7:29 of the first quarter. The drive culminated in a ten-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to tight end Hunter Henry, for an early 7-0 lead. After Mariota got the lead back for the Raiders, a field goal from kicker Michael Badgley and a touchdown pass from Herbert to wide receiver Tyron Johnson gave the Chargers a 17-10 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the teams went back-and-forth, with the Raiders scoring twice on a Josh Jacobs one-yard touchdown run and on a two-yard touchdown run by Mariota. The Chargers touchdown score came on a one-yard touchdown run from running back Kalen Ballage. The game went into overtime tied 24-24. The Raiders won the coin toss and got the ball first.

Mariota drove the Raiders 70 yards in 14 plays to the Charger five-yard line before settling for a 23-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson, to take a 27-24 lead. The drive took 6:42 of the ten-minute overtime clock, leaving 3:18 for Herbert to lead another game winning drive. He just needed one big pass play to get there, connecting with wide receiver Jalen Guyton on a deep pass for 53 yards and a first down at the Raiders from the two-yard line


Two plays later, Herbert scored on a one-yard touchdown dive into the end zone, giving the Chargers a 30-27 victory over the Raiders. In the battle of the two Oregon Duck quarterbacks, Herbert completed 22 of 32 passes for 314 yards, with no interceptions. He also had 14 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown.

The game winning drive was his second in five days, as Herbert was coming off a game winning drive four days earlier against the Atlanta Falcons. After the game, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said of Herbert, "A lot of growth. He's doing it with young receivers on the field, spreading the ball, just doing everything that he has to do to keep plays alive and extend plays."

Mariota played well off the bench. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. He rushed for 88 yards on nine carries and the one rushing touchdown. He had an interception in the fourth quarter but made a terrific tackle to save a touchdown. The Raiders defense held the Chargers to a 47-yard field goal attempt, which was missed by Badgley. A few minutes later, Badgley missed a 51-yard field goal attempt as well.

Herbert described the experience of playing against Mariota, someone he grew up admiring as a, "Pretty crazy experience. I grew up watching Marcus. He was my favorite player. I could look at all of the things he was able to do at Oregon, how athletic and how mobile he was and how accurate he was. It was everything I ever wanted to do. It's just been an awesome experience to be out here and to play against him, one of my heroes."


The victory gave the Chargers their first two game winning streak since November 3rd of the 2019 season. The Raiders fell to 7-7 and with the loss, their playoff hopes are essentially over. The Raiders need to win their final two games against the Miami Dolphins at home and the Denver Broncos on the road and have both the Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens lose both of their final games, an unlikely scenario.

The Chargers also ended a nine-game division losing streak in the AFC West. If the Chargers can finish strong and win their final two games, head coach Anthony Lynn may be able to save his job. Lynn has one more year left on his contract and the argument for keeping him is Herbert. The development of Herbert has been impressive. The hiring of Pep Hamilton as the quarterback coach was a good move.

The argument for not keeping Lynn are the issues with the special teams, the game management and time management issues that have occurred too frequently this season. But another issue may be the running game. Lynn had a reputation as a running game guru, and he helped build a potent running attack in Buffalo.

The Chargers have never ranked higher than 15th in rushing yardage per game under Lynn and as low as 28th last season. The offensive line has suffered through injuries and mediocre play. Lynn is respected by management, has usually had his team prepared and ready to go and has been a part of Herbert's development. Whoever the head coach is next season, they have got to get the running game going.

The Chargers take on the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, December 27th, with the game starting at 1:05 pm local time. The Broncos, like the Chargers, are 5-9 and just trying to finish the season on a winning note. The Broncos are ranked 28th in offensive yardage per game and 21st in defensive yardage allowed per game. They have struggled on both sides of the ball.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is in his second season and he may not make it to a third season. Fangio is 12-18 as the head coach and General Manager John Elway is not considered a patient man. The Chargers will welcome back the return of running back Melvin Gordon, who spent his first five seasons with the Chargers, leaving in the offseason as a free agent for Denver.

The NFL announced on Monday that wide receiver Keenan Allen and defensive end Joey Bosa had both been selected to the AFC Pro Bowl. Allen has 100 pass receptions and eight touchdown catches. Bosa has 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for losses in 12 games. This is Allen's fourth selection to the Pro Bowl in his eight-year career and Bosa's third selection in five seasons as a Charger.

Chargers kicker Michael Badgley makes a field goal against the Las Vegas Raiders.

 

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