The AFC West is undefeated after week 1
Chargers Host Cowboys on Sunday
September 16, 2021
The Los Angeles Chargers knew going into the 2021 season that the AFC West was a strong division and very competitive. They would need to get off to a fast start. For the third consecutive season, the Chargers have opened the season with a victory, defeating the Washington Football Team, 20-16 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the AFC West also had a strong Week 1 showing with all the teams winning their openers, so the Chargers are tied for first place with the other three teams in their division.
A three-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert to wide receiver Mike Williams gave the Chargers the lead for good. Herbert completed 31 of 47 passes for 337 yards with one touchdown and one interception. But what was most impressive was the way the Chargers took control of the fourth quarter in this game. Head Coach Brandon Staley noted this in his post-game press conference.
"I just felt like we were a fourth quarter team," Staley said. "Our big goal during training camp was to become a team of teams, where it's not a collection of pieces. You know, so often people talk about what type of pieces you have, and you have all this talent, and you have all these players, when are they going to talk about you as a team? And so that was a big mission statement during camp, it was to become a team. And that's the way we won this game today, as a team, we won this game in all three phases of the game."
Staley added that he was, “So proud of how our offense responded. We just really hung tough in that fourth quarter and played as a team to finish the game off.” The offensive game plan was excellent, as the ball came out quickly on pass plays, which neutralized the potent Washington pass rush.
In what was eerily similar to the 1980 AFC Championship between the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders, the Chargers led 20-16 with 6:43 remaining in the game. Led by Herbert, the Chargers went on a 15-play drive that took the final 6:43 off the clock to secure the victory, a drive that produced four first downs.
In the 1980 AFC Championship game between the Chargers and Raiders, the Raiders led 34-27 with 6:43 left in the game. In that game, the Raiders ran 15 offensive plays and produced four first downs to control the final 6:43 of the game for the victory and the AFC Championship. While Charger fans will not fondly remember that game, it is indicative of what it takes to be a champion in the NFL. The fact that the Chargers beat the Washington Football Team in a similar fashion is an indication that they have a good football team.
The Chargers were an amazing 14 for 19 on third down conversions, including 4 for 4 on the 15-play drive that took the final 6:43 off the clock to clinch the win. Third down is considered the “money down” in the NFL and Herbert definitely earned his money on Sunday. The third down conversions helped give the Chargers gain a big advantage in total yards, 424 to 259, and in total offensive plays, 78-49. The Chargers had a twelve-minute edge in time of possession.
Herbert sounded like a veteran quarterback after the game. "For us to go on the road and for us to answer some questions on the road, I think that's big for us," he said. "Because our record wasn't great on the road last year and it's a huge step up first game of the year to be able to go on the road and come away with a win because they're never easy in the NFL."
This was far from a perfect game for the Chargers. The Chargers made seven trips into the red zone on Sunday and came away with two touchdowns and two field goals. A controversial Herbert fumble, which appeared to be an incomplete pass, and a Herbert interception, both in the red zone, made this game a lot closer than it should have been. There were also some dropped passes in the game by the Charger wideouts.
The defense held the Washington Football Team to 16 points, but at times struggled to stop the run. The Redskins rushed for 126 yards on 27 carries, a 4.7 yard per carry average. There were some costly penalties as well on defense as well, including a roughing the passer call on Joey Bosa and a pass interference call on cornerback Asante Samuel.
The pass rush only produced one sack, although there was some good pressure put on the Washington quarterbacks. The Washington Football Team lost their starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to a hip injury. He has been put on injured reserve. Taylor Heineke replaced Fitzpatrick and completed 11 of 15 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen led the Chargers in receiving with nine catches for 100 yards, Williams added eight receptions for 82 yards, and tight end Jared Cook had five receptions for 56 yards. Strangely enough, running back Austin Ekeler was not targeted in the game, although he did rush for 57 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown. Rookie running back Larry Roundtree added 27 yards on 8 carries in his first NFL game.
The Chargers will attempt to get to 2-0 for the first time since the 2012 season when they host the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday. The game is scheduled to start at 1:25 PM and will be televised locally on CBS television. The Cowboys lost their opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-29, in a game played on Thursday Night in Tampa. Florida.
The Cowboys are led by quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs. The defense came up with four turnovers in the loss to the Bucs. This will be a challenging game for the Chargers, particularly on defense. As Week 1 showed, the AFC West will be competitive and winning will be important each week, to keep up with the rest of the division.