Chargers prepare for the Raiders after upset win over the Chiefs
September 30, 2021
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has been called a "Gangster Quarterback" by his head coach, Brandon Staley. Herbert is not your typical gangster. He graduated from Oregon with a bachelor's degree in biology. He co-founded a fishing club in high school. But on the football field, he is tough and fearless. He does not get rattled.
On Sunday in Kansas City, Herbert threw for four touchdowns, completing 28 of 38 passes for 281 yards and no interceptions in leading the Chargers to a 30-24 upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are the defending AFC Champions and have won five consecutive AFC West division titles. The Chiefs came in as seven-point favorites at home against the Chargers.
The Chargers were successful on two key fourth down-conversions in the fourth quarter, both of which led to touchdowns. Herbert connected for nine yards to wide receiver Keenan Allen on a fourth-and four play that began the fourth quarter and converted a fourth-and-nine attempt from the Chiefs 35-yard line with just 48 seconds remaining when Chiefs' cornerback Deandre Baker was called for pass interference against wide receiver Jaylon Guyton.
The Chargers decisively won the turnover battle, 4-0. The Chargers for the game scored four touchdowns and three of them came after turnovers. The Chiefs lost two fumbles and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes added two interceptions, including a late fourth quarter interception by safety Alohi Gilman at the Chargers 41-yard line, setting up the 59-yard game winning drive.
Herbert is ranked No. 4 in the NFL in passing yardage with 956 yards. He is supported by one of the best receiving units in football. Wide receiver Mike Williams caught seven passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the game, including the game winning four-yard touchdown pass from Herbert with 32 seconds remaining in the game.
Wide Receiver Keenan Allen had eight receptions for fifty yards and one touchdown, while running back Austin Ekeler caught six passes for 52 yards and one touchdown, also adding 55 yards rushing on 11 carries. The turnovers were the difference in the game, as the first three turnovers in the first half came on offensive drives in Chargers territory and the last turnover led to the game winning score.
Chargers safety Derwin James was ecstatic after the game: "It's a big victory because I feel like we played team football today. The defense came out in the first half and got some turnovers, takeaways for our offense. And our offense, they came out in the second half, and they had our back. We gave up a few touchdowns, but the offense carried us in the second half. Special teams were great too."
Staley was very pleased with the performance of Herbert and Williams, "I thought that those two guys really stood out to me. Justin had four touchdowns, no interceptions. There was a fierce rush out there. I felt like he really played the position how you need to. I felt like he was patient when he needed to be. We had a couple play action shots that didn't quite express themselves. I felt like he was awesome in the check down game getting the ball underneath. They played a lot more two deep zone coverage with some of their corner situation.
Staley added that, "He (Herbert) just played the position at a high level. He showed high level toughness and then certainly in the two-minute drill, the big throw to Keenan Allen and then finishing off with Mike (Williams). You can't say enough about Mike Williams. I felt like this guy all year through three games, this guy played fantastic, and he came through for us today."
Herbert is just 23 years old and has only started 18 NFL games but he looks like a veteran. "I think it was huge for our offense and especially for the defense to get four like that, you have to play smart ball against these guys," said Herbert. "The Chiefs are about as good as it gets. You can't turn the ball over; you can't have all of these penalties against the Chiefs and expect to win. That's kind of the game plan that we had set for ourselves. Thankfully, we played it out pretty well."
When asked what the victory meant for the team, Herbert stated that, "It means everything to us. We've worked so hard, ever since this offseason and all of the time that we've spent together, to be put into this position for these exact moments. For us to go back out there on fourth-and-nine and win the game, that's awesome for us."
The victory over the Chiefs improved the Chargers to 2-1. They are in third place in the AFC West behind the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, who are both 3-0 for the season. The Chiefs fall to 1-2 with the loss and are in last place in the AFC West.
It does not get any easier this week when the Raiders come to Inglewood on Monday Night (October 4th) to take on the Chargers. The game will be televised on ESPN and starts at 5:15 pm. The Raiders have the No. 1 offensive unit and the No. 1 passing attack in the NFL. Raider quarterback Derek Carr has thrown for 1,203 yards in three games and is on a pace to throw for over 6,800 yards for the season, which would be an all-time record.
The 3-0 start by the Raiders is the best for them since 2002, when they went to the Super Bowl. The Broncos are also 3-0 but have been fortunate to have played an easy schedule to this point. The Broncos three opponents this season (New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets) have a combined record of 0-9.
The Chargers' run defense is currently ranked last in the NFL at 170 yards per game and they are also last in average rush per carry at 5.8 yards per carry. The Raiders' passing attack has been so explosive that they really have not had a need to run the ball this season, but they may want to run the ball against the Chargers, to keep Herbert off the field as much as possible.
The Raiders defense will look familiar to Charger fans. The defensive coordinator for the Raiders is Gus Bradley, who coached in the same position for the Chargers from 2017 through 2020. Linebacker coach Richard Smith, defensive back coach Ron Milus, assistant defensive back coach Addison Lynch, and defensive quality control coach Ryan Milus were all on the Chargers staff with Bradley as well.
The Raiders also signed four Charger free agents to their roster in the off-season. Casey Hayward Jr. is starting at right cornerback for the Raiders after spending the past six seasons with the Chargers. Starting middle Linebacker Denzel Perryman spent the past seven seasons with the Chargers. Nose tackle Darius Philon was with the Chargers for four seasons. Defensive tackle Damion Square was with the Chargers from 2014 through 2020. It will be interesting to see if their experience in practice against the Chargers offensive players helps slow down Herbert and the high-flying Chargers passing attack.