“Chargers Statement Game”
When does a loss actually feel like a win?
Circle Sunday on your calendar because the Chargers had the lead, nearly beat the Super Bowl champions, then lost late in overtime.
In the face of fierce adversity, the loss of their starting quarterback right before kickoff, lining up 1st round draft pick Justin Herbert in place of the ailing Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers ambushed the Chiefs defense.
It was a coming out party for the debut of Herbert, the highly regarded Oregon Duck quarterback. It was as good a play-calling game for Shane Steichen, the newly minted offensive coordinator. And it was a salute to well-travelled QB-coach Pep Hamilton, to be able to get the rookie QB ready on short notice.
Indirectly too, a gold star for GM-Tom Telesco, whose draft picks continue to shine. The arrival of tough guy RB-Joshua Kelly. The impact of 2nd year DE-Jerry Tillery, making an plays at his new position. And a besieged offensive line got some more good performances from Forest Lamp and Trey Pipkins.
And for coach Anthony Lynn, it was a significant step forward in his efforts to remold the team in his personality, tough as cement.
It was a stunning story at kickoff, Herbert trotting on the field. it was a tremendous first half of accomplishments, outgaining KC (301-136). It was pretty impressive to knock around Chiefs superstar QB-Patrick Mahomes to the tune of 2-sacks, 9-hits and 11-pressures.
Did Andy Reid and Mahomes figure things out in the second half, of course they did, gassing the Bolts defense, piling up 278-yards after halftime and using two 58-yard field goals to finally win the afternoon war.
But when it was over, the Chargers kid quarterback had engineered an offense that had 18-plays of double digits yardge They wound up outgaining the Chiefs (479-414). They had one drive that went (10:23) in time, went 17-plays and 87-yards.
Of course they lost, because Mahomes himself had a 95-yard drive and his running mates wound up with 20-plays of plus 10-yards or more. KC does that against everybody, but for the first time, they were pushed to overtime to survive what would have been a stunning upset loss.
The packages they put in ideally fit the dynamics of Herbert’s game. The inside-outside run game of Austin Ekler and Kelly look like a perfect match. Guys ran open and found seams to catch passes. And Herbert even ran the ball creating critical yardage plays.
His only sin, a cross body throw across the field that resulted in a bad interception killing a drive and letting KC and Mahomes earn the chance to win the game.
But by virtue of his play, we may never see Tyrod Taylor start another game. For Herbert, the stage was not too big. He played ‘let it rip football’. And he showed an emotional demeanor seldom seen in a 1st year player, playing in his first game ever, against you know who.
Dan Fouts didn’t do that is his debut. Neither did Drew Brees or Philip Rivers.
When does a loss feel like a win? Sunday in Justin Herbert’s debut as a starting QB. Almost won the game. May have saved the season showing his skill-intellect-moxie level.
It’s a jumping off point for a new Chargers era with Herbert at quarterback.