INGLEWOOD, CA – Six weeks is a long time to go without a win. That’s the reality the Chargers had been staring at before they played their Week 7 home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at SoFi Stadium. Both teams came into the contest with just a single mark in the win column. Coming off a bye week, the Chargers had lost four straight games.
Jacksonville sported a 1-5 record. So something had to give in this situation. What gave was the third quarter. For a change, the third quarter turned out to be positive for Anthony Lynn’s team. The Chargers entered their game against Jacksonville being outplayed, outmanned and outscored in the third quarter this season.
But even in the middle of this funk, the team stuck it out together, said Chargers starting quarterback Justin Herbert.
“We really believe in each other,” Herbert said. “That locker room, it’s tight, and those guys in there take care of each other. Like I said earlier, we’re not going to point fingers, we’re not going to blame each other, we’re going to stick together. It got a little dicey out there when they blocked the punt, and we got down, but we never got down on ourselves. We knew that we were going to go back out there the next drive, the next play, take care of business and good things will happen.”
In their first five games of the season, the Chargers were outscored 26-13 in the third quarter before they played Jacksonville. As a result, four close defeats to Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and New Orleans followed. The Chargers flipped that script against Jacksonville, scoring 20 points in the third quarter to stake themselves to a 39-29 win.
It was the Chargers’ first win since they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 on Sept. 13.
“Our goal was to be 1-0 this week, we got that accomplished,” Lynn said in his opening remarks after the game. “It wasn’t pretty but we didn’t think it was going to be easy either. We needed this win in a bad way, they needed a win in a bad way and we found a way to get it done. So, I was proud of the guys for that but man, we have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a lot of character, a lot of hard work to get it done. I feel good about this team and feel like we can get that done.”
After beating the Bengals in Week 1, the Chargers didn’t expect they’d had to wait so long to taste victory again. Herbert didn’t quite know what winning was as a starting quarterback in the NFL felt like: until now. The tendency to come out slow of the gate in the period right after halftime has been a thorn in the Chargers’ side all season.
To help change the narrative this time around, Herbert tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Virgil Green and hooked up with Jalen Guyton on a 70-yard scoring play. Herbert added a short touchdown run at the end of the period to put an exclamation point on the Chargers’ high scoring quarter.
“Go out there and execute,” Herbert said. “It is a great opportunity for us to go out there and run what we’ve been running. [We] know what we have to do, push the ball downfield and run the ball. We kind of started out with a slow start in the third quarter, but things picked up and we kept executing. [We] kept chopping wood and finally got in the end zone like that.”
The wood that Herbert keeps chopping down is the way how a rookie quarterback is supposed to play. Week in and week out, the one constant about Herbert is that he has been consistent in just about everything he does on the football field. The fear factor of having to go toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees has not been evident in Herbert’s play.
And as each week go by, Herbert seems to be adding to his legacy with one impressive performance after another. His four touchdown outing against the Jaguars is just another chapter in his seasonal book of achievements. And it has only been five games thus far. In those five games, Herbert has tossed the ball around for 1,542 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The bigger and most important point is that Herbert now has his first NFL win.
“He [QB Justin Herbert] got his first victory today and I am so happy for him that he got his first win, but we needed that win as a team,” Lynn stated. “I am happy for the team right now. He was a major contributor today in us getting that done. He stood in there when he knew he was going to be hit and he delivered the ball in some critical situations. He took off, he created with his feet when things wasn’t happening in the air and he extended drives that way. He showed that he has that versatility to hurt you with his legs and with his arm.”
He went for 347 yards and three TDs through the air against Jacksonville. In case he didn’t have time to set up and pass the ball downfield, Herbert made things happen with his legs as well, rushing for a team-leading 66 yards on nine carries. That’s an average of over seven yards per rush attempt, something that Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone took exception with.
“I think missed tackles are the first thing you look at,” Marrone said. “I think we missed some tackles today, obviously. That was out there on the field. We had a stunt called and then all of a sudden you can’t get there. He runs up and runs out of the pocket. I give him a lot of credit. We knew, going in, that for a big guy, he’s really fast. He did a good job of keeping plays going. He did a good job of running at critical times and really making some big plays. He’s got some good people. In man-coverage, he went to [WR Keenan] Allen. We saw that during the game. I thought we were going a good job when we had those few three-and-outs. We were switching up the coverages on them, switching up the pressures. We came out with an all-out pressure, he backpedaled and made a great throw. He’s proven that he belongs and I have a lot of respect for the kid.”