INGLEWOOD, CA – There are no gimme wins in the National Football League, even if it’s against the winless New York Jets. Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn knows all about this. His team has been in within one score of each game they have lost this season.
So, that 3-7 record that is attached to the Chargers 2020 NFL season resume at the moment could very easily read 7-3. Two of those seven defeats (Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders) came on the last play of the game. Two other losses (Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints) came by way of overtime. Lynn and the Chargers are used to not giving up.
So when the Chargers staked the Jets a 24-6 halftime lead of an eventual 34-28 win at SoFi Stadium, this wasn’t an advantage for his team to close the shop on, Lynn said.
“They made plays, that team wasn’t going to roll over and quit and go home,” said Lynn. “This is the National Football League — that team’s coming off a BYE week, they got all three of their healthy receivers back, they’re fast and they got behind us and they made plays. We had a lot of 50/50 balls and they won most of those 50/50 balls and we have to be better in those situations. We need someone to step up and make a play when we have to and at the end of the day we did. I understand what you’re saying, it did not have to be that close in my opinion.”
Record-wise, the Jets are the worst team in the NFL, recording not a single win thus far in the 2020 season. Ten games in, the Jets are 0-10. With the exception of a blocked punt on the Chargers opening possession which led directly to a Jets touchdown, New York played like a team living in the AFC East basement.
It’s tough. Those guys battled,” Jets coach Adam Gase said after the game. “We struggled in the first half. We had some good momentum going. We get a turnover, we throw a pick six. Then, we couldn’t do anything on offense. We struggled to get those guys off the field. Second half, we at least…we kept fighting. We got in the endzone, made it a close game. Had the ball. Defense did a good job getting those guys off the field for us to have a drive at the end. We just couldn’t make enough plays to tie it up.”
While the Jets struggled, the Chargers were playing like they wanted to put this game to bed early. Quarterback Justin Herbert looked like he was headed for a 400-yard passing day, slinging the ball around the field for 277 of his total 366 passing yards on the afternoon. Wide receiver Keenan Allen thought he would one-up his quarterback by catching 10 of his franchise-record 16 catches in the opening two periods.
“We got it going,” Allen said. “Coach kept calling the number and Herbie (Herbert) kept throwing the ball. I still dropped two passes. I’m a little disappointed.”
By the time intermission came around, Allen already had 108 yards in receiving. Allen finished the game targeted 19 times by Herbert with 16 catches, which is a one-game mark for the Chargers. Another important milestone for Allen was finally making it in the 600-catch club. Allen’s first 10 catches in the first half left him just shy of the hollowed 600 reception mark.
He was able to hit that number in the third quarter. Allen, whose caught passes totaled 145 yards in receiving and a touchdown, ended the game with 605 total catches (and counting) in his career. Allen talked about what’s it’s like as a receiver getting in that zone.
“I think it just allows you to get into a rhythm, get into your bag as we would say,” Allen said. “You just feel more comfortable and more comfortable every time,” Allen said. At that point, it’s like I don’t think they’re going to stop me all day.”
Allen was the co-star in this movie. Herbert, of course, continues to perform like the Chargers leading man as he has done all season long. His passing totals in the first half was the most by a rookie since 1980. And that’s not to mention that for the fifth time this season, Herbert has thrown for at least three touchdown passes in a game, an NFL record.
He connected with Allen in the third quarter for a 13-yard touchdown to counter a Jets score as New York began making a second-half push for a comeback.
“He’s as good as it gets,” Herbert said of Allen. “Any time you have targets like him, Mike Williams, Hunter [Henry] and Jalen Guyton out on the field, you know you have a good advantage to go to them. A lot of our plays are designed to get those guys open, whether it’s stop routes or just finding holes in the defense, those guys do a great job at it. To see all the success over the past couple of years has been awesome.”
Allen isn’t the only Charger who has been playing spectacularly. With his 366 passing yards, Herbert is just the fifth NFL rookie to go over 300 yards throwing the ball five times in a season. And he has a streak of seven games going in which he has thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game. After dropping their previous three games, the Chargers couldn’t afford to lose this game. Los Angeles needed Herbert to be at his best.
“It’s exactly what we expected,” Lynn said. “You have a bad week, you learn from it and I thought today he handled everything really well. He’s getting better every single week — so no problem with the way he played today.”
Despite all of the superlatives heading in the direction of Allen and Herbert for playing well, it still took a last stand by the Chargers defense in the waning minutes of the game to finally put the Jets’ comeback efforts on the shelves. The Chargers came eerily close to seeing their 18-point first-half lead evaporate into a potential overtime outcome if the Jets had somehow managed to score another touchdown.
“You know, I would have liked to get a stop the second half, but we didn’t get that done,” Lynn said. “It could have been better but we did what we had to do to get the damn win and that was our goal, to be 1-0 by the end of this week and now we’re on to Buffalo.”
If you weren’t watching, former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco had somehow willed his ballclub within striking distance of the Chargers. After looking lethargic through the first two quarters, Flacco and the Jets rallied for 22 points over the third and fourth quarters. New York was looking for more on its final drive in regulation. With the ball spotted deep in Chargers’ territory, the Jets’ offense fizzled thanks to superb defense played by Los Angeles to deny Flacco a heroic flourish.
“We have to go back to work, go back to practice, fix the mistakes,” Gase said. “Guys have done a great job with the energy level at practice. I haven’t seen any letdown or anything like that. I think this is a tight group. These guys try to do everything the right way. Just trying to find a way to win a game.”
Editor’s note: Featured image is of Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) making a catch while New York Jets defenders look on. Allen caught 16 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown in the Chargers’ 34-28 against the Jets at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers