In Week 9, the Chargers lost a close battle to the Las Vegas Raiders. Thursday night, the Chargers returned the favor to their AFC West Division rivals with a 30-27 overtime win against the Raiders. A 1-yard run by quarterback Justin Herbert in overtime kept the Chargers from being swept by the Raiders for the second consecutive season.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t find a way to win that game in the end,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “It’s on me. I will say I apologize for not having the right hat on. Somebody played a pretty good trick on me.”
The Raiders took both games from the Chargers in 2019. Earlier this season, behind Derek Carr, the Raiders managed to pull off a 31-26 victory at SoFi Stadium. Herbert, who is playing this season like he is a certain lock to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, passed for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
“Second win 11 days; I was proud of the way those guys played,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “A lot of guys played banged up on a short week. Our young players stepped up and made some plays to help us win the football game. The Raiders have a good football team. They didn’t make it easy. We had our opportunities to win that game a lot of times, but like I said, guys kept fighting. They found a way to win it in the end, and that’s all that matters.”
After the Raiders’ Daniel Carlson booted a 23-yard field goal to draw first blood in overtime, Las Vegas bumbled and stumbled their way out out of a win. First, a defensive pass interference penalty gift-wrapped 20 yards for the Chargers. Then when Herbert connected with wide receiver Jalen Guyton for 53 yards on a deep pass, the cat was out of the bag for the Raiders.
The Raiders would commit another head-scratching defensive penalty. Herbert would take it from there, finishing off the 75-yard drive by calling his own number and going into the endzone. With the defeat, the Raiders have now lost four of their last five games. Guyton, who finished the game with four catches for 91 yards, said winning this divisional game means a lot to the team.
“To be able to come out here, [to] have the divisional win I think out here in the new stadium that is absolutely breathtaking, it’s all a big deal, man,” Guyton said. “It makes all the work worth it.
For the second week in a row, the Chargers thwarted off a potential last-minute loss and flipped the outcome into the victory column. Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the Chargers defense came up with two interceptions late in the game to help the team to push back against a pending defeat. This time around the offense made the magic work as the Chargers recorded their fifth win (5-9) on the season.
But the Chargers defense provided a much-needed assist with an overtime goal-line stand that kept Las Vegas out of the endzone and forced the Raiders to settle for a field goal. If the Raiders had scored a touchdown, it would have been a wrap for the Chargers.
“As we got to the end of the overtime and they were in the red zone, I just told everybody to give me your best three plays right here right when they were on the five (yard-line),” cornerback Chris Harris Jr said. “Guys did that. Everybody executed at a high-level to make them kick that field goal and give our offense a chance to win the game.”
The real storyline around the game besides Herbert’s continuous outstanding play is the fact he and Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota are perhaps the most visible links of success spawned out of the University of Oregon football program. Mariota starred for the Ducks for three seasons and wound up winning the Heisman Trophy before being drafted by the Tennessee Titans.
After three up and down seasons with the Titans, Mariota agreed to a two-year contract with the Raiders. He is the backup to Carr these days, something not foreseen for a former Heisman Trophy winner. However, Mariota credits the Raiders for steering his confidence in the right direction after his unceremonious exodus from Tennessee.
“To be truthful, it’s been a long journey,” Mariota said in a postgame press conference. “I’ve been through kind of everything, from injuries to surgeries to mental kind of lapses, you know, the confidence thing. I truly appreciate the Raiders and the entire organization for just kind of helping me through that. I was trying to kind of find my way again, and they gave me an opportunity to take some time. They were patient with me. I just appreciate the fact that they were willing to do that. It’s kind of being part of an athlete. You’re going to go through some ups and downs. I think the staff did a great job of keeping me level-headed and kind of fighting through it. When it comes down to it, it’s still ball. I just loved being out there again. It was fun to play. Unfortunately, we just didn’t make enough plays.”
But he played pretty well against the Chargers, completing 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown. Mariota showed off his other dimension as a dual-threat quarterback, rushing for another 88 yards and a score on nine carries.
“When it comes down to it, I think it’s part of your job to be prepared,” said Mariota. “The coaching staff here does a great job making sure that only myself, but Nate is ready to go. When it comes down to it, I was trying to give these guys a chance to win, but unfortunately, we came up a little short.”
As for Herbert, well the superlative can’t keep coming enough. After engineering a game-winning drive against the Falcons that was capped by a Michael Badgley field goal, Herbert put the Chargers over the top again with his spectacular play. That’s just the start of it. Herbert’s two touchdowns put him in the record books.
His two touchdown passes against the Raiders tied him with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in the No. 1 spot all-time among rookie quarterbacks in regards to TD passes in a season with 27.
Herbert also tied Mayfield for the most games (9) with multiple passing touchdowns in a season by a rookie quarterback. And for good measure, Herbert surpassed Andrew Luck’s mark of 300 yards-plus games in a season by a rookie. After his performance against the Raiders, Herbert has seven games in which he has passed for 300 yards or more this season.
The former record was six. And that’s with two more games to play in the regular season. Records are nice. Records are made to be broken. Someday, another hotshot quarterback is going to erase Hebert’s benchmark season. But gaining his first AFC West victory, for now, is a bigger deal to Herbert.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward, to keep getting better,” Herbert said. “That’s a tough team. And we played pretty well. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot a couple of times. So we’re going to have to watch the film, get better with it, and have another week of practice.”
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.