Chargers postseason hopes ride on the playmakers

INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers will go as far as Justin Herbert will go. That means their postseason hopes simply ride on the strong right arm of the second-year quarterback.

The Chargers’ 34-13 win against division rival Denver Broncos with one game remaining in the regular season improves those chances. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talked admiringly about Hebert’s week-by-week development after his team’s ninth win of the season.

“Advancing, improving and competing in all ways,” Staley said. “I feel like he has really developed as a passer. There were a couple of things that happened today where he was able to find the back on a couple of bursts — we were progressing to number five in the progression — it’s just real quarterbacking against one of the top defenses in the league.”

Staley continued, “The red zone touchdown before the half, he managed that sequence beautifully, both with his arm and his legs. His touchdown at the end of the half was, again, a full progression, hitting five in the progression. It’s just real quarterbacking stuff. I think that the guy is improving in all aspects as a player.”

That means one more game for Herbert to improve on to his already franchise-leading mark of touchdown passes in a season. Yes, in just his second season in the NFL, Herbert surpassed Philip Rivers, Dan Fouts, Stan Humphries, and other great quarterbacks that have come through the organization.   

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) in action against the Denver Broncos. The Chargers defeated Denver, 34-13. Photo: Los Angeles Chargers

After the game, Herbert talked about what it means to be part of the elite Chargers QB fraternity.

“I think it’s special because I was a Chargers fan growing up,” remarked Herbert. “I knew about all of those guys. I watched them all. They’re football legends. To be able to be even in the same conversation with them is a huge honor. We’re not done yet. We still have a big game coming up on Sunday. We’re going to need to have a good week of practice heading into it.”

For the season, Herbert has thrown 35 touchdowns on the year, bypassing Rivers’ one-time mark for the franchise with 34. His two touchdowns Sunday against the Broncos helped him leapfrog over Rivers for the record books. Herbert connected with Keenan Allen for his 34th passing touchdown on an 8-yard scoring toss in the second quarter.

His 45-yard pass to Mike Williams in the fourth quarter pushed him past Rivers.

“I thought it was just a big play for us, especially at that time during the game,” Herbert said.”The corner kind of sat on him, Mike released inside on him, got to his landmark, got enough width on it, and made a great catch. For us to be able to go down there and score as quickly as we did, I thought it was huge for our team.”

With all the hoopla and hysteria surrounding Herbert’s big day, the 2021 regular season comes down to the Chargers beating the Las Vegas Raiders on the road to have the opportunity of making it in the playoffs.

That might be easier said than done. Both the Charges and the Raiders will square off in their respective NFL finale at Allegiant Stadium. Both teams have posted identical 9-7 records on the season.

In their first meeting of the season back in October, the Chargers put the stuffing out of Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr and carved out a 28-14 win at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers put Carr on the turf four times with sacks and got in his face plenty of other times. 

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) hauls in this 45-yard pass for a touchdown from quarterback Justin Herbert. Photo: Los Angeles Chargers

The question is what are they going to do this time around?

“Each week has a life of its own in the NFL; it’s had a life of its own since the beginning,” said Staley. “That’s the way we need to treat things around here. The longer that we’re here, the more people will realize that every week is going to feel like this coming week. When you have that type of intensity, that type of focus to treat each week like it has a life of its own, and you pour your full energy into that week, then you can be proud of what goes down.”

Coming off a disappointing and surprising road loss to the Houston Texans, the Chargers put an end to their two-game losing streak by dominating the Broncos.

Considering that Denver beat the Chargers in November in Mile High, Los Angeles had to have this game in the worst way. By dropping their previous two games, the Chargers were in desperation mode. Lose and all of those playoff aspirations would mean squat. Win and the Chargers have a chance to make the postseason by winning out their last two games.

When the Chargers dropped an overtime game to AFC West leader Kansas City, that effectively ended any chance Los Angeles had of winning the division. And with only one game remaining on their schedule-against the Raiders-the Chargers still might need a little bit of help to get into the playoffs.

But for now, they have a chance. So on Friday, Staley was asked what it would mean to him to be able to lead the Chargers to a playoff berth in his first year leading the team. Staley would not take the bait, holding firm that the team’s sole focus was trying to take care of business against Denver.

“I respect the question, and I understand it fully — we have to play the Denver Broncos on Sunday,” Staley said. “That’s where our full focus is. It’s not on that other stuff. We have to treat this week with the respect that it deserves. Our focus is on Denver and their team, their players and their coaching staff. That’s where we need to be, and that’s where we are with that.”

Now that the Chargers have beaten the Broncos, what’s his take now? As of now, the Chargers are in the slot for a playoff spot, but they have not clinched it. That’s not going to happen unless Los Angeles is able to take down the Raiders for a second time this season.

“Gotta win,” Allen said.