Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen help Chargers overcome key injuries in thrilling win

Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr. celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings.
Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr. celebrates after catching a touchdown pass in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen put on a show, helping the Chargers overcome injuries to Mike Williams and Derwin James Jr. in a 28-24 win over the Vikings.

Keenan Allen’s ‘maestro performance’ paints better picture as Chargers finally win

MINNEAPOLIS — Twin Cities. Twin records. Twin miseries.

The Chargers and Minnesota Vikings — winless cousins, if you will — were careening toward irrelevance, looking to pump the brakes on a season already spinning out of control.

“I didn’t really know the statistics of it until we became 0-2 and guys started talking about, `Well, if you go 0-3, I don’t think a team’s made the playoffs since … I don’t know,’” Chargers receiver Keenan Allen said.

As much as he could Sunday, Allen took matters into his own hands.

Although he never reached the end zone, he caught a franchise-record 18 passes for 215 yards, and threw a 49-yard touchdown pass, to help the Chargers to a 28-24 victory that averted a forehead-slapping failure.

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Chargers hold on in a nailbiter, defeating Vikings for their first win

Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. intercepts a pass in the end zone.
Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. intercepts a pass in the end zone in the final seconds of a 28-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

🏈 Chargers 28, Vikings 24 — FINAL

Justin Herbert passed for more than 400 yards and Keenan Allen had more than 200 receiving yards as the Chargers overcame key injuries to Mike Williams and Derwin James Jr. to hold on for their first win of the season.

Kenneth Murray Jr. intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone with six seconds left to preserve the Chargers’ win. Linebacker Nick Niemann was defending on the play and the ball passed through safety JT Woods hands before Murray made a diving grab.

The Chargers failed to convert on fourth-and-one gamble from their own 24-yard line with 1:47 left when Joshua Kelley was stuffed at the line.

An illegal use of hands penalty on Chargers cornerback Michael Davis gave the Vikings a new set of downs at the Chargers’ 20. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an incomplete pass on first down before completing a pair of short passes to T.J. Hockenson.

On fourth-and-five, Cousins found Hockenson on a nine-yard pass to the Chargers’ six-yard line, with Murray’s game-clinching interception coming on the next play.

Herbert completed 40 of 47 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. Allen made 18 catches for 215 yards. He also threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.

Williams (knee) and safety Derwin James Jr. (hamstring) left the game early because of injuries.


Joshua Palmer catches TD pass off deflection to put Chargers ahead

🏈 Chargers 28, Vikings 24 — 8:05 left in fourth

The Chargers caught a break to retake the lead.

Justin Herbert threw short in the direction of Joshua Palmer near the goal line with Minnesota cornerback Akayleb Evans.

In position to make an interception, Evans instead had the ball bounce off his hands and into Palmer’s waiting grasp. The Chargers wideout then tumbled into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown. It was Herbert’s 100th career touchdown pass.

Herbert is 38 of 45 for 382 yards and three scores. Keenan Allen has 16 receptions for 192 yards.


Vikings take lead on Justin Jefferson’s 52-yard TD catch

🏈 Vikings 24, Chargers 21 — 11:20 left in the fourth quarter

The Chargers gave up another big pass to fall behind again when Justin Jefferson torched them on a 52-yard touchdown reception.

Jefferson got loose in the Chargers secondary and backup safety JT Woods was unable to make a tackle in the open field, diving at Jefferson’s feet.

Woods is in the game because of a hamstring injury sustained in the third quarter by Derwin James Jr.


Mike Williams and Derwin James each exit with injuries

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) is helped off the field.
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams is helped off the field after sustaining a left knee injury in the third quarter.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

🏈 Chargers 21, Vikings 17 — 1:45 left in the third quarter

The Chargers lost wide receiver Mike Williams to a left knee injury late in the third quarter.

He was hurt after a completion that went for 11 yards. Williams went down in a twisting manner and immediately grabbed his left knee. He is listed as questionable to return.

He was helped off the field by medical personnel and went into the injury tent on the Chargers’ sideline. Covering his head with a towel, Williams was then carted to the locker room for further evaluation.

Williams had seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown when he left.

Williams isn’t the only notable Chargers injury — safety Derwin James is questionable to return because of a hamstring injury.


Vikings strike back on K.J. Osborn touchdown catch

🏈 Chargers 21, Vikings 17 — 3:01 left in the third quarter

The Chargers were burned on fourth down when Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 36-yard touchdown to make it a four-point game.

The Vikings were facing fourth-and-six on the play. The Chargers were unable to generate pressure on Cousins as Osborn ran away from cornerback Michael Davis.

A holding penalty on Davis also gave Minnesota a first down earlier in the series.


Keenan Allen throws a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) celebrates with teammates Joshua Palmer (5) and Isaiah Spiller.
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) celebrates with teammates Joshua Palmer (5) and Isaiah Spiller (28) after catching a 49-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Allen (not pictured) in the third quarter against the Vikings.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

🏈 Chargers 21, Vikings 10 — 5:53 left in third quarter

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore went to a trick play and Keenan Allen and Mike Williams executed to extend the Chargers’ lead in the third quarter.

Allen took a backward pass from Justin Herbert toward the sideline then turned and threw to a wide-open Williams, who ran the rest of the way for a 49-yard touchdown.

Allen has 12 catches for 135 yards and just became the third NFL player to top 10 catches and 100 receiving yards and throw a touchdown pass in the same game.


Chargers retake lead on Donald Parham Jr.’s second TD today

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert claps on the sideline during the first half against the Vikings.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

🏈 Chargers 14, Vikings 10 — HALFTIME

The Chargers regained the lead on a one-yard pass from Justin Herbert to Donald Parham Jr. with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.

The play came on fourth-and-goal and was made possible by a fastball from Herbert, who zipped the ball just beyond the reach of Minnesota linebacker Jordan Hicks.

The Chargers moved 75 yards in 10 plays and faced only a single third down, which they failed to convert immediately before Parham’s second score of the day.

Herbert is 26 of 30 for 187 yards.


Vikings take lead on field goal after Chargers’ first turnover of season

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is upended by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is upended by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans after making a catch in the first half.
(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

🏈 Vikings 10, Chargers 7 — 2:08 left in the second quarter

Minnesota moved ahead 23-yard field goal by Greg Joseph with just over two minutes remaining until halftime.

The Chargers tightened up after the Vikings reached their three-yard line. Nick Williams and Alohi Gilman combined to stop Alexander Mattison for a two-yard loss, Asante Samuel Jr. broken up a pass in the end zone and Joey Bosa pressured and tipped a Kirk Cousins pass on third down.

The Chargers committed two key penalties on the series. Michael Davis was called for pass interference and Derwin James Jr. was called for unnecessary roughness for the second consecutive week because of a violent hit.

Minnesota took over at the Chargers’ 45-yard line after wide receiver Joshua Palmer fumbled following a hit by linebacker Jordan Hicks. The turnover was the first of the season for the Chargers.


Vikings find the end zone to tie game in the second quarter

🏈 Chargers 7, Vikings 7 — 7:27 left in the second quarter

After throwing only four passes on their first three possessions, the Minnesota Vikings opened things up with predictable success against the Chargers.

Kirk Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson on consecutive passes totaling 55 yards as the Vikings pulled even on their third series.

Cousins hit tight end Josh Oliver from four yards out for the touchdown with 7:27 remaining before halftime. The play was viewed and upheld by officials.


Chargers capitalize on Alohi Gilman tearing the ball away from Vikings

🏈 Chargers 7, Vikings 0 — 2:51 left in first quarter

Justin Herbert hit Donald Parham Jr. for a three-yard touchdown to give the Chargers an early lead against Minnesota.

The completion capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive as the Chargers converted two third downs, both on Herbert passes to Keenan Allen.

The big play was a 25-yard Herbert-to-Allen connection.

The Chargers took over a their own 21-yard line after safety Alohi Gilman stole the ball from Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson following a completion on Minnesota’s opening drive.


Should NFL teams let QBs call plays again? Here’s why that would be a major problem

Photo illustration featuring Archie Manning, Fran Tarkenton, Justin Herbert and Justin Fields
(Los Angeles Times photo illustration; photographs from Associated Press)

Chicago quarterback Justin Fields complains quietly: too much information in his ear.

The crowd in Pittsburgh complains loudly: get rid of Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, a lot of confounded teams are groping for ways to move the football.

Cincinnati, two years removed from the Super Bowl, has scored just 20 points in two games. The longest reception by the lethal Ja’Marr Chase? Thirteen yards.

“Take a chance,” the exasperated receiver told reporters when asked about the down-the-field passing drought.

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J.C. Jackson a surprise scratch for Chargers vs. Vikings

Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson intercepts a pass against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson was among the team’s inactives Sunday in Minnesota.

Jackson, who signed a five-year contract guaranteeing him $40 million and worth up to $82.5 million in March 2022, started the first two games of the season.

He has been working his way back from a knee injury that ended his 2022 season in late October. Jackson played 66% of the defensive snaps in Week 1 and 63% in Week 2.

In the week leading up to this game, coach Brandon Staley had talked about rotating Jackson and fellow cornerbacks Asante Samuel Jr. and Michael Davis for the foreseeable future as the team searched for its best combination in the secondary.

The Chargers entered Sunday as the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense against the pass.

Also inactive: running back Austin Ekeler (ankle), linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring), defensive lineman Christopher Hinton and offensive linemen Zack Bailey and Brenden Jaimes.


Will it be strike three for winless Chargers or Vikings?

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert stands on the sideline.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert stands on the sideline before a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In a league famous for being difficult to predict, the Chargers sitting at 0-2 might be as unexpected as anything the NFL has to offer today.

There are folks genuinely stunned that this team has lost its first two games. Believe it, because some of those folks are Chargers.

“I am,” wide receiver Mike Williams said when asked if he’s surprised. “I think a lot of people are. It’s probably like, ‘Dang, this is the most surprising team of all.’ But it’s early. It’s early. That’s a good thing, right?”

That is a good thing, the Chargers still with 15 games to go, starting Sunday at Minnesota, where the Vikings are equally winless.

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Chargers will be without Austin Ekeler, Eric Kendricks again Sunday at Minnesota

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler puts on his helmet.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler walks on the sideline before the team’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers will be without running back Austin Ekeler on Sunday when they play at Minnesota because of an ankle injury.

Ekeler was hurt in a season-opening loss to Miami and missed the Chargers’ Week 2 defeat at Tennessee.

In his absence, Joshua Kelley will take over the No. 1 running back spot with Elijah Dotson and Isaiah Spiller behind him. The Vikings gave up 259 rushing yards to Philadelphia in their most recent game.

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Minnesota passing game a big worry for L.A.’s vulnerable defense

Breaking down how the Chargers (0-2) and the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PDT on Sunday at Minneapolis. The game will be shown on Fox and streamed on NFL+.

When Chargers have the ball

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert warms up before a road game against the Tennessee Titans.
Despite Justin Herbert’s passing, the Chargers have been unable to produce a victory in the first two weeks of the NFL season.
(John Amis / Associated Press)

Only five teams entered Week 3 with more points scored than the Chargers. Yet, the final-series struggles of quarterback Justin Herbert and the offense have emerged as an early story line. In the last two minutes of a 36-34 loss to Miami, needing only a field goal to win, the Chargers ran five plays and went backward one yard.

Then, in a 27-24 loss at Tennessee, the Chargers’ lone overtime possession featured three straight Herbert incompletions. That’s eight plays total and a negative one yard of offense in two game-winning situations.

After Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers have done little to involve others in the passing game. No one else has more than five catches or six targets. Joshua Palmer has four receptions for 17 yards and rookie first-round pick Quentin Johnston three for 16.

Other than Allen and Williams, Herbert has completed passes for gains of at least 20 yards to only three players — Austin Ekeler, Gerald Everett and Stone Smartt, each of whom has one such catch.

Minnesota is coming off a game in which its defense gave up 259 rushing yards to Philadelphia, while Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts went 18 of 23 for 193 yards.

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