Justin Herbert’s late-game heroics deliver Chargers to victory Titans

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes during the first half of a 17-14 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes during the first half of a 17-14 win over the Tennessee Titans at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Justin Herbert connects on a 35-yard pass to Mike Williams to set up a game-winning field goal by Cameron Dicker in the final seconds of a 17-14 win over the Titans.

Cameron Dicker gets kick out of Chargers’ shockingly fast late drive to beat Titans

He was about to get busy winning a football game, another football game, his third of this season.

But in the moments immediately prior, Cameron Dicker was just busy.

Kicking into a practice net on the Chargers’ sideline, the rookie was so focused on his preparation that he might have been the only person in SoFi Stadium who didn’t see the play everyone was talking about afterward.

With the score tied in the closing seconds, quarterback Justin Herbert led the Chargers on the decisive drive, one that included a rolling-out 35-yard completion to Mike Williams.

“I just heard people yell,” Dicker explained later. “So I looked over and, ‘Oh, we’re way down there.’ It was a cool thing.”

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Cameron Dicker’s 43-yard field goal secures win for Chargers

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes against the Titans in the first half Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

🏈 Chargers 17, Titans 14 — FINAL

Cameron Dicker’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining lifted the Chargers to a 17-14 victory over Tennessee on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

The Titans had pulled even moments earlier when Ryan Tannehill scored on a one-yard sneak with 48 seconds to go.

The Titans, who had done little on offense since early in the second quarter, went 74 yards in 11 plays.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Chargers took over possession at their own 23-yard line.

Out of timeouts, Justin Herbert directed the Chargers into position for Dicker’s second game-winning kick of the season.

The biggest play was a 35-yard completion to Mike Williams.

The Chargers improved to 8-6 and moved back into a playoff spot in the AFC. They travel to play at Indianapolis for a Monday night game Dec. 26.

Herbert completed 28 of 42 attempts for 313 yards, with two interceptions. Keenan Allen caught eight passes for 86 yards and Williams made four catches for 67 yards.

Austin Ekeler finished with 58 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries.

Tannehill was sacked four times and left the game for several minutes in the first half because of injury. He returned and completed 15 of 22 passes for 165 yards, with an interception. Derrick Henry rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown in 21 carries.


Ryan Tannehill scores touchdown to tie game late in fourth quarter

🏈 Titans 14, Chargers 14 — 48 seconds left in fourth quarter

Ryan Tannehill scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to tie the game with less than a minute left in regulation. Both teams are out of timeouts.

  • The Chargers will start with the ball on their 23-yard line with 44 seconds left.
  • Justin Herbert, while on the run, connected with Mike Williams for 35 yards to the Tennessee 20. Herbert then spiked the ball to stop the clock.

Austin Ekeler touchdown gives Chargers lead in fourth quarter

🏈 Chargers 14, Titans 7 — 10:28 left in the fourth quarter

Austin Ekeler and the Chargers powered their way ahead of Tennessee 14-7 on a three-yard touchdown run with 10:28 left in regulation.

Ekeler bullied his way over the goal line with a little help from linemen Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Trey Pipkins III.

A second-effort run by Ekeler on the play immediately before he scored netted 12 yards as the Chargers broke a 7-7 tie that had existed since five minute into the second quarter.

Ekeler has 56 yards on 10 carries for the game.


Titans miss field goal after key sack by Chris Rumph

🏈 Titans 7, Chargers 7 — 13:39 left in the fourth quarter

A huge sack on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill by Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph played a huge role in helping keep the game tied early in the fourth quarter.

Rumph’s critical sack led to a nine-yard loss and preceded kicker Randy Bullock missing a 51-yard field-goal attempt for the Titans.


Spectacular Titans interception prevents potential Chargers TD

Los Angeles, CA - December 18: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) looks to throw.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

🏈 Titans 7, Chargers 7 — HALFTIME

One of the craziest interceptions of the season — and perhaps, ever — prevented the Chargers from taking a lead into halftime.

A Justin Herbert pass intended for Mike Williams was shoveled by Titans cornerback Roger McCreary into the arms of cornerback Joshua Kalu for a touchback, effectively ending the first half. McCreary caught the ball while in mid air and, just before landing out of bounds, passed it to Kalu. You have to see it to believe it:

Chargers quarterback has completed 15 of 20 passes for 147 yards and a pick. Ryan Tannheill has completed six of nine passes for 73 yards for the Titans.

Titans running back Derrick Henry has 38 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has 29 carries on five carries.


Derrick Henry touchdown ties game in the second quarter

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball against the Chargers in the first half.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball against the Chargers in the first half.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

🏈 Titans 7, Chargers 7 — 10:09 left in second quarter

Derrick Henry’s four-yard run with 10:09 left before halftime pulled Tennessee even with the Chargers 7-7.

The Titans went 63 yards in six plays after stopping the Chargers’ offense with a three-and-out.

Ryan Tannehill, who missed one series after suffering an ankle injury, returned to lead Tennessee on the drive. He and Henry hooked up for the biggest play, a 37-yard reception.

Henry, who is second in the NFL in rushing, has 36 yards on his first seven carries.


Joshua Kelley scores early touchdown to give Chargers lead

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, right, is carted off the field during the first half.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

🏈 Chargers 7, Titans 0 — 4:25 left in the first quarter

Joshua Kelley scored on a one-yard run to put the Chargers up 7-0 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.

The Chargers, who have struggled running the ball and in the red zone for much of the season, ran the ball six consecutive times to cap a 14-play, 68-yard drive on their first possession.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered an ankle injury on Tennessee’s opening series and was carted to the locker room. The team announced that he is questionable to return.

Rookie Malik Willis replaced Tannehill to open the Titans’ second series.


Chargers must take a run at Titans by solving red-zone failures

Dolphins safety Jevon Holland, left, and linebacker Jerome Baker tackle Chargers running back Austin Ekeler.
Dolphins safety Jevon Holland, left, and linebacker Jerome Baker tackle Chargers running back Austin Ekeler at the one-yard line during a Chargers win on Dec. 11.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

There were two runs that netted just a single yard, a sack, a false-start penalty and a fumbled snap.

Four red-zone trips each came up short of six points Sunday for the Chargers against Miami for four different reasons.

That has been a theme throughout 2022 for this team, an offense that features Justin Herbert’s arm and intellect struggling to finish drives.

The Chargers have scored touchdowns on only 47.9% of their trips inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. That ranks 27th in the NFL. Last season, the Chargers were fifth at 64%.

Entering their game Sunday against Tennessee, the Chargers are trying to fix an issue that has been particularly troubling of late.

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NFL readers Q&A: What’s with all the screaming at Rams, Chargers games?

SoFi Stadium during a game between the Rams and San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 30.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

A big victory over the Miami Dolphins has put the Chargers in the thick of the AFC playoff race and the acquisition of quarterback Baker Mayfield has added some interest to the last portion of a disappointing season for the Rams. With four weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller address fans’ concerns and questions:

Can you guys write about the Rams/Chargers PA situation that Al Michaels commented on Thursday night? As a season-ticket holder, I find it really annoying as well. Do other teams scream at the crowd like this to manufacture crowd noise? I find it embarrassing as a fan.

Dom Mucciacito, Los Angeles

Miller: The inane, screaming “Make Some Noise!” PA announcer is now a thing at most pro sports venues across the country. The good news for Chargers fans is that their SoFi Stadium games sound prim and proper compared to the sophomoric nonsense I heard the last time I was at a Rams game there. Look on the bright side, no matter what football stadium you’re in — be it college or the pros — you’ll never have to wonder if the opposition is facing “THIRD DOWNNNNNN!!!” because the PA announcer will tell you. Every. Single. Time. In. Every. Single. Stadium.

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Why remaining schedule favors Chargers for AFC wild-card spot

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert slides during a win over the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 11.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

By consensus projection, the Chargers have a better than break-even shot to make the postseason.

A survey of various outlets Wednesday put their chances — expressed as a collective percentage — in the mid-50s.

A victory Sunday over seemingly playoff-bound Tennessee at SoFi Stadium would boost that number, probably by a significant amount.

As encouraging as this all might sound to the team’s fans, it’s important to remember what happened just a year ago.

Last December, the Chargers went to Cincinnati — the eventual AFC champion — and won 41-22 before returning home to slug the New York Giants 37-21, putting the game away in the third quarter.

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Chargers’ playoff hopes lean heavily on stopping Derrick Henry and Titans

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry carries the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 11.
(Peter Joneleit / Associated Press)

They pressed and pushed Miami’s speed all over SoFi Stadium, the Chargers producing their finest defensive performance of the season by bullying the Dolphins into a parade of empty plays.

Now comes a Tennessee offense that prefers to operate more downhill than downwind.

“You gotta get physical, man,” Chargers safety Alohi Gilman said. “It’s one on one, me and you, in the backyard. That’s kind of how I was raised. I’m down for the challenge. I’m ready to go.”

Last weekend, the Chargers limited Miami to one offensive touchdown on a day when they, too, were limited. Gilman started and played every defensive snap in place of Derwin James Jr., who is doubtful again for Sunday because of a quadriceps strain.

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Derwin James Jr. among Chargers’ inactives vs. Titans

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. walks back to the locker room.
Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. walks back to the locker room during a game against the Seattle Seahawks in October.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

The Chargers will be without safety Derwin James Jr. (quadriceps) for their game today against Tennessee at SoFi Stadium.

The 2021 Pro Bowler has missed the past two games dealing with an injury suffered in a Week 13 loss at Las Vegas.

Right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee), defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (core muscle) are all active for the 1:25 p.m. PST kickoff. Each was questionable entering Sunday.

Also inactive for the game for the Chargers: running back Sony Michel, wide receiver Michael Bandy, offensive lineman Storm Norton, defensive tackle Christopher Hinton, safety JT Woods and quarterback Easton Stick.


Chargers vs. Tennessee Titans matchups, how to watch and prediction

Breaking down how the Chargers (7-6) and the Tennessee Titans (7-6) match up heading into their game at 1:25 p.m. PST on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be shown on CBS (Ch. 2) and streamed on Paramount+ and NFL+.

When Chargers have the ball

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass while pressured by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass while pressured by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on Sunday night.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A week ago, the return of Mike Williams from an ankle injury helped lead to Justin Herbert’s most productive passing game of 2022 in the Chargers’ 23-17 victory over Miami. Herbert now gets a shot at a banged-up Tennessee defense that ranks 31st against the pass.

Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high 368 yards against the Titans last weekend, becoming the seventh quarterback to top the 300-yard mark against this defense. Patrick Mahomes torched Tennessee for 446 yards in Week 9.

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Chargers vs. Titans: Betting odds, lines and picks against the spread

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert celebrates after a win over the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 11.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

For the first time in nearly two months, the Chargers and Rams won during the same week. Before Week 14, you had to go back to Week 6 to find the last time the L.A. teams both won. Ironically, they both won in SoFi Stadium both of those weeks, leaving two clean sweeps in three opportunities (Week 1). Maybe one of them just needs to play on Thursday or Monday at home every week going forward.

This week, the Rams play on Monday, in Green Bay. The Chargers are at home on Sunday and have an excellent chance at a huge win for their playoff hopes.

Tennessee Titans at Chargers (-3, 47)

Justin Herbert’s huge game came at the right time last week, as the No. 6 pick in the 2020 NFL draft overshadowed the No. 5 pick. Tua Tagovailoa looked lost most of the game, while Herbert excelled, throwing for a season-high 367 yards with a touchdown and no picks. As great as Herbert’s stat line was, though, the Chargers converted his 51 pass attempts and season-high 39 completions into only 23 points.

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