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Chargers vs. Panthers matchups: Justin Herbert looks to build on strong debut

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to take a snap.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to take a snap against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 20.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Carolina Panthers (0-2) and the Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) match up for Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium.

When Chargers have the ball: Rookie Justin Herbert will make his second start. One way to rattle a young quarterback is with pressure. Through two games, Carolina is the only team in the NFL with zero sacks and has only one quarterback hit. The Chargers’ Joey Bosa has five quarterback hits. Herbert passed for 311 yards in his debut last weekend. By comparison, the man he replaced in the starting lineup — Tyrod Taylor — has one 300-yard passing game in 47 career starts. Herbert looked poised, prepared and generally in charge against Kansas City. Although the Chiefs are much more recognized for their offense, their defense was good enough last season to win the Super Bowl, so Herbert shouldn’t be too shaken by anything Carolina throws at him. The Chargers’ most productive receiver has been tight end Hunter Henry, who has 11 catches for 156 yards. Keenan Allen also has 11 receptions, for 133 yards. Neither, however, has scored. Same goes for wideout Mike Williams and back Austin Ekeler. The Chargers’ three TDs have come from two rookies (Herbert and Josh Kelley) and one second-year pro (Jalen Guyton) who entered this season with no career catches. Here’s a somewhat-educated guess that a Chargers veteran will reach the end zone in this game.

Chargers vs. Carolina Panthers.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

When Panthers have the ball: Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman said he has been playing against Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for more than a decade. Both grew up in south Florida, Perryman attending Coral Gables High and Bridgewater Miami Northwestern. Asked what he remembers about their early encounters, Perryman called the games “a throwing fest. I would say, in high school, it wasn’t too good on my end. We lost, clearly.” Bridgewater is coming off another festival of throwing — 367 yards against Tampa Bay. That marked a career high for a quarterback in his sixth season. They’ll need that air attack because the Panthers will be without running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle sprain), who led the league in touches (403) and scrimmage yards (2,392) a year ago. Next back up is Mike Davis, who has one run this season for one yard. Carolina has scored five touchdowns and four belong to McCaffrey. In other words, the Panthers will need to find production elsewhere, with wide receiver Robby Anderson the most obvious source. He has been Bridgewater’s most popular target, and the two could attempt to stage another throwing fest.

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When they kick: Michael Badgley’s only miss for the Chargers has come from 50 yards. He’s made five field goals and three extra points but has yet to produce a genuine “Money Badger” moment. He is due, with this team having played 13 one-score games since the start of the 2019 season. The Chargers are 3-10 in those games. Carolina’s Joey Slye is three for four on extra-point attempts and has made all four of his field-goal tries.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: If Chargers-Panthers doesn’t sound like a classic rivalry, it’s because they’ve met only six times. The Chargers are 1-5 in the series but will be 2-5 after Sunday.

CHARGERS 23, PANTHERS 20


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