Chargers’ offense has drive to beat Raiders but drops ball in the end

The Chargers' Donald Parham appears to make the winning catch against the Raiders' Isaiah Johnson, but he couldn't hang on.
On the final play, Chargers tight end Donald Parham appears to make the winning catch against Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson. The ball came loose when he hit the ground, though, and the touchdown was overturned.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn threw his hands up above his black hat, then took off his clear plastic face shield and his communications headset.

For the second week in a row, Lynn watched from the sideline as the outcome of the game rested on the final play.

And for the second consecutive week, it wasn’t the result he wanted.

There was one big difference, though. Last week, the defense could not hold on against the Denver Broncos. This week, the Chargers trailed the Las Vegas Raiders by five points with the ball on the Chargers’ 25-yard line and 4:37 to go.

Thirteen plays and nine pass completions later, Justin Herbert had the offense on the Raiders’ four-yard line with six seconds remaining. The Chargers had moved the chains once on third down and another time on fourth.


With no timeouts left, the Chargers went to the air.

Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr. can’t hang on to a potential touchdown pass on the final play as the Chargers lose to the Raiders, 31-26.

Herbert lobbed a pass to Mike Williams, who prides himself on making acrobatic catches. He jumped and grabbed the ball against cornerback Isaiah Johnson’s man coverage, but the 6-foot-4 wide receiver couldn’t maintain possession as he fell to the ground.

The good news: There was still one second left on the clock.

The bad: Williams was injured trying to make that catch and would not be available for the final play.

Chargers' Mike Williams (81) starts to lose control of this pass in the end zone on the second-to-last play.
Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) starts to lose control of this pass in the end zone on the second-to-last play.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

With many eyes on Chargers standout receiver Keenan Allen (nine catches, 103 yards, touchdown), Herbert threw a fade pass to tight end Donald Parham, who seemed to have outmaneuvered Johnson for the deciding score.

Parham spiked the ball, teammates congratulated him, the stadium’s lights flickered ... but after further review, the referees overturned the call. Parham hadn’t secured the catch, the ball wiggling from his lap as he fell to the ground.

“We went from celebrating to coming in and losing,” Lynn said. “It’s very disappointing.”

Lynn said the option play design allowed for Herbert to either run or throw to Parham, depending upon the defensive look.

Considering the height of the players involved, Lynn liked what he was seeing. That’s why they ran nearly identical plays back to back, taking into consideration Williams’ stature and Parham’s seven-inch height advantage over Johnson.

“With that coverage, the quarterback was going to throw it to a guy who is 6-[foot]-9, and all he’s done is caught touchdowns for us this year,” Lynn said. “I thought it was a good call. We didn’t execute the play, and you saw the results.”

Justin Herbert is a franchise quarterback for the Chargers, but amid a season of constant struggle, the team isn’t doing enough to protect the rookie.

Allen said in agreement: “You always think [Williams] and Parham are going to come down with it. They’ve been in those tough situations all the time, and that’s what it was.”

Since last season, the Chargers are 3-15 in one-possession games, including all six of their defeats this year. And this one came after the Chargers already were celebrating victory ... before the replay.

“We were like, ‘What? What are you talking about? What is going on?’ ” running back Kalen Ballage said. “It was kind of hectic, to be honest.”

Herbert believes the team is on the cusp of reversing its fortunes, but he’s said that before ... just under different circumstances.

“It hasn’t gone our way, but we’re not going to change everything because we’re coming up short on mistakes here and there,” Herbert said. “We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep getting better, and I know that things are going to change here.”

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 31-26 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.