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Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler and defense bring thunder in Chargers’ win over Raiders

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler catches a touchdown pass over Las Vegas Raiders outside linebacker K.J. Wright.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) catches a touchdown pass against Las Vegas Raiders linebacker K.J. Wright (34) late in the first half. The Chargers won 28-14.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Their once 21-point lead slipping away, the Chargers needed a stop Monday night.

Reserve defensive lineman Christian Covington delivered.

Covington sacked Las Vegas’ Derek Carr on third down early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders missed the subsequent field-goal try, and the Chargers iced a 28-14 victory at SoFi Stadium.

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Justin Herbert finished 25 for 38 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Austin Ekeler rushed 15 times for a career-high 117 yards and a score and also had a touchdown catch. Jared Cook had six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.

The Chargers won by opening a 21-0 halftime lead behind a dominating defense that permitted only one first down through the first two quarters. Joey Bosa, Jerry Tillery and Kyler Fackrell also had sacks.

The Las Vegas Raiders overcame a ridiculously ineffective first half to challenge the Chargers late in what could foreshadow a crazy AFC West title race.

“I felt like we executed our plan at a high level,” coach Brandon Staley said of the defense. “Our guys had command over the plan.”

Four weeks into the season, the Chargers sit atop the AFC West standings at 3-1. Coupled with a victory at Kansas City, they’ve won their first two division matchups.

The game Monday started oddly because it failed to start on time. Lightning in the area delayed the opening kickoff by 35 minutes.

The Chargers, however, began right on time. The offense went 75 yards in 12 plays and scored when Herbert hit Donald Parham Jr. from four yards out on third and goal.

Trailing 7-0, the Raiders (3-1) didn’t pick up their initial first down until the 9:02 mark of the second quarter — on their fifth possession of the game.

Chargers defensive tackle Jerry Tillery sacks Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Chargers defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (99) sacks Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the first half.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers went up 14-0 when Herbert hit Cook for a 10-yard score with 4:16 left before halftime. That play also came on third down.

At that point, the Chargers had 10 of the game’s 11 first downs and had outgained Las Vegas in yardage 179-40.

Herbert took advantage of a glaring mismatch to give the Chargers their 21-0 lead in the closing seconds of the first half. He hit Ekeler for a 14-yard touchdown pass with the Raiders attempting to defend the running back with linebacker K.J. Wright.

Herbert finished the half 20 for 25 for 175 yards and three touchdowns. His rating: 135.4.

The Chargers limited Las Vegas to one first down and 51 total yards in 24 plays over the first two quarters. The Raiders had accumulated more yards (53) in penalties.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 28-14 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium on Monday.

That final scoring drive of the first half was set up when Staley successfully challenged the spot on what was originally ruled to be a Las Vegas first down. Instead, running back Josh Jacobs was determined to be short, and the Raiders opted to punt on fourth and inches from their 17-yard line.

The punt gave the Chargers possession at their own 31 with 2:44 to go, Herbert directing the offense on a 69-yard drive in nine plays.

After dominating the first half, the Chargers’ defense had an impressive start to the third quarter when cornerback Michael Davis closed on Jacobs and dropped him for no gain after a short completion. But then the Raiders’ offense received the boost it needed. The Chargers were unable to get to Carr, who scrambled about before finding Willie Snead IV for a 15-yard gain.

Las Vegas picked up another 15 yards when Chargers safety Nasir Adderley was called for unnecessary roughness. Nine plays later, Carr hit Hunter Renfrow for a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7 with 9:01 to go in the third quarter.

After stopping the Chargers on their next possession, the Raiders came right back to close within a touchdown when Carr passed three yards to tight end Darren Waller for a score. That series was aided by a 45-yard pass-interference penalty on Chargers rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.

The Los Angeles Chargers signaled their intentions to challenge for the AFC West title by defeating the Las Vegas Raiders 28-14 at SoFi Stadium.

The next time the Raiders had the ball, they appeared to be driving for a tying touchdown. Carr ignited the series with a 51-yard completion to wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.

But Covington’s third-down sack stalled the drive. Las Vegas had to settle for a field-goal try, which Daniel Carlson missed from 52 yards with 10:38 left.

The Chargers then went 58 yards in 10 plays, with Ekeler scoring on an 11-yard run to make it 28-14 with 5:20 to go.

The series included a bold fourth-and-two conversion from midfield. Herbert hit Cook for a 13-yard gain over former Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman to keep the drive going.

“He’s been choosing great,” Cook said of Staley’s fourth-down decisions. “Might as well place lottery numbers with coach.”

Las Vegas’ final push was thwarted when safety Derwin James Jr. intercepted Carr with just more than three minutes left.


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