Justin Herbert ‘showed us a lot of guts’ battling through rib injury in Chargers’ loss
He was sacked twice and hit at least six other times, according to the NFL’s official statistics.
One of the hits, with about five minutes remaining Thursday night, left Justin Herbert in significant discomfort and holding his midsection.
The rest of the Chargers — and all their fans — were figuratively doing the same thing.
The Pro Bowl quarterback missed only one play and returned for a last-gasp push, one that resulted in a late touchdown but a failed comeback as the Chargers lost 27-24 to Kansas City.
“You’re not going to see a quarterback at any level of football play tougher and do more for their team and will their team to give them a chance than him,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “Nobody can do what he can do. Nobody.”
It makes sense Jaylen Watson once worked in fast food. The former Wendy’s worker and seventh-round draft pick played a huge role in the Chiefs’ victory.
Herbert suffered a rib injury, according to the Chargers, and underwent initial tests at Arrowhead Stadium. The team had no update upon departing for the return trip to Southern California.
Trailing 27-17, Herbert led the Chargers to a touchdown with 1:11 remaining despite moving gingerly and holding his left arm in position to protect his ribs. He left the field upon the game’s conclusion in obvious pain.
“He showed us a lot of guts,” Staley said. “He showed us what he does every day, that we’re never out of the fight. He brought us back and gave us a chance.”
Herbert converted two fourth downs on that final scoring drive, including on the touchdown, a seven-yard connection with Joshua Palmer.
But when the Chargers failed to recover the onside kick that followed, the game was over.
Staley was asked directly if he was concerned about Herbert’s health moving forward.
“No,” he said. “No, because he’s Justin Herbert.”
The issues protecting Herbert increased after the Chargers lost Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley for the second half because of a knee injury. Starting right tackle Trey Pipkins III then went out in the third quarter because of an ankle problem.
The Chargers led throughout the first three quarters against the Chiefs, including 17-7 at halftime.
After Kansas City pulled even 17-17 on a field goal to start the fourth quarter, the game was significantly tilted when Herbert’s pass was intercepted at Kansas City’s one-yard line and rookie Jaylen Watson returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
The miscue came when the Chargers had first and goal at the Kansas City three. Going uptempo, Herbert fired in the direction of tight end Gerald Everett near the goal line, but Watson made the catch.
Everett had caught passes on the two previous plays — the second gaining 26 yards — and was asking to come out of the game. Since the Chargers went with a quicker pace, he was unable to leave the field.
Afterward, Everett explained that he was dealing with a sore ankle that was left over from the Chargers’ season-opening victory Sunday over Las Vegas. He said he did want out but remained in given the Chargers’ strategy.
“It was just kind of unlucky what happened there,” Staley said. “It was unfortunate. We felt like we could push the pace. It didn’t work out.”
The Chargers had other chances that went to dust. Three apparent interceptions were nullified. One was by penalty, another by offsetting penalties and the third overturned by video review.
Asante Samuel Jr. looked to secure the Patrick Mahomes pass in the third quarter, but the replay official decided otherwise.
Staley said one of the interceptions was wiped out despite “an obvious offensive pass interference, at the minimum.” On the second-quarter play, Chargers cornerback Bryce Callahan was actually called for illegal contact.
Nasir Adderley intercepted the ball, but Kansas City retained possession.
“That’s as tough as it gets because we’re in perfect coverage,” Staley said. “We were perfectly defended.”
The night started as promising for the Chargers when Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson was deemed fit to make his debut for the team.
Jackson missed the opener while recovering from an Aug. 23 surgical procedure on his right ankle.
He worked out on the field before the game for about 15 minutes before retreating to the locker room. A short time later, the Chargers announced Jackson would be active.
After spending four seasons with New England, Jackson signed a five-year contract worth up to $82.5 million with $40 million fully guaranteed in March. His 25 interceptions since 2018 are the most in the league.
Jackson started with Samuel at the other outside corner spot.
But Jackson was beat midway through the third quarter when Mahomes threw 41 yards to Justin Watson for a touchdown.
Herbert finished 33 of 48 for 334 yards, with three touchdowns and the one interception. Mike Williams caught eight passes for 113 yards and a score.
In the end, Herbert and the Chargers were left hurting in more ways than one.
“It was just a tough NFL game, and he took some big hits,” Staley said. “None of those big hits had any impact on him bringing his team back like he always does.”
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