Herbert, Chargers bounce back with victory at Houston
Any concerns about how Justin Herbert might continue to look while dealing with a rib injury likely disappeared after he led the Los Angeles Chargers to a 34-24 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Entering Monday, the third-year quarterback leads the league with 1,250 passing yards through the first four weeks of the season. He directed the Chargers to scores on five of their first six possessions en route to passing for 340 yards and two touchdowns.
Herbert bounced back after struggling in last week’s 38-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After practicing only one day leading up to the Jaguars game, Herbert did not miss a day leading up to Houston, and came off the injury report after going through all the team drills on Friday. Herbert suffered fractured rib cartilage after taking a hard hit during the fourth quarter of the Sept. 15 game at Kansas City.
“Out of all of the things that he did yesterday, I thought that he led our football team beautifully. I thought that he affected his teammates as well as I’ve seen him, since I’ve been the head coach,” coach Brandon Staley said.
“Beyond his performance on the field, I thought that he led our football team at a really high level yesterday.”
Herbert completed 27 of 39 passes and had a 113.2 passer rating. It was the 19th 300-yard game of his career, tying Andrew Luck for most by a player in his first three seasons, and his seventh straight on the road.
Also helping Herbert to feel more confident was a solid game from the offensive line and the running game showing some signs of production.
Rookie Jamaree Salyer was solid in his first game at left tackle as Herbert was sacked only once and pressured eight other times in 40 drop-backs.
The running game averaged only 3.0 yards per carry, but is starting to show some signs of production. Austin Ekeler had a season-high 60 yards, with four of his 13 carries going for 10 yards or more. Ekeler also scored the Chargers’ first two rushing touchdowns of the season and he added another one receiving.
Los Angeles (2-2) will need consistent production from Salyer and the running game again. Salyer was already watching film of Cleveland’s pass rushing duo of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, who both missed last Sunday’s 23-20 loss in Atlanta because of injuries.
“I’m excited to get into it, kind of closing the chapter on this last game. That’s kind of what today is around here. I’m excited for the challenge,” Salyer said. “I’ve never shied away from any challenge, shied away from any person. I’m excited for the challenge and look forward to it.”
Even without an injured Joey Bosa, the Chargers pass rush rebounded with four sacks and pressured Texans quarterback Davis Mills 15 times. Khalil Mack had one sack, two quarterback hits and three pressures. Entering Monday, Mack is tied for second in the league with five sacks and has 11 sacks in 11 games since the start of last season. He played in only seven games for Chicago last season before having season-ending foot surgery.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The run defense is allowing 5.42 yards per carry, second highest in the league. Dameon Pierce’s 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter is the third time they have allowed a carry of at least 30 yards. They allowed three last season.
WR Mike Williams had a season-high 120 yards on seven receptions as Keenan Allen missed his third straight game because of a hamstring injury. Williams has an AFC-high eight 100-yard receiving games on the road since 2019.
Entering Monday, he also has a league-leading 12 receptions of at least 40 yards over the past three seasons on passes thrown by Justin Herbert.
DeAndre Carter is averaging only 19 yards on eight kick returns this season. Carter didn’t reach the 25-yard line on any of his four returns Sunday and had a fumble during the fourth quarter that resulted in a 40-yard field goal to pull the Texans within 27-24.
After losing a pair of starters to major injuries last week, the Chargers came out of Houston relatively healthy. WR Josh Palmer (foot) and DL Sebastian Joseph-Day (finger) are expected to be OK.
75: Points allowed in the second half, which is second most in the league entering Monday. Opponents have scored on 12 of 22 possessions after halftime.
The Chargers head to Cleveland for a matchup against the Browns. Los Angeles has won the past three meetings, including 47-42 last season when it rallied from a 27-13 deficit early in the third quarter. The game will be a homecoming for Staley, who grew up less than an hour away in Perry, Ohio.
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