INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A win is a win, even though it was a rollercoaster of a ride with a rookie starting for the Raiders, a late-game interception, and a play that might have changed the season in a 24-17 Chargers victory.
Justin Herbert used play action in the second quarter on the Chargers fourth drive when he faced defensive end Maxx Crosby.
The Chargers quarterback juked him out and ran out of bounds when Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery came running like a bull in Pamplona. He shoulder-checked Herbert out of bounds.
That is when every single player wearing a powdered blue jersey ran over and got in their former teammates’ face to defend their quarterback.
“That was bullshit, man,” Khalil Mack said. “And Jerry knows it too. I like the response we got from the sideline.”
Tillery was drafted by the Chargers in 2019 and knows most players in this locker room. This isn’t the first time Tillery has had a questionable incident on the field at SoFi Stadium or in Los Angeles.
“Bullshit,” Keenan Allen agreed with Mack. “Bone head play.”
Fellow receiver Josh Palmer interjected, “Let us not focus on Jerry. Let us focus on Justin (Herbert) getting up.”
“Yeah,” Allen agreed. “Herbo took it like a champ. My boy got heart.”
Herbert decided to take the high road after the game.
“Football is an emotional game,” Herbert said. “Whether it was late or whether it was before the play, we have a lot of respect for that team. I have a lot of respect for Jerry [Tillery] as a former teammate. It was an unfortunate hit, but I thought it was cool the way our team reacted. It is what it is. It’s football, so it’s no hard feelings.”
This was more about the team showing their love for their quarterback and defending him. Make no mistake about it: this is Justin Herbert’s team.
“Justin is our guy on and off the field,” Gerald Everett said. “So, at the end of the day, you got to pay for stuff like that. You can’t just act out or just do what you want out here and expect people not to feel some type of way about it.”
After the 15-yard penalty and Tillery’s dismissal, Herbert capped off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown to a wide-open Allen.
The Chargers quarterback was also hurt late in the third quarter, he threw an interception right at Trevon Moehrig and on the return, he hurt his finger.
He was in the blue tent for a while and was able to come out with a splinter on his left hand. Eventually, he wore a glove.
“‘Tis but a scratch, just a flesh wound [laughter],” Herbert said. “Got it stuck in the helmet.”
Why did he laugh? Because he was quoting “Monty Python & The Holy Grail,” a scene where a guy loses both arms but still wants to fight and says to his opponent, “Just a flesh wound.”
Herbert said, “It wasn’t bad” regarding the pain and wouldn’t officially diagnose the injury.
Herbert showed off his legs in this game. He scored on a 12-yard run on the opening drive, taking it from the same area he scored on his first NFL game in 2020.
He stiff-armed Isaac Rochell so well it would have made LaDainian Tomlinson proud. On the Tillery plan, he put Crosby on skates with a nice juke out.
The offense struggled in the second half to move the football or score it. They were held scoreless in the second half after putting up 24 in the first half.
Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garappolo was out because of a concussion he suffered last week, so the defense faced preseason sensation Aidan O’Connell.
He had Khalil Mack breathing down his neck all game long. The former Raider got to the quarterback six times today…six! It was one off the NFL record held by former Chief Derrick Thomas in 1990.
“This guy is one of the best edge players of a generation, and he is still that guy, he is still that guy — he just showed everybody, ‘I’m still that guy,'” Staley said. “He’s one of our leaders. One of those maestro performances, similar to [WR] Keenan [Allen] last week.”
Late in the game, with the Raiders rallying and being down by seven, the Chargers faced fourth-and-one similar to last week against the Vikings. Last week, they ran a fullback blast with Joshua Kelley. This week, it was a “tush push” like the Philadelphia Eagles, but no one pushed the tush of Herbert, so they didn’t convert.
The defense bailed them out for the second week in a row.
O’Connell began driving the Raiders up the field, hitting Davante Adams several times. On 1st-and-goal from the three, Adams came in motion when he was supposed to block Asante Samuel Jr. and Ja’Sir Taylor off, but Samuel read the play and intercepted the Raiders rookie.
“We’re going to do what we feel like gives us the best chance to win,” Staley said. “The storyline is the way our defense played — the way we played in the first half, offensively, but our defense carried us today. It was a really, really tough performance with a bunch of guys out.”
There were two minutes left when Herbert faced third-and-ten at his own 11. He dropped back and hit Palmer for a 51-yard pass to ice the game.
“I thought it was a great play by Josh Palmer to go up and get that ball,” Herbert said after the game.
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time because the team has a long list of injuries. Herbert needs to take care of the hand, Austin Ekeler’s ankle and there are some hamstring issues that players can rest.
“I think it does — for our team, as well,” Herbert said. “There are a lot of guys down today. I thought a lot of guys stepped up and battled today. To have that bye week and to have some time off and get our bodies back underneath us, I think it did come at a good time.”