INGLEWOOD, Calif. — There had been some chatter questioning whether Justin Herbert was the problem in the last two losses, where he had his lowest yards and completion percentage.
In fact, in the Chargers 30-13 victory over the Chicago Bears, Herbert was the solution.
Herbert completed 31 of 40 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns en route to get his team to a manageable 3-4.
“I saw really good rhythm and timing,” head coach Brandon Staley said. “I thought that he was decisive. When he is playing like that, he is going to have numbers like that; 31-of-40 for 300 [yards], three touchdowns and no interceptions. I just thought that his feet and his eyes were working together, and that is when he is at his best.”
Herbert, on the first drive, went six for six and moved the offense up the field. After hitting Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler for five of his six passes, he finished the drive by completing a screen pass to Ekeler, who took it 39 yards for the score.
Ekeler looked like the Ekeler against the Miami Dolphins. He looked fast and elusive, which took him some time to get to after the high ankle sprain.
Running the football wasn’t pretty, but the aerial attack was where Ekeler made the Bears pay with 94 receiving yards and one touchdown.
“The ball was coming my way,” Ekeler said. “So, made a few plays to get us in a good position, and that’s my job.”
On the next offensive drive, Herbert went five for five on the drive, finishing it off hitting receiver Simi Fehoko for a nine-yard touchdown on a crossing route.
“I saw man (on) third down, we went over it, and we had rub routes called, and Justin found me, and it just happened to be a walk in so I’ll take it,” Fehoko said about his first Chargers catch being a touchdown.
Herbert went 11-for-11 for 120 yards and two touchdowns on the first two drives of the game.
The Bears went on offense led by Tyson Bagent, who made news last week by beating the Las Vegas Raiders in his first career start. There was some good and some bad from the former Division Two quarterback.
On his third drive, he was moving the ball well when he faced third-and-8. He tried going to DJ Moore, but cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor read and intercepted Bagent.
“He threw it right at me,” Taylor said on his first career interception.
After a 43-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker, Bagent got the ball again and, this time moved his team up the field. The rookie quarterback showed poise, completing and converting on three third downs to get his team in scoring position. On the Bears fourth third down conversion, running back Darrynton Evans ran the ball in for an 11-yard touchdown to give Chicago some life.
The one area the Chargers have improved this season is slowing down the opposing run game. Bears running back D’Onta Foreman came in hot after scoring three touchdowns against the Raiders last Sunday.
Against the Chargers, he had nine carries for 34 yards. As a team, Chicago rushed for 73 yards on 25 carries for an average of 2.9 yards a carry.
“They do a great job of running the ball,” Staley said. “For two years, they’ve done it. I think that gave us a lot more opportunities to rush and play the coverages that we wanted to play.”
Herbert engineered a perfect two-minute offense, hitting Quentin Johnston thrice for 29 yards. A Donald Parham 11-yard touchdown finished off the drive.
Parham played well as the starting tight end, with Gerald Everett missing the game with a hip injury. The Chargers fourth-year tight end caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.
“I really felt [Parham Jr.] tonight,” Staley said. “You guys would have covered the team, this was a lot closer to that 2021 version of Donald Parham, who’s a difference maker.”
This offense could use a difference-maker, but for Parham, it is about staying consistent, moving forward and continuing to make a positive impact.
The Chargers still have several issues they need to address. Their offensive line was up and down, especially in the run game, only rushing for 54 yards on 25 carries, which averages out to 2.2 yards per carry.
Defensively, the third down issues and giving up big plays is an issue. Bagent started the game by hitting Darnell Mooney for a 41-yard completion over Asante Samuel Jr.
This was a good response to the last two tough losses. They needed a victory like this before heading to New York to face the feisty Jets, who have playoff aspirations themselves.
“It really is just one week at a time,” Herbert said. “This is the most important game of the year for us just because it was the next one. We played a really good team, and we went out there and had a victory of all three phases.”