INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)Justin Herbert had one simple message for his Los Angeles Chargers teammates with the game tied late in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
”I got it.”
After Tennessee tied it with 48 seconds left on Ryan Tannehill’s 1-yard QB sneak, Herbert led the Chargers 52 yards in six plays, culminating in Cameron Dicker’s 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining and a 17-14 victory that bolstered Los Angeles’ playoff hopes.
”That’s what you want from your trigger man and that’s why I’m proud of him,” coach Brandon Staley said of Herbert, who had his third straight 300-yard passing game.
The Chargers got into field goal range when Herbert completed a 35-yard pass to Mike Williams along the right sideline. On second-and-4 from the LA 45 yard line, Herbert scrambled right, moved up and delivered a pinpoint pass in Williams’ radius after Williams pointed up while being covered by Greg Mabin.
Herbert spiked the ball with 15 seconds remaining, and Los Angeles then had a delay of game penalty and an incomplete pass. Dicker came on and booted his third game-winner of the season and second with the Chargers.
”I wasn’t even sure if I was in or out. I was just kind of in the moment, just trying to get the ball to the hash to the referee so we could get it clocked,” said Williams, who had four catches for 67 yards. ”And we was able to get it clocked, so I guess I was in. Everything’s good.”
With the win, the Chargers (8-6) moved into the sixth spot in the AFC after losses by Miami, New England and the New York Jets.
The Titans (7-7) have a one-game lead over Jacksonville in the AFC South but have dropped four straight games for the first time since 2015.
”We weren’t able to keep them inbounds for them to use some clock. That’s so critical right there,” coach Mike Vrabel said.
Herbert completed 28 of 42 passes for 313 yards but didn’t throw a touchdown for only the third time in 46 career games. It was his fifth game-winning drive this season and the 13th of his career.
”We have practiced two-minute drives all of the time in practice and all throughout camp. We know that we have special receivers, a great offensive line blocking and Mike Williams goes and makes the plays,” Herbert said. ”To be able to go through that and deal with as much adversity as we did today and not be able to score points and turnovers and things like that, for those guys to hang tough, believe in the defense and believe in each other, it was really good to see for us.”
Tannehill was 15 of 22 for 165 yards. He injured an ankle on Tennessee’s first drive but only missed one possession.
Derrick Henry rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. The two-time NFL rushing champion also went over 8,000 career yards in his 100th regular-season game.
Henry also had four catches for 59 yards, including a 37-yard reception off a screen pass in the second quarter that would lead to his 4-yard TD run off a direct snap to tie the game at 7.
”The division is still there, but personally, I could care less about that,” said safety Kevin Byard, who had an interception in the third quarter. ”It don’t look like we’re a team right now that’s going to beat anybody, so we’ve got to find a way to get back to work and beat Houston. That’s all we can really do at this point.”
LEADING THE WAY
Austin Ekeler scored his AFC-leading 14th scrimmage touchdown of the season early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run off right guard. On the play before his TD, Ekeler pinballed off two Titans’ defenders when it appeared he would be held for no gain and went 13 yards to the LA 3.
Ekeler finished with 70 scrimmage yards, including 58 rushing.
Herbert has 4,019 passing yards this season and is the first player in NFL history with at least 4,000 yards in each of the first three seasons of his career.
GRINDING IT OUT
The Chargers got their fourth touchdown on an opening possession this season when Joshua Kelley went 1 yard off right guard to cap a 14-play, 68-yard drive.
Los Angeles, which came into the game with the league’s second-worst rushing game, ran it nine times for 33 yards on the series. That was their most yards on the ground on an opening series this season. It was also their most run plays to start a game since a late-season 2020 game against Atlanta.
TAKE IT AWAY
The Titans forced forced their first turnover in five games late in the second quarter when safety Joshua Kalu picked off Herbert’s pass intended for Williams.
Cornerback Roger McCreary deflected the pass and then tapped the ball back in bounds to Kalu.
Titans: CB Terrance Mitchell (hamstring) and OL Dillon Radunz (knee) left in the second quarter. CB Josh Thompson was ruled out with a concussion in the third quarter.
Titans: Host the Houston Texans on Saturday.
Chargers: At the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 26.
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