The Los Angeles Chargers bounced back from a sloppy loss against the Minnesota Vikings last week. First, they had a fast start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, taking advantage of the fact that most of the best Steelers defensive players were out. Then, after a wild series of events made it a close game in the fourth, Justin Herbert bailed the team out again and the Chargers won 41-37. Over the course of the game, he showed more versatility and mobility than usual, using his legs just as much as his arm to help the team win the game (though the final drive did come down to his arm).
Justin Herbert Shows Versatility in Thrilling Primetime Win Over Pittsburgh Steelers
Herbert took advantage of the fact early on that the Steelers were missing the likes of T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, among others, and carved up the defense. He leaned heavily on Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler in particular, the latter of whom scored four total touchdowns on the night including two through the air. At the half, Herbert only had two incompletions.
Herbert also scrambled out of the pocket to pick up yards and sometimes first downs a lot more than usual. This season he has generally stayed more in the pocket or has only scrambled to buy time, but has gotten a couple of rushing touchdowns nonetheless. But tonight, he had nine carries for 90 yards, with the biggest one of all coming in the fourth. One odd but amusing occurrence that occurred on one of those carries was when he pump-faked repeatedly while on the run… which included doing so when he was around eight yards past the line of scrimmage and near the first down marker. (If anyone bit on that pump fake, it was because they were a third-stringer.)
Fourth Quarter Heroics
The Chargers were up 27-10 going into the fourth, but that was when the game turned wild as a bizarre series of events put the Steelers back in the game – including a blocked punt and a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage turning into an interception. After one of these incidents made it a one-score game at 27-20, Herbert made his biggest individual effort of the day when he scrambled out of the pocket on third down and ended up running for 36 yards, easily his longest run of the day. Some extra yards got added on when Cameron Heyward, who had brought down Herbert, refused initially to let go and ended up giving him a cheap shot. That set up a five-yard Ekeler rushing touchdown on the very next play, putting the game at 34-20.
After blowing the lead and falling behind at 37-34 with just a few minutes left, Herbert quickly went to work, only needing three plays and one first touchdown to put the Chargers back up. For some reason, the Steelers defense decided to leave Mike Williams wide open on the sideline, and Herbert quickly found him. Williams outran the lone defender that was even remotely in the vicinity and into the end zone for a go-ahead 53-yard touchdown, which ended up being the final one as the Chargers stopped the Steelers handily on their final drive. Williams had been quiet the last few weeks, but he reminded defenses tonight why he should not be left open, just in case they had forgotten.
Justin Herbert ultimately had one of his best games of the year thus far, finishing at 30-for-41, 382 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He showed off more versatility than usual as well by scrambling for yardage more often. And he ultimately came up big again late when needed. The defense did better than it appeared, given that most of the Steelers points came off turnovers/turnovers on downs in Chargers territory, so hopefully the Chargers will not have a repeat of this kind of game any time soon. But with a quarterback like Herbert, they will not have too much to worry about, so long as they do not lose the time of possession game (the main reason for their last few losses).
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