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Will Justin Herbert’s Injury Change the AFC Landscape?

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It was unclear if the large red stain on Justin Herbert’s jersey was paint or blood. Herbert was hit by Kansas City Chiefs defenseman Mike Danna and left on the field, writhing in pain. All observers sent their inner Simba out The Lion King: “Come on Justin, you gotta get up…”

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Herbert’s injury is classified by Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley as an injury to the abdomen or ribs, which makes sense since it looked like Herbert’s kidneys had exploded.

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Moments ago a somewhat lackluster Amazon Prime exclusive Thursday Night Football The debut between Herbert’s Chargers and Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs seemed eventually deliver on his hype. Herbert, the promised Prince of the Chargers, pulled back seven points with just under six minutes left in the game. But then Herbert went down, went to the touchline to play and looked like a kaput when he got back. dropped the ball instead of trying to run a few yards for an easy first down. It was perhaps the saddest moment of his entire career.

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Herbert immediately followed it up with perhaps the defining game of his career to date: on the fourth and first, Herbert threw a ludicrous, otherworldly shot to DeAndre Carter by 35 yards. Four plays later, Herbert scored a fourth goal from the 7-yard line. It turns out that the game came out at the very end of the promised three-hour window (classical Amazon).

The Chargers did not recover the subsequent side kick and lost to the Chiefs 27–24. But this game is likely to be remembered more for Herbert refusing to lose than for Kansas City and the Mahomes to a decisive victory in the AFC West. Despite the game seemingly getting out of control, Herbert launched a comeback that reminded everyone why we love watching sports. Los Angeles may have lost the battle, but Herbert reminded everyone how important he was to the war. And the question of Herbert’s health will change the nature of the AFC playoff race in the coming weeks and months.

The entire game swings in a bizarre two-game sequence. With 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Herbert passed to tight end Gerald Everett, who ran for 26 yards before being tackled at the Kansas City 3-yard line. Everett, visibly tired from the game, immediately pointed to the touchline for a substitute to walk off the field. But the Chargers suddenly went on the offensive without a crowd, and Everett stayed in the game for the next game. Herbert took a picture and aimed at Everett, but either the throw was unsuccessful or Everett was not where Herbert expected him to be. Chiefs rookie defenseman Jaylen Watson intercepted the pass and passed for 99 yards. The touchdown gave Kansas City a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. According to the Amazon Prime win probability metrics, the odds of winning the game have changed from a 69 percent chance of the Chargers (good) to a 15 percent chance of winning (not good). It was the biggest jump in winning odds since picking a six. at least three seasons.

It’s the sort of little misunderstanding that could turn the game, and for the Chargers, possibly the division title race. But the Chargers had bigger problems that turned their night—and their quarterback upside down. Right tackle Trey Pipkens retired with an injury, making their weakest spot even weaker. Center Cory Linsley – a valuable free agent acquisition in 2021 and a key player in their offense – has also been injured. After Linsley retired, Herbert’s average passing length dropped by more than half a sign of how much faster he got the ball. Almost immediately after Linsley’s injury, the Chiefs and defenseman Chris Jones began to come under internal pressure, including Jones’ third and tenth sacks, and then Danna landed Herbert a clean but devastating punch that caused the quarterback to collapse. Herbert was pressured 18 times on Thursday, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Chiefs were under twice as much pressure in the second half as they were in the first. But early in the game, the Chargers dominated, best done by Dervin James, who outplayed Travis Kelsey.

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams finished with eight catches for 113 yards (84 of which came at the break) and one incredible touchdown. Herbert was without his no. 1 receiver, Keenan Allen, in this game; in their first 30 games together, they had 206 completions and 2,159 yards. But the 6-foot Williams literally and figuratively took a step forward to dominate the smaller KC sidekick, which didn’t include rookie quarterback Trent McDuffie. Williams seemed to be turning 50-50 balls into an 80-20 offer all night. The Chargers took a 10-0 lead. But then Mahomes, well, he’s Mahomes. His first touchdown of the night was an over-the-shoulder pistol throw mixed between Matrix and the bullet bends wanted:

The throw is obviously what gets the attention, but what prepares the throw is the fight. This is Mahomes’ secret weapon, and it was the one that Los Angeles was paying attention to when entering the game.

“The biggest thing you’re talking about is whether we can get him to play out of pocket and not prolong the game,” said Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill. told reporters this week. “Because as soon as he gets out of his pocket, he becomes a completely different animal.”

But Mahomes also sliced ​​Los Angeles for his second touchdown, pocketing and throwing the easiest 45-yard throw you’ve ever seen.

Take those two games away and the Chargers held Mahomes for 185 yards and zero touchdowns on 33 attempts, plus about seven passes that the Chargers nearly intercepted. (Referees called off one interception by the Chargers in the third quarter, shortly before Mahomes gave a touchdown to Justin Watson. Another interception by Mahomes was called off due to a strange illegal contact signal early in the second quarter, resulting in Kansas City’s first touchdown. .) Defense The Chargers actually played pretty well and kept the Chiefs at 2.83 yards per rush for three quarters. Kelce only managed to get 51 yards per game. But in a nutshell, this is the experience of playing the Chiefs – give them three or four games of a game where you’ve given up and they’ll rip your soul out.

Staley kept the Chargers in the competition by going for four downs at four and an inch three times, and each time the Chargers converted and went on to score a touchdown. If anything, Staley may regret refusing to go to fourth and second several times. Meanwhile, Andy Reid decided to field a field goal on the fourth and first from the 1-yard line to equalize at 17th—a decision that could have been much more heavily criticized if the Chargers had scored a touchdown from 3rd. yard line on the next drive instead of throwing a six. For all of LA’s shortcomings, Coach Staley kept them in this game, save for one catastrophic mistake.

But nothing keeps the Chargers in games like Herbert’s. Last year’s regular season ended with Herbert converting five fourths in the last five minutes of the week 18 thriller against the Raiders, including two fourths and 10s and a fourth and 21st. On Thursday night, Herbert arguably surpassed that by turning two fourth downs for 43 total yards and scoring. More importantly, he got through those fourth downs so late that many wondered why he even played.

The Chargers are now 1-1, and with the head-to-head tie-break, they are now effectively two games behind the Chiefs, 2-0, who have topped the AFC West for the seventh straight season. The nature of Herbert’s injury will be critical to the playoff race. If Herbert has a rib injury, it can stay for the whole season and get worse with every hit or hit. Don’t be offended by stunt double Chase Daniel, but the Chargers have little chance of progressing anywhere without Herbert running this show. Many here in Ringer and elsewhere were vying for the Chargers for the wildcard spot, if not the AFC West division crown. But with the Broncos hiding in the division, the Dolphins 1-0 in AFC East, and three AFC North teams 1-0 (plus the Bengals!), the Chargers risk missing the playoffs altogether if Herbert will have to skip. any long time, either now or if the injury worsens in the future.

It would be hard to watch the Chargers fail if Herbert wasted time. But it will also be difficult. No watch Herbert play prime time again this season.

The red stain on Herbert’s jersey turned out to be paint, not blood. However, Herbert’s injury proved to everyone – all too literally – that the guy had guts.


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