The Los Angeles Chargers were held to 253 yards, their second-lowest total of the season, in a 27-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings today at SoFi Stadium, their third loss in four games after a 4-1 start.
“There were drops today that I didn’t like,” said coach Brandon Staley, whose team was held to 208 yards in a 34-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Oct. 17. “There were some untimely protection issues that I didn’t like. There were some times where a play that is designed to go for a bunch, that should go for a bunch, doesn’t.” The Chargers had only two plays of more than 20 yards. Minnesota had five. The Chargers led once, 17-13, after Justin Herbert’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler on the opening drive of the second half. The Vikings (4-5) took control of the game with touchdowns on back-to- back drives in the second half.
The Chargers appeared to have stopped Minnesota stopped when Kirk Cousins’ pass on third-and-10 fell incomplete, but cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was called for an 11-yard pass interference penalty that gave the Vikings a first down on the Chargers’ 25-yard line. Cousins completed a 19-yard pass to Adam Thielen on the next play, giving Minnesota a first-and-goal from the Chargers’ 6-yard line. On fourth-and- goal, Cousins threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Conklin. After forcing the Chargers to punt after three plays, the Vikings drove 68 yards on 12 plays with Dalvin Cook running 1 yard for a touchdown with nine minutes, 29 seconds to play to increase Minnesota’s lead to 27-17. The Chargers drove to the Vikings’ 6-yard line on the ensuing drive but Staley opted to have Dustin Hopkins kick a 24-yard field goal with 4:36 remaining instead of trying to convert on a fourth-and-2 play.
While acknowledging he thought about going for the first down, Staley said, “With time being on our side, I felt like we could get a possession back and we would be able to go down there and score a touchdown.”
Minnesota ran out the final 4:36, including converting on third-and-6 and fourth-and-2 plays.
The Chargers were outgained 381 yards to 253, trailed 24-20 in first downs and 36:15-23:45 in time of possession in front of a crowd announced at 70,240.
“We lost the time possession today because of the way that we played on offense, not because of the way that we played on defense,” Staley said. The Chargers were forced to punt after three plays twice in the first half and once in the second half and had another second-half drive end after five plays. Herbert completed 20 of 34 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown with one interception for a 72.5 passer rating on a scale from 0 to 158.3. A rating over 100 is considered superior. He was sacked twice.
“I felt like, at times, he was playing with really good rhythm and timing,” Staley said. “You saw a lot of confidence and a team was tough to stop. Then, I felt like there were other times where we just didn’t play with really good rhythm or timing. I feel like that’s where we can improve.” Cousins completed 25 of 37 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns for a 109.5 passer rating. He was also sacked twice.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Vikings opened the scoring on Greg Joseph’s 46-yard field goal 48 seconds into the second quarter. Hopkins kicked a 46-yard field on the next possession. Minnesota scored on each of its next two possessions to take a 13-3
lead. Joseph kicked a 30-yard field goal. Cousins threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Conklin six plays after linebacker Eric Kendricks, a UCLA alumnus, intercepted a pass by Herbert at the Chargers’ 31-yard line on the first play of the drive.
Larry Rountree III ran 1 yard for a touchdown for the Chargers 1:30 before halftime. The Chargers drove 75 yards on eight plays, plus a 28-yard pass interference penalty and a 5-yard illegal use of the hands penalty.
Herbert completed three of four passes for 20 yards and ran for a 17- yard gain on the drive.
“We’re fighting to kind of find that rhythm and timing,” Staley said after his team dropped into a tie for second in the AFC West with the Las Vegas Raiders (5-4), one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4).
“It’s not there yet. We’re just not there yet. I think that our record is reflective of that. In all three phases, we’re trying to find it. Our guys are playing hard, but our execution needs to improve.”