The Los Angeles Chargers are one win away from earning a playoff spot after Justin Herbert continued to impress during his sophomore campaign.
Herbert threw for 237 yards and two scores, passing Philip Rivers for the most touchdowns in a season by a Chargers quarterback with 35 while leading Los Angeles to a 34-13 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium.
“Just to be here is a huge honor,” Herbert said.
“I think it’s special because I was a Chargers fan growing up and I knew about all those guys (Dan Fouts and Rivers) and I’ve watched ’em all and they’re football legends,” Herbert added. “To be even in the same conversation with them is a huge honor.”
The Chargers improved to 9-7, keeping their playoff hopes alive with the win, also getting help in the standings across the conference. Due to losses from the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles now sits at seventh place, holding the final wild-card playoff spot.
The Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention for the 6th consecutive season and fell to 7-9 on the year.
Denver quarterback Drew Lock finished 18 of 25 for 245 yards and a touchdown, making another start for injured play caller Teddy Bridgewater.
“For me personally, I feel like my No.1 goal is to win a football game,” Lock said. “Taking care of the ball and not winning a football game and a quarter will get you a donut. There’s really not much that not winning the game gets you.”
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler finished with 112 scrimmage yards (58 rushing, 54 receiving) and found the endzone on a 3-yard score to open the game in the first quarter. Mike Williams recorded three catches for 63 yards and a score, while Keenan Allen added 4 receptions for 44 yards and a score.
Herbert found Allen on an 8-yard touchdown in the second to give Los Angeles a 17-0 lead just before halftime.
Andre Roberts kept momentum for the Chargers with an insane 101-yard kick return to start the fourth and Williams hauled in a 45-yard strike from Herbert to take a commanding 34-6 advantage with 10:18 remaining.
“Definitely nice to be playing for something at the end of the year,” Ekeler said.
Los Angeles will face the Las Vegas Raiders next week on the road, where the winner will clinch the No. 7 seed in the AFC.
“Next week, there’s a lot at stake, so we’re excited to compete,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “We’re going to have to rest up and learn from this tape. There’ll be plenty to learn from, and then we got to keep it moving to the Raiders.”
The Chargers will be looking to reach the postseason for the second time in four years, while a loss ends their season.
“We got to win this next game,” Ekeler said. “So, it’s just going to be another week. We’re going to take our mind is this is the life of its own. We’re playing the Raiders. Let’s get it done.”
“Got to win. Playoff mindset. Everything is on the line,” Allen said.