Justin Herbert garnered all the attention when he took the field for the first time in his young NFL career, taking on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Los Angeles Chargers looked good in its home season opener at newly built SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, battling, but ultimately falling to the Chiefs 23-20 in an overtime thriller on Sunday afternoon, despite Herbert filling in for injured Chargers starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor experienced difficulty breathing and was taken to the locker room prior to kickoff for evaluation, where he was later ruled out for the game (chest) and went to the hospital.
“I found out right after the coin toss to be honest with you and so [QB Justin Herbert], he had to go in and play and it might have been good that he had to go in and play, I had been thinking about it all night,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “[Tyrod’s injury] was something that developed late and kind of caught us all off guard.”
#Chargers coach Anthony Lynn on Austin Ekeler and rookie Joshua Kelley- both backs combined for 261 all-purpose yards.
“I thought both guys ran extremely hard today. It’s almost like they’re competing for reps and I like that.”https://t.co/5CAceyXEgo
— Jarred Davis (@Jarreddaviss) September 21, 2020
Thrust into action, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft out of Oregon was 22 of 33 for 311 yards with a touchdown and interception. He led the Chargers on an eight-play, 79 yard drive capped off by his own four-yard touchdown run.
“I was really excited. This is something I’ve waited for my entire life,” Herbert said. “Sure, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I think we made some big plays along the way and I know that we’re going to have a great week of practice and get ready for next week.”
Herbert connected with Jalen Guyton for a 14 yard score in the second to take a 14-6 lead into halftime.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen recorded 95 receiving yards on six catches and passed Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson for No.4 on the team’s all-time receptions list.
Los Angeles running backs Austin Ekeler and rookie UCLA native Joshua Kelley combined for 261 all-purpose yards, controlling the time of possession 39:27 to 28:38 for Kansas City.
“I thought [Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley] ran extremely hard today. It’s almost like they’re competing for reps and I like that. That’s what competition does,” Lynn said. “Our offensive line leaned on those guys very well. They looked tired at times and we just kept running the route. I was pleased with the way those two backs ran.”
Patrick Mahomes finished 27 of 47 for 302 yards and two touchdowns after being held to only 60 passing yards in the first half.
“They have a great defensive front, that’s what they have,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The one thing that our guys did was that they kept bombing right down until the end.”
Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs with five catches for 99 yards, while Travis Kelce had nine receptions for 90 yards, as both players each hauled in a touchdown.
Los Angeles led 17-9 midway through the third quarter, but Herbert was picked off late in the third by L’Jarius Sneed which sparked some momentum for Kansas City going into the fourth.
On the next possession, Mahomes connected with Hill on a 55-yard strike down the field for a score, completing a six play, 95 yard drive, which cut their deficit to 17-15. Still down two, Kansas City went on to convert a two-point conversion to tie the game at 17 all.
“I think we kind of found a rhythm there at the end of the game to where we were able to move the ball and find ways to get the ball down the field and take shots when they were there,” Mahomes said.
The Chargers then used a 10-minute drive to go up 20-17 with Michael Badgley making his second field goal of the day, only before leaving enough time for Harrison Butker to drill one from 30 to force overtime.
In overtime, the Chargers won the toss and elected to receive, but were forced to three plays and out, punting the ball back to the Chiefs.
Mahomes then led the team on a hard fought 13 play drive, setting up Bukter to be the hero after he made the game-winning 23-20 field goal and his second from 58 yards, which tied a Chiefs record for distance.
“I was like, ‘If I can just get it to around the 40, he’s going to make it.’ I have full confidence in that,” said Mahomes. “It’s something that is truly special and gets under looked, but when it comes to times like these, those are the moments that win you football games.”