Under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football, Justin Herbert mounted a gritty performance, continuing to battle under the toughest of circumstances.
While the Chargers fell to the Chiefs 27-24 at GEHA Field, it wasn't for a lack of toughness from Herbert's late-game efforts.
On 3rd and 2 from the Chargers' 34-yard line with 5:09 left in regulation, Herbert completed a 12-yard pass to Gerald Everett, but was injured on the play when Mike Danna delivered a hit to his midsection.
Herbert was slow to get up before making his way to the sideline, grabbing his abdomen. He missed one play as backup quarterback Chase Daniel came in and handed the ball to Sony Michel for a 4-yard run, before Herbert returned.
Ultimately, the drive stalled after Herbert's next two passing attempts were incomplete, which led to the Chargers punting. The Chiefs added a field goal on the ensuring drive, extending their lead to 10.
With 3:16 left, it became a two-score game, looking as if Herbert's night could be done. However, he trotted back out there – still looking to be in clear pain – and gutted it out.
After Herbert's first two passing attempts didn't look like his true self, grimacing as he made throws, he responded by delivering a strike across the middle of the field to DeAndre Carter for a 35-yard gain, setting the Chargers up at the 8-yard line before Joshua Palmer scored a touchdown to make it a three-point game with 1:11 remaining.
“That throw was as good of a throw under the circumstances as you’re going to see in pro sports," Chargers coach Brandon Staley said after the game of Herbert' deep shot late in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers couldn’t secure the onside kick attempt and time ran out, receiving their first loss of the season as they moved to a 1-1 record.
Despite losing to the division rival Chiefs, Herbert's strength to remain in the game in the process of overcoming injury, meant a lot to his coaches and teammates.
"There's nobody that can do what he can do. Nobody," Staley said of Herbert. "He showed a lot of guts. He showed us what he shows every day, that we're never out of the fight. And he brought us back and gave us a chance."
Mike Williams, who finished the game as the Chargers' leading receiver, catching eight passes for 110 yards and one touchdown, showed admiration for his quarterback following the team's loss.
"That's just the mindset and toughness that he has," Williams said of Herbert. "To be going through whatever he was going through, and to stand in there and make plays, that's the quarterback that leads us and that's what we like."
Herbert didn't speak with reporters after the game as he underwent tests to his ribs. Staley said that Herbert is "ok" and doesn’t think it will be an issue moving forward. He also added that they'll know more tomorrow following the results from the tests.
Also factoring into the Chargers loss was questionable offensive play-calling in the second half and opportunities to intercept Patrick Mahomes, but not being able to capitalize. The Chargers had two dropped interceptions, and a pick by Asante Samuel Jr. get overturned after the officials said the ball hit the ground.
"Asante's was close and that's subjective, but he needs to finish that play, he's capable of it," Staley said. "But I like the way our guys competed. When you get chances against that team, you got to make sure that you capitalize and we had some opportunities tonight, and we didn't finish."
In what looked to be an incorrect overturned call by the officials after looking at the replays on the Amazon broadcast, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson answered questions via a pool report.
“What we saw was that the ball did hit the ground and that he had not secured and maintained control of the ball after it hit the ground," Anderson said of Samuel's interception. "We saw movement of the ball after it hit the ground, and then the ground ended up helping him re-secure it.”
After the officials reversed the call, the Chiefs scored a touchdown when Mahomes hit Justin Watson for a 41-yard score, marking the possible missed call a 7-point swing.
Certainly, there's factors in which the Chargers could’ve taken matters into their own hands. Herbert threw a pick-six from inside the 5-yard line, the running game never got into a rhythm and the offensive line allowed two sacks – both from Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones.
The Chargers had center Corey Linsley sidelined with a knee injury and right tackle Trey Pipkins leave the game with an ankle injury. Will Clapp took over at center and Storm Norton came in at right tackle, but it was clear, Herbert didn't have much protection as the Chiefs recorded eight quarterback hits.
"We had a lot of guys rise to the occasion that were backup players today and give us a chance," Staley said. "I'm proud of the way we competed as a team."
The Chargers will have 10 days until they host the Jaguars at SoFi Stadium in Week 3.
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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.