Justin Herbert was six seconds and four yards from completing a legacy drive Sunday. He came away with a loss instead.
The Chargers fell to the Las Vegas Raiders, 31-26, in heartbreaking fashion Sunday at SoFi Stadium, with two straight goal line fade attempts falling incomplete, first by real-time ruling, and finally, by a replay review that overturned what would have been the game-winning touchdown. Facing first and goal with the game on the line, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen dialed up two all-or-nothing attempts that ended in incompletions intended for Mike Williams and Donald Parham, handing the Chargers another heartbreaking loss in a season filled with them.
“We had two shots to win the game, I felt really good about the shots,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said afterward. “Like I said, we didn’t execute.”
The failure to execute came down to two simple outcomes: The pass intended for Williams was in his grasp as he landed, but he didn’t complete the catch, with Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson knocking the ball out of Williams’ hands. The latter attempt to Parham again targeted Johnson in one-on-one coverage, but Parham lost control of the ball as he came down to the ground. Replay showed the ball hitting the turf after Parham had already lost control of it, resulting in the overturned touchdown.
“I don’t know if it’s the right call or not,” Lynn said of the ruling. “Certainly, I didn’t like it.”
The attempts came at the end of a 15-play drive that covered 81 yards in 4:37, with Herbert expertly leading the Chargers (2-6) down the field at the end of a quarter in which he completed 14 of 18 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. With the ball in Herbert’s hands and the game on the line, the rookie got them within striking distance of a victory before falling short.
“There was no doubt in my mind we were going to go down and score,” Lynn said. “Justin’s a playmaker and he doesn’t flinch.”
Herbert didn’t complete the touchdown pass that mattered the most, though, resulting in Los Angeles’ sixth loss — of which all have come by a single possession.
It’s a tale that is painfully familiar to Chargers fans, who saw their team fall in the majority of their losses by a single possession in 2019, too.
“I thought they never gave up. I thought they kept fighting the whole game,” Lynn said of Sunday’s loss. “They put themselves in position to win the game there in the end, they did not get that done. I’m sick about that right now.”
Defeat undoubtedly tests the patience and resolve of a team, and at this point, it’s fair to wonder just how much the Chargers have left in them. Lynn described the half-dozen one-score losses as six kicks “in the gut,” which he said is “six times too many for me.”
With half of a season left and an incredibly promising quarterback to rally around, we shouldn’t expect these Chargers to fold. But as Lynn’s body language displayed Sunday — when the replay ruling was announced, Lynn grimaced as he clutched the sides of his head with both hands — this defeat will sting just as much as the last five, if not more.
“I told the guys just keep competing,” Lynn said. “They did what I asked them to do. They competed for four quarters. I thought they were resilient and I thought they bounced back. I thought they played for one another. I do know if you continue to do that, at some point good things will happen.”