Anquan Boldin, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Keenan Allen. That’s the list of players who have caught more than 600 passes in their first 100 games. And Allen still has four games to catch Brown’s record of 622 receptions. He needs just 16 catches to pass him, which ironically was the number of passes that he caught against the New York Jets on Sunday. Allen also became the only player in NFL history to have six different games of 13 or more catches. He’s having a career season in 2020 and deserves all the praise in the world.
Ultimately, the Los Angeles Chargers got historic performances from their two best offensive players, and that was simply too much for the Jets to overcome. Justin Herbert passed for 366 yards and three touchdowns, and in doing so became the first rookie in NFL history to pass for three or more touchdowns in five separate games. His last touchdown pass to Allen, which was an absolutely absurd throw, was his 22nd touchdown pass. Herbert needs just six touchdowns to pass Baker Mayfield for most touchdowns ever by a rookie.
It’s unfortunate that it took an injury to Joe Burrow for Herbert to essentially lock up the offensive rookie of the year award because it truly was on pace to be one of the best award races we’ve ever seen. Instead, Burrow’s season will be cut short after tearing his ACL and MCL on Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
Burrow was on pace to break the rookie records for completions, attempts, and yards. Now, all eyes will turn to Herbert who is also on pace for a truly historic rookie season. His current pace could put him over 4,500 passing yards, 400 completions, and 35 passing touchdowns. All three would be records. Add in his rushing output and we could be looking at over 40 total touchdowns from the former Oregon standout.
The wins obviously haven’t stacked up the way anyone would have hoped, but the future of the Chargers franchise is in very good hands with Herbert at the helm.
That being said, let’s get to some key numbers that set the tone for the Chargers 34-28 victory over the winless New York Jets.
Last week, the Chargers foolishly leaned into an inefficient running game against the Dolphins and it cost them the game. When you have a quarterback playing at the level that Herbert is, you have to lean into that approach on early-down situations. Throwing to set up the run is simply a much more effective approach with the way this roster is set up, especially with the offensive line struggling to generate much room for Kalen Ballage and the other backs to work with.
On Sunday against the Jets, the Chargers offensive game plan took a massive switch in the opposite direction on early downs. They had thirty-six first down plays, and TWENTY FOUR of them passed attempts. That is how you let a young player like Herbert be successful. Running the football is important, without a doubt. But the Chargers are simply not good enough at it to employ the kind of offensive approach that they had been prior to yesterday’s matchup.
You don’t have to use the run game to set up down the field passes, either. This week, the Chargers finally leaned into a quick pass approach on the early downs and it paid off. They even got this Herbert bomb on a first down call.
Ex-Duck Justin Herbert connects on a 54-yard pass to Tyron Johnson. Herbert now has a season-leading six completions of 50+ yards.
— SportsPac12 (@SportsPac12) November 22, 2020
If Anthony Lynn wants to keep being the coach of the Chargers, he needs to keep the ball in the hands of his most important player as much as possible, instead of handing the ball off to his fourth starting running back of the season.
The Chargers defense clearly missed Joey Bosa the last two weeks. If not for a bogus roughing the passer penalty, he would have clinched the game when he sacked Joe Flacco and caused a fumble. But Bosa still had a huge impact on this game.
He recorded EIGHT pressures and hit Flacco six times, which was a season-high. Bosa isn’t getting the high sack numbers, he’s still stuck at five, but he now has 45 total pressures (third highest in the league) and 16 QB hits (second highest in the league).
I know I'm not known for hot takes but I have to get this off my chest. Unfollow me if it's too much…
…Joey Bosa is really good at football pic.twitter.com/pOw1VHwFcg
— Tyler Schoon (@tylerjschoon) November 23, 2020
On the opposite side of that spectrum is everyone else on the team, who all together accumulated eight total pressures. With Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers used to have one of the most feared pass rushes in the league. But father time is undefeated and it looks like Ingram’s best ball is officially behind him. He has yet to record a sack this season and has only hit opposing quarterbacks six times. Yes, that is the same amount of times that Bosa hit Flacco yesterday.
Uchenna Nwosu left the game early on in the second quarter yesterday due to a shoulder injury, one that should sideline him for at least three weeks. He’s been the second-best pass rusher on this team behind Bosa and that is a big loss. The Chargers cannot afford to keep giving Ingram the workload that they are. They headed into the season needing to find out what they have in Nwosu, and he played very well while Ingram was out with his own injury.
The defense needs a consistent second pass rusher alongside Bosa. Ingram is declining, Nwosu is now hurt and Jerry Tillery is still highly inconsistent. The lack of a consistent pass rush is a major contributor to why the Chargers keep blowing big leads. Being able to find that second pass rusher will be a key question mark in the offseason.
The Chargers and Casey Hayward have really enjoyed each other’s company the last few years. Hayward was a solid nickel corner for the Green Bay Packers but there were questions about what his worth was for them, so they let him walk. He then signed with the Chargers before the 2016 season, and since then he’s been one of the best and most feared outside corners in the league. He immediately squashed any doubt that he could play on the outside and the Chargers have benefited greatly from his presence. He had a career-high seven interceptions in his first season with the team and has continued his stellar play ever since. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017 and was second-team All-Pro in both of those seasons. He has proven to be one of the best free-agent additions in franchise history.
Unfortunately, he is also experiencing his own decline. He’s battled a few minor injuries so maybe his play has been affected by them. Whatever the reason, he is clearly not the same kind of player he once was. In 16 games last season he only allowed 27 receptions. So far, through 10 games in 2020, he has already allowed TWENTY SIX catches. On Sunday, it had a huge impact on the game as he was picked on by Flacco and company. Once the Jets found the matchup they liked, they went at it time and time again. Hayward was targeted six times, and gave up four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown sparked the Jets almost comeback.
The thing that is most disappointing is that Hayward is mostly in good positions out there. He’s just a half-second too slow sometimes and it’s costing the team. I’m not ready to declare him fully off the cliff, like Ingram is, we are still seeing glimpses of a high-end corner. He played particularly fantastic against the Broncos and Dolphins over the last four games. There’s still some gas left in his tank, but the cracks are starting to show. As sad as it is.
The Chargers are clearly headed towards a transition period on defense, particularly at the two most important positions. How they handle their “LEO” and “Cornerback One” positions in the draft or free agency will set the tone for the 2021 season.
At the end of the day, a win is a win. Chargers fans have to be relieved that there was not a repeat of the 2016 Cleveland Browns loss. It would have been nice to see them put the Jets away earlier and avoid another single score game, but at least the defense held firm and didn’t blow it at the end.
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