Chargers Outlast The Raiders: By The Numbers

Week 14
Los Angeles Chargers Tight End Hunter Henry. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network

The Los Angeles Chargers outlasted the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football and earned their second win in a row – for the first time this season. I’ll get to some of the key statistics from the game in a minute, but I would like to start this article by talking about Justin Herbert. Because he is the singular most important story from this Chargers season, but especially this particular game.

The narrative about Herbert leading up to the draft was that he was an uberly talented and physically gifted quarterback, but people weren’t sure that he could lead a locker room of grown men in the NFL. What people never realized is that he was living his childhood dream of playing quarterback for his hometown Oregon Ducks. He gave everything he possibly could to that University, and he rewarded them with a Rose Bowl victory as a senior. Sure he wasn’t the most rambunctious player, who didn’t beat his chest or yell in opponents’ faces after making a great play. But his teammates loved him, his coaches loved him, and the entire town of Eugune loved him.

At Rose Bowl media day, his former left tackle – the 2019 Outland Trophy Winner and future first-round draft pick – Penei Sewell said that he would do anything for Herbert. He called him his brother and said that their team believed in their quarterback with their whole hearts. I had the pleasure of interviewing Pac-12 analyst, Yogi Roth, last February and I asked him about Herbert and that narrative surrounding him. Roth has been covering the Pac-12 for quite some time now, and obviously has his finger on the pulse of the conference better than anyone. He told me that the narrative surrounding his leadership was generic and lazy: “They have an award in the Pac-12 for the best offensive and defensive player, as voted on by the player. Justin Herbert would have been voted for it, just like Christian McCaffrey would have, just like Marcus (Mariota) would have. He’s in that kind of conversation in terms of the respect that he earned around the conference by his peers.” If he was able to earn the respect of his teammates and peers like that, why did anyone ever doubt his ability as a leader?

(You can listen to my full interview with Yogi here, starting around the 40-minute mark.)

I bring all this up because last night was all about Herbert’s ability as a leader. Yes, all the throws and the way he played was amazing. But it’s the WAY he went about it. Other rookie quarterbacks would have gone into that situation, essentially playing without their two best receivers, and struggled. He took two former undrafted free agents, and a seventh-round draft pick, and balled out on primetime television with the whole country watching. He easily could have beaten his chest, and bragged about what he just did, especially after he tied Baker Mayfield for most touchdown passes ever. Instead, he gave all the credit in the world to Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, K.J. Hill, and his offensive line.

Herbert might not trash talk like Philip Rivers, or yell at the crowd like Tom Brady, or embody swagger like Aaron Rodgers, but make no mistake about it: he IS a leader of men on the field. All you have to do is watch the way his teammates rally around him.

“I’m proud to be a Charger.”

Think about what those words uttered by Herbert last night truly mean for this Los Angeles Chargers franchise. Herbert has fully arrived, both as a player and as a leader.

With that being said, let’s get to some key numbers from this game.

Chargers Outlast The Raiders: By The Numbers

Two point nine

The last time these two teams squared off, the Raiders demoralized the Chargers in the running game. Even without Trent Brown and Kolton Miller. They really struggled to set the edge, and both Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker gashed them all day long. Each of those two rushed for over 60 yards, and as a team, they averaged over six yards a carry. 

Fast forward to last night, and they did a much better job containing Jacobs, in particular. Jacobs ended up with 76 yards and a touchdown, but the way it happened showed improvement for the Chargers defense. With his 26 carries, he averaged just TWO POINT NINE yards per carry, which was even more inflated by the two big runs he had in overtime.

That is a drastic improvement from the first game, and the defense should be commended for their efforts. Especially considering Joey Bosa was so limited, and Uchenna Nwosu left the game in the third quarter. Justin Jones, and the Chargers’ Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate, Isaac Rochell, each played fantastic against the run in this game. (Go vote for Rochell to win!)

Now, of course, Marcus Mariota gave them fits with his legs. But the Chargers defense prepared for a Derek Carr-led offense on a short week. Mariota burning the Chargers with his legs was extremely predictable.

One hundred and ninety-one

I mentioned them earlier, but Guyton, Johnson, and Hill deserve a ton of praise for their efforts on Thursday. After the game Guyton and Herbert both pointed to their time leading the second-team offense in training camp as a key factor in their chemistry up until this point.

Guyton has been a consistent third option for Herbert for most of the season but led the team in receiving last night. Johnson has really stepped up his game over the last few weeks while Mike Williams has been hobbled. The two of them are usually the fastest players on the field on any given week, but both have improved tremendously as route runners over the course of the season.

Take Johnson’s game-winning play last week, and his touchdown this week as key examples of that. You can look at Guyton’s 53-yard catch in overtime – when he shook the cornerback out of his shoes, and see his growth as well.

Hill had some struggles with drops in his first real appearance way back in week three against the Carolina Panthers, and he had that muffed punt later on in the season, but he made some really key plays over the last two weeks as well. If given a larger role in the future, he could be a solid contributor for this team.

In total, the three young receivers combined for ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-ONE yards, and Johnson added another score. The Chargers needed them to step up, and they did that in spades. 


When the Chargers drafted Hunter Henry in 2016, he was drafted as the heir apparent to Antonio Gates. Lofty expectations for any player, given what Gates means to this franchise, and the tight position overall. Henry has been highly productive when he’s been healthy. But that’s been the biggest challenge for the former Arkansas standout. He’s struggled with a bunch of injuries over the course of his first four seasons and logically was given a “prove it” deal of sorts this past offseason. He needed to prove to the Chargers, and frankly to himself, that he could stay healthy for a whole season AND be a productive player. Especially with the market for top-tier tight ends going up, he had to play a full season before the Chargers could invest long-term money in him. 

Thankfully, he has done that so far this season. He’s been rewarded with very good production as well, and last night he set a new season career-high in receptions with SIXTY. His yards per reception is a little down this year, but that’s mostly because the Chargers are almost exclusively using him over the middle this season as Herbert’s quick read target. But he’s been a rock of consistency for the rookie quarterback and if he keeps up his current pace, he’ll pass 700 yards receiving for the first time in his career. With the way he’s stayed healthy, produced at a high level, and performed as a blocker, he has more than earned a long term extension with the Chargers. Losing him could be detrimental to Herbert’s development.