Both quarterbacks exhibited relentless drive and the will to get their respective teams into the win column. In the loss, Kirk Cousins finished the game going 32-50, for 367 yards, 3 touchdowns, and the lone interception by Kenneth Murray that sealed the win for the Chargers.
Justin Herbert finished the contest going an impressive 40-47, for 405 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He certainly must have heard the noise this past week about not being clutch enough as he went full Superman and put the Chargers on his back for all four quarters.
Here are my five big takeaways from this gripping Chargers vs Vikings matchup.
Justin Herbert Was Not Leaving Minnesota With An L
Justin Herbert has been a fantastic quarterback since he came into the league in 2020. He quickly became the face of the Chargers franchise and became one of the featured stars of the league as a whole. But with this fame comes a lot of pressure, especially in Los Angeles.
Herbert’s individual success has not necessarily led to team success. It would be unfair, and untrue, to say that he is even a small contributor to the team’s lack of long-term success, but there has been a conversation, including from this writer, as to whether or not Herbert could take moments over when it matters most and seize victory from the jaws of defeat.
When you throw the ball 47 times and have an 85% completion percentage, you prove that you belong in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. When you toss the rock for 405 yards and 3 touchdowns with no turnovers, you demonstrate your ability to carry the team. When you are facing a 3rd and 17 with the game hanging in the balance, and you scramble to the left and heave it across your body into a picture-perfect window for the first down, you prove that you have the killer instinct.
2023 Justin Herbert has arrived.
Tuli Tuipulotu Is A Monster
Tuipulotu has proven to be the Chargers best draft pick of 2023 so far. If you listen to our podcasts or read anything on this network, then you would already know that. He has brought this pass rush back to life and is making the job of Joey Bosa much easier, which is great for the entire defensive line.
Tuipulotu had another sack today, bringing his season total to 3, and he was involved in countless pressures throughout the day. He also finished with 4 tackles.
The Chargers have a special one in this kid, and he is only going to get better as his pass-rush tool belt improves.
4th And Staley Is Back
Like it or love it, it looks like 4th and Staley is back for the 2023 season. People can hate on it all they want, but Staley has said many times that aggressiveness is going to be the identity of the Chargers. They got away from that a little bit last season, but it seems to be back this year.
With 1:50 left in the ball game, up four, facing a 4th and 1 at their own 24 yard line, Staley decided to roll the dice and try to end the game with his offense on the field. The play failed, and the Vikings were given the ball back with only 24 yards to go and plenty of time for a game-winning touchdown.
The gambles never look good when they fail, and they look genius when they succeed. With the way Herbert was playing and how the offense had moved the ball in the previous drive, I like the decision. It helps that it didn’t end up costing them the game.
Where Did The Rushing Game Go
In week one against the Dolphins, the Chargers ran the ball for over 200 yards. Against the Vikings, they finished with 19 total rushing yards from their tail backs. More alarming, in my opinion, is the fact that they only had 13 rushing attempts.
I understand that not having Austin Ekeler available due to injury is a huge blow. He is one of the best backs in the league and is an integral part of this Chargers offense. But this is the same Vikings team that gave up 259 yards rushing to the Eagles the week prior.
When you have a quarterback like Justin Herbert it makes sense to want the ball in his hands as much as possible. But the Chargers need to have a much more balanced attack moving forward. I don’t care who is dressed as the running back, you have to have more than 13 carries.
Defense Closed A Game Out
The Chargers defense still certainly had massive letdowns throughout the game. They still gave up chunk plays and big-play touchdowns. They surrendered 475 total yards and allowed Justin Jefferson to average 21.3 yards per reception. This unit still has a ways to go.
However, when it mattered most, they buckled down and sealed the victory. The Vikings had four opportunities to punch in a touchdown from a goal-to-go situation. The defense stood tough and denied them, giving the ball back to Herbert and the offense.
Then, after the offense failed on the 4th down attempt at the 24 yard line, the defense ended the game with an INT in the end zone, courtesy of Kenneth Murray.
There is still plenty of work for the Chargers to do, but these are the types of games that you can build off of.
Keenan is still very good at football. He finished the game with 18 receptions for 215 yards. Anytime Herbert and the Chargers needed a big play, Allen was there to deliver. It is great to see him back 100% healthy.