In a heart-pounding Monday night matchup, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert found himself in a familiar position – trailing by just three points with just over two minutes remaining on the clock. Herbert’s knack for close games has become a defining aspect of his young NFL career. Since entering the league in 2020, he has participated in 38 one-score games, the second-highest in the league during that period. However, the outcome of these contests has been less than ideal for the Chargers, with Herbert boasting an 18-20 record, four more losses than any other quarterback.
Monday night’s clash against the Dallas Cowboys added another loss to Herbert’s tally. With the Cowboys’ relentless pass rush pressuring Herbert, he made an ill-fated throw that landed in the hands of defensive back Stephon Gilmore, sealing the game for the Cowboys, who secured a 20-17 victory. This defeat dropped the Chargers to a 2-3 record and placed them in the third spot in the AFC West.
Despite acknowledging the efforts of his teammates, Herbert expressed his disappointment, saying, “I feel horrible for the guys for the way that the game went, but we’ll have to be better and learn from it.”
This marked the second consecutive game in which Herbert struggled, raising questions about his consistency as one of the NFL’s top-tier quarterbacks. In their previous game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Herbert set career lows in completions (13) and yards (167) and even threw an interception before fracturing his left middle finger.
In the Cowboys game, Herbert’s stats improved, with 227 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. However, he made costly errors, particularly in two missed opportunities with wide receiver Keenan Allen.
The first instance occurred in the second quarter when Allen beat Cowboys defender DaRon Bland down the sideline, but Herbert’s throw sailed out of bounds, leading to a Chargers punt. Another missed connection happened in the first quarter, where Allen’s exceptional route left him wide open, but Herbert’s pass once again failed to find the mark.
Herbert admitted, “I can’t miss throws like that, and expect to continue to get back on track.”
Chargers coach Brandon Staley acknowledged Herbert’s role in keeping them competitive, even though he missed some crucial throws.
However, Herbert’s struggles were not solely his own doing; the Cowboys’ dominant defensive line played a significant role. Herbert found himself under pressure throughout the game, as the Cowboys’ pass rush relentlessly breached the Chargers’ offensive line. Next Gen Stats revealed that the Cowboys generated pressure on 47.6% of Herbert’s dropbacks, the highest rate of pressure he has faced this season.
Herbert is now preparing for a crucial matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have the NFL’s lowest percentage of quarterback pressures, generating just 29.2% of pressures on dropbacks, but they are still sixth in the league with 17 sacks. If the Chargers fail to find a solution for the Chiefs’ defensive line, they could be in a similarly challenging position in the next game.
As Herbert put it, “It’s on us as an offense” to improve their performance and capitalize on opportunities to secure victories, especially with a strong defense supporting them.