INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)On the second snap of the second quarter, Dallas defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence swatted Justin Herbert’s throw out of the air. The ball went straight back to Herbert, who alertly caught his own pass and ran 10 yards with it.
At several later moments when the Chargers (2-3) needed Herbert to make another exceptional play in their tight Monday night game, the Los Angeles quarterback regretted that he repeatedly dropped the ball.
Although his teammates rallied behind him afterward, Herbert realized he had been outplayed by Dak Prescott in the Cowboys’ 20-17 victory.
“I think we can do a lot better on offense, and especially at quarterback,” Herbert said. “I can play a lot better.”
The Chargers’ $262.5 million QB will remember the yards he didn’t gain and the throws that barely missed while Los Angeles fell back below .500 with yet another hard-luck loss.
In each of their three losses by a combined eight points this season, the Bolts had the ball and a chance to make a long drive in less than 2 1/2 minutes to win it. Herbert and his offense were unable to do it against Miami, Tennessee and now Dallas.
Herbert didn’t exactly play poorly while going 22 of 37 for 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys. But he also didn’t make enough difference-making plays to separate two talent-laden rosters that couldn’t pull away from each other in a penalty-plagued contest.
Two plays in particular stood out to Herbert – and both involved Keenan Allen, his most dependable target throughout their four years together. Allen had seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, but could have maybe doubled that yardage if Herbert hadn’t missed him.
The one Herbert will regret most is an overthrow with 11:19 to play after Allen made a double move so nasty that Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland fell down and somersaulted off the field after biting on the fake.
“Keenan ran two great routes, and I missed him,” Herbert said. “So that’s on me as a quarterback. When we have those explosive opportunities, we have to capitalize on those. That’s a really good defense we’re going up against, and I can’t miss those like that and expect to continue to … get back on track.”
Everybody in the Chargers’ locker room acknowledged Herbert didn’t have ideal support. The offensive line struggled to keep Dallas’ voracious defensive front from applying pressure, and Los Angeles was unable to establish its running game to prevent the Cowboys from teeing off on passing downs.
The Bolts managed a measly 33 yards on 17 runs, with Austin Ekeler getting only 27 on 14 carries. Herbert added 20 more yards of his own on the ground – along with his 10 yards receiving, of course.
Although the Cowboys sacked Herbert just once, they got pressure on 47.6% of his dropbacks, according to NFL Research. That’s the highest rate of the year against the Chargers star, and Herbert acknowledged the rush might have affected him even on throws when it didn’t get home.
“Even if I was (rushed), that’s on me to be able to calm my feet down, stay in the pocket and deliver that strike,” Herbert said. “That’s on me to stay in there and deliver.”
The Chargers also aren’t getting first-round pick Quentin Johnston involved on offense, even in the injury absence of Mike Williams. Johnston was targeted only once in Los Angeles’ first 60 plays – and when Herbert finally tried to get the ball to Johnston again, Stephon Gilmore made a diving interception of Herbert’s final throw.
Herbert is playing with is playing with a broken finger on his non-throwing left hand, but he said the heavily padded finger didn’t even cross his mind while playing.
The Chargers still firmly believe in their franchise quarterback, but they realize they’ve got to provide more support at key moments to allow him to be his best.
“He missed Keenan on the double move, but that’s just part of ball,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “He definitely gave us a chance to win the game. He competed, and we were right there at the end.”
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