The LA Chargers' season ended on Sunday Night Football in what was the game of the year in the last game of the year. Justin Herbert and the Chargers battled back from a 15-point deficit with less than five minutes to play only to lose to the Las Vegas Raiders in the final seconds of overtime on a Daniel Carlson field goal.
This game took Charger fans on a rollercoaster of emotions. For most of the game, those emotions were frustration as the Chargers made several unacceptable mistakes that gifted the Raiders points. The Chargers were trailing by 15 because they put themselves in that position. It was that simple.
However, then the team started to battle back and it looked like it had all the makings of being a Cinderella. The true Hollywood ending of the two teams tying to both make the playoffs was actually on the table... that is, until the Raiders gashed the ball up the middle of the Chargers defense to give Carlson a manageable field goal attempt.
While the main emotion for Charger fans right now is heartbreak, there is only one take that I can muster together to put into an article.
Justin Herbert deserves better from the LA Chargers.
I mean, Justin Herbert is absolutely incredible. The only reason why the team came back from the 15-point deficit was because of his play as he was the only one that didn't do anything to hurt the team. Sure, he threw a pick to Casey Hayward, but with everything else he did, it is hard to point that out.
Herbert delivered one of the throws of the year on fourth and 23 down 15 points to score the first touchdown of the come back. It was safe then to assume that would be the best play of the game but it wasn't. With five seconds remaining, Herbert found Mike Williams to send the game to overtime.
Then, after the Raiders kicked a field goal on the initial drive of overtime, Herbert again found Mike Williams on fourth down to extend the Chargers' drive and put them in field goal range. They were not able to pick up another first down but most quarterbacks would have crumbled in all the situations that Herbert was put in. He succeeded time and time again.
The only fourth down the Chargers did not convert was the questionable call by Brandon Staley to go for it within the Chargers' own 20 and the reason why they didn't convert is that they didn't put the ball in Herbert's hands. That is the first thing that needs to be better: coaching.
Brandon Staley is a massive improvement over Anthony Lynn and anyone calling for Staley to be fired after one season is, quite simply, overreacting. Has he been perfect? Far from it. He is a first-year head coach that changed the culture of this franchise with a roster that is seriously lacking depth. If you want to fire Staley after one year then the reality is that no coach will please you.
The most inexcusable thing Staley did in this game was play Kenneth Murray as much as he did. Murray was used as the team's dime linebacker and he was exposed time and time again... as he has been all season. Who knows what the logic behind that is.
Murray highlighted the depth issues on the team, though. He and Chris Harris were consistently targeted on defense. When they weren't being targeted, the Raiders would just pound the ball down the Chargers' throats.
There are two running plays that really standout. Allowing the Raiders to get a first down on third and 23 on an inside draw is inexcusable. That was made worse by the team allowing Josh Jacobs to run the ball for 12 yards to pick up the first down and give the Raiders the field goal attempt. The Chargers literally called timeout to defend the run and allowed 12 yards. It is ridiculous.
And if it wasn't the run defense it was the special teams. Andre Roberts had a horrible fumble on a punt that gave the Raiders seven free points and Dustin Hopkins missed a field goal to leave three points off the board.
If it wasn't the special teams it was bad penalties. Some were bad calls, some were just bad execution by the Chargers. The worst was the defensive pass interference call on Harris. Yes, that call was wishy-washy, but there was no reason for Harris to even be contacted Jones in the way that he did.
It was just ugly. The only reason the LA Chargers had a chance to win this game was Justin Herbert. In the loss, Herbert officially became the first Charger to reach 5,000 passing yards. He set the franchise record for passing yards, receptions and touchdowns (which he set last week).
Justin Herbert is the real deal, he just needs more help. The depth needs addressing and the coaching staff has to improve as it heads into year two together. If not, the team will never be able to capitalize on the title window of Herbert's rookie contract.