INGLEWOOD, Calif (AP) — With their $252.5 million quarterback wearing a splint on his non-throwing hand and down three starters on defense, the Los Angeles Chargers found a way to gut out their second straight win.
The Chargers had a 17-point halftime lead, but needed a late stop on defense and a clutch throw from Justin Herbert in the final three minutes to pull out a 24-17 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
“It was a really tough performance with a bunch of guys out,” coach Brandon Staley said. "Our guys had their best at the end.”
Khalil Mack set a franchise single-game record with six sacks and Herbert accounted for three touchdowns in the first half.
Herbert got the middle finger in his left hand caught in the helmet of a Raiders player after being intercepted by Tre'von Moehrig. He wore a split on the hand during the fourth quarter.
“You guys saw Justin’s toughness today, not that we needed to show anybody how tough he is. He’s a clutch player," Staley said.
Herbert — who didn't speak to reporters until an hour after the game was over — stole a line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and called the injury a flesh wound, but added that there will be further tests Monday to assess its severity.
The good news for Herbert and the Chargers (2-2) is they have a bye next week.
“There’s never really a question. It was just getting fixed up and going back out there,” he said. “The pain level is not bad. It’s just one of those things that we have to monitor and see where it goes.”
It wasn't the only time Herbert was roughed up. He took a late hit from Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery on the sideline after a 3-yard scramble during the second quarter. Tillery, a Chargers first-round pick in 2019, was ejected.
Herbert had career lows in completions (13), attempts (24) and yardage (167) — but those totals included a big throw in the fourth quarter. He hit Joshua Palmer for 51 yards up the left sideline on third-and-10 from the Chargers 11 to ice the game.
“I thought it was great play by Josh. We trust him in those situations,” Herbert said. “It was third-and-long. It felt like we were protected up front and wanted to take a shot.”
Palmer, who moved into the starting lineup with Mike Williams out for the season with a knee injury, said he had no problems with Staley continuing to be aggressive late in the game.
“I wasn’t fazed and I’m sure Justin wasn’t fazed at all,” Palmer said.
Mack became the sixth player to have at least six sacks in a game since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. The record is seven, by Kansas City's Derrick Thomas in 1990.
“We just had time to get there,” Mack said. “It's sacks but at the same time it is a team effort. It's a lot of luck that goes into it.”
The Chargers were missing safeties Derwin James Jr. and Alohi Gilman and linebacker Joey Bosa.
Los Angeles scored on four of its first five drives to build a 24-7 lead before the Raiders rallied in the second half to make it close.
Las Vegas was driving for the tying touchdown when Asante Samuel Jr. picked off Aidan O'Connell's pass at the Chargers 2-yard line with 2:33 remaining.
O'Connell, who got the start with Jimmy Garoppolo in the concussion protocol, completed 24 of 38 passes for 238 yards and an interception. Josh Jacobs had 139 scrimmage yards, including 81 receiving, and a touchdown.
“They played man coverage and combo’d it, and right as I let it go I knew it was a bad decision," O'Connell said. "It was a look I saw in practice, and coach did a good job of preparing me. I just got to do a better job of executing.”
Herbert's 12-yard keeper to complete the game's opening drive made him the fifth player in NFL history to have at least 100 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores in the first four seasons of a career.
A pair of fumbles by O'Connell led to Los Angeles' second-quarter touchdowns. The Chargers extended their lead to 17-7 when Herbert connected with Keenan Allen for a 7-yard TD. The Chargers had taken over on the Raiders 36 after Chris Rumph recovered O'Connell's fumble.
Six plays after Mack's strip-sack and Austin Johnson's recovery at the Raiders 35, Herbert put it over the goal line on fourth down from the 1 to make it 24-7.
Daniel Carlson's 22-yard field goal got Las Vegas within two touchdowns late in the third quarter. Jacobs went up the middle on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 3:59 remaining to get the Raiders within 24-17.
“We put ourselves in a hole here and I thought our team fought hard and fought back, but we’re gonna have to clean up some of the things that we’re doing to put us in those situations so we don’t have to feverishly scramble back at the end," Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
Raiders: WR Davante Adams left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, but returned at the start of the second half. ... CB David Long Jr. suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter.
Chargers: TE Donald Parham injured his wrist in the second quarter and did not return.
Raiders: Host Green Bay on Monday, Oct. 9.
Chargers: Have their bye week before hosting Dallas on Monday, Oct. 16.
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