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When Called, this Chargers Wideout Has Delivered
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Philip Rivers was without many of his top weapons on Sunday.
Keenan Allen has been out since Nov. 1, when a kidney injury cost him a season in which he’d already accumulated the third most catches (67) through eight weeks in NFL history.
The Chargers were also without Dontrelle Inman and Stevie Johnson after the pair suffered injuries a week prior against the Broncos.
That being said, number 17 still had some of his most clutch options on the field in Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Danny Woodhead against the Chiefs.
Yet it was a player in only his fifth career game that Rivers trusted to come through in some of the game’s most important moments.
The quarterback connected with Herndon twice on third down and once on fourth down during the final drive of the game. All three of those throws resulted in huge conversions. Overall, Herndon posted career-highs in catches (five) and yards (47) in his first ever start.
“He’s done a nice job,” Rivers said. “He’s gotten an opportunity to play as the returner, and stepped up and made some plays in the game at receiver. Credit to him for being ready so that when he got called on, like he has been at this point in the season, he’s been ready to step in there and help us keep going.”
Herndon’s first third down conversion came with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter when he made a diving snare for a 12-yard gain to the Kansas City 41. Early in the second quarter, he ran a smooth route on 3rd-and-4 from the 10 for a big 21 yard gain that helped flip field position. Perhaps most importantly, Herndon caught the first of the Bolts’ three straight fourth down conversions when he hauled in a six-yard slant on a highly contested pass on 4th-and-3 with 1:17 remaining.
“I’m a young guy, but at the end of the day, if you’re open, (Rivers) is going to throw you the ball,” he said. “That tells me, if I’m getting open, he’s going to keep building that trust. He’s a great quarterback and he sees the whole field so if I take care of what I need to do, he’ll throw me a good ball… (Rivers is) an awesome competitor. He’s definitely one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s going to get us in the right spot. He’s going to call the right plays; we just have to capitalize on it.”
It can be tough to find bright spots in a 3-10 season, yet Herndon’s development has been the silver lining to emerge after every single veteran wide receiver has missed games due to injury. A 6-0, 194-pound product out of Arkansas, Herndon spent all of 2014 on the practice squad after joining the team as an undrafted free agent. While he impressed during the preseason, he was one of the team’s final roster cuts and spent the first half of the season on the practice squad once again. The Chargers signed him on Nov. 3 primarily to return kickoffs and punts, but he’s shined at wideout as well. In five games, Herndon has caught 13 passes for 126 yards, averaging 9.7 yards per reception.
“His knowledge of the game has grown,” McCoy said. “Being in the system and playing with Philip, the more reps you get the better you are going to be. He is someone who always made the most of his opportunities whether it was the offseason program or training camp. He’d be out there working extra with other guys like Dontrelle (Inman). All that hard work has paid off. We tell everyone all the time you have to be ready for your opportunity because you never know when you are going to get a second chance. So make the most when you get it.”
While Herndon’s solid play has been a bright spot, he would have traded in all of his individual success for a team win.
“Stats don’t mean anything if it doesn’t come with a win.”