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5 Takeaways: Chargers Come Up Just Short Against Lions


The Chargers fell to 4-5 after Sunday's 41-38 home loss to the Lions.

Here are five takeaways from Week 10:

1. Close but no cigar

When the end of the NFL season rolls around, we might look back at the Week 10 shootout between the Chargers and Lions as one of the best games of the year.

The end result just didn't go the Bolts way, however, as Detroit kicked a game-winning field goal at the buzzer.

The Chargers, who now sit at 4-5, have seen four of their five losses come by three points or fewer.

Such is life in the NFL, where the margin between winning and losing feels like a razor's edge each week around the league.

"There's a lot of fight in this team," said Justin Herbert. "Obviously, not the outcome that we would have wanted, but those guys didn't quit.

"Offense, defense, special teams, they gave everything they had for all four quarters, and we fell short," Herbert added. "It wasn't good enough today, but I don't question the effort, the dedication by this team."

Keenan Allen added: "Unfortunately, one of those close games. We just didn't make enough plays to win the game. I thought early on it was going to be a shootout. And it ended up being a shootout. You've got two great offenses. No matter how good a defense is, it's hard to stop a great offense."

Quentin Johnston said: "We're going to look up in a few days and be ready for another game and another situation. I've learned that there are hardly any NFL games that are blowouts."

On a day where the teams combined for more than 950 yards of offense, the end result simply came down to one play here or there.

And while Herbert's first-quarter interception certainly did not decide the outcome, it was the game's lone turnover as the Bolts defense went without a takeaway for the first time since Week 2.

That put an end to 11 straight games the Bolts had played without losing the turnover battle, as it had been the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Bolts will now turn their attention to their fourth and final NFC North foe of the season as the Chargers prep for a Week 11 road game against the Packers.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said postgame that his confidence in the Bolts hasn't wavered despite a single loss on Sunday.

"I know the players that we have on this team, I know the group that I've been coaching for nine games, and it is good enough to beat anybody we play," Staley said. "We've played the very best teams in the NFL and we've been in every single football game — the very best teams in the end of the NFL, and have been down to the wire.

"We're 4-5. We're still a work-in-progress, but we have the right men in that group — offense, defense and special teams," Staley continued. "We're good enough on offense, defense and special teams to beat anybody we play.

"We're going to go back to work. We're going to stay together," Staley added. "We have our season in front of us. We have to get on to Green Bay."

2. Herbert stellar for Bolts

Herbert is just past the halfway point of his fourth NFL season but moved himself into elite company on Sunday.

The Bolts quarterback threw for 323 yards as he passed Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (16,418) for the most passing yards through the first four seasons of a career.

"Always," Allen said of whether he's continually impressed by Herbert. "He never seems to surprise us.

"He balls every time," Allen added. "Puts the offense on his back and puts us in position to win the game."

Herbert's final stat line was incredible once again, completing 27 of 40 passes with four touchdowns.

Week 10 marked Herbert's 25th career game with 300-plus passing yards and his fourth with four touchdown passes.

Herbert made plenty of throws on the run Sunday, including a handful to Johnston.

"Get open, be available," Johnston said of Herbert's creativity. "Any time I see him scramble I just break my route off and like, 'I'm open'.

"Get the ball and just continue to get that trust with him," Johnston added.

Herbert was fantastic Sunday, especially after his early interception.

Herbert was 6 of 11 for 43 yards with the pick on the Chargers first four offensive possessions of the game.

The rest of the way? Herbert went 21 of 29 for 271 yards with four touchdown passes and led the Chargers to touchdown drives on their final six possessions.

"I thought that Justin was fantastic in the game. I thought he gave us a chance," Staley said. "We started off slow in the game, but then we scored on our last five drives of the football game.

"I thought we felt like we could move the football, run our paths. I thought the pace really helped us. He made a couple big plays with his legs," Staley continued. "I think in that those critical down-and-distances, the third downs and the fourth downs, we were really good.

"Every time we got down in the red zone, we scored," Staley added. "It was a good enough offensive performance for us to win today and Justin was at the front of it … just didn't do enough on defense today."

Herbert, of course, lamented a slow start that featured just three points on the Chargers first four possessions. But it didn't take away from his usual greatness.

"I think there are some good things that we can take away from this game, offensively," Herbert said. "I thought we moved the ball well in the second half. Being able to convert and get those third downs and score points in the red zone, I think that's huge.

"We just have to do our best to eliminate turnovers, and that starts with me," Herbert added. "In that first quarter, we have to be better, and I have to be better as a quarterback, but there are definitely things that we could look forward to building off of, as an offense."

3. Chargers WR depth shines

Allen was his usual fantastic self Sunday, finishing with 11 catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

All of this while playing through a shoulder injury that kept him out of the game for a stretch in the second half.

"He's an incredible player. The teammate, the player, he does everything," Herbert said. "He means everything to this offense. To see him battle and fight and go back out there, he leads by example. He's an incredible teammate."

While Allen carried most of the load in the passing game, he was helped by Quentin Johnston and Jalen Guyton, both of whom caught touchdown passes from Herbert.

"In that moment when Keenan got hurt, it was understood. We didn't have to give a big talk to each other. We just kind of look at each other and gave each other that nod," Johnston said of himself and Guyton.

The duo stepped up when Allen was getting checked out and with Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer both on Injured Reserve with knee injuries.

Johnston, who drew three defensive pass interference flags Sunday, was rewarded for his hard work with a 1-yard touchdown catch — the first of his career — early in the fourth quarter.

"It was a relief," Johnston said. "I feel like this year I kind of got off to a slow start so it was a constant battle between me and myself every day.

"Not even anybody we were playing, it was me versus me for a long period," Johnston added. "Just continuing to get better in practice so to have that touchdown in a moment like that was big for me."

Johnston finished with four catches for 34 yards on the day.

"I think that he has stepped up big time in the past couple of weeks," Herbert said. "Whenever you lose a guy like Josh Palmer and Mike Williams, someone is going to have to step up and replace that. Q has done a great job picking up the offense.

"We know how special and how talented he is, it was only a matter of time to get him the ball and something special will happen," Herbert added.

Guyton, meanwhile, had four catches for 41 yards. But his 18-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was a milestone moment as it was his first score since Week 15 of the 2021 season.

"There's really no feeling like being out there with the guys," said Guyton, who tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2022 season. "Put a lot of work in, it was a long time coming and like I said, I can't really describe how it feels to be out there and breaking the huddle after such a long journey of work. It's priceless."

Herbert commended Guyton for his long road back.

"It's awesome. He's battled so much over these past couple of years," Herbert said. "We know how special he is, and an awfully great teammate, too.

"I've really enjoyed being able to play with him and work with him," Herbert added. "It's never easy coming back from an injury like that, but he has done all of the right things. I was really glad to see him score today."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 10 matchup against the Detroit Lions at SoFi Stadium.

4. Defense has rough day

The final Week 10 numbers for the Chargers defense weren't pretty.

The unit allowed 533 yards of offense to the Lions, including exactly 200 on the ground.

Staley, the Bolts defensive playcaller, pinned the disappointing effort on himself postgame.

"I didn't do a good enough job on defense for us today," Staley said. "That was the story, run and pass.

"Didn't do a good job in the run game in the first half," Staley added. "Then, in the second half, there were far too many [explosive plays]. I didn't do enough job for us today."

The Bolts were hurt by both facets in each half.

Detroit ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the first half but managed just 23 yards in the second half.

The Lions, meanwhile, threw for 130 first-half yards before that total jumped to 203 after halftime.

Detroit averaged 8.3 yards per play and tallied eight plays that went for 20 yards or more.

None were as damaging as the 75-yard touchdown run allowed by the Chargers late in the second quarter.

Herbert had just hit Allen for a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 17-10. But the Chargers ensuing defensive series lasted just one play as David Montgomery broke free for a long touchdown run.

Just didn't do a good job against the run game in the first half," Staley said. "The long run — the 75-yard run — [poor] leverage, missed tackles. You give up a play like that, it takes a lot of air out of you.

"The story of the first half was the run game. Then, I thought that we did some good things in the second half," Staley added. "But, ultimately, not good enough for us to get the stops when we needed to. It just wasn't a good day for us."

A handful of Chargers defenders said the onus was more on what the Bolts did wrong rather than what the Lions did well.

"It wasn't nothing they were doing. I feel like we just didn't make our plays on our end," Khalil Mack said. "Got to look at the film and get it corrected."

Derwin James, Jr. added: "They had a good game plan today. They had screens, they had play action, they had everything. But we got to better on defense, I mean 38 points is enough to win any game and we wasn't good enough today."

5. Lots of 4th-down calls

You were spot on if it seemed like there were a ton of fourth-down plays Sunday.

The Chargers and Lions combined to run nine total plays in Week 10, with eight total conversions between the two teams.

"I played against Detroit a long time and I know they just go for it. That's their M.O.," linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

The Bolts, of course, are also aggressive on that down under Staley.

Detroit had the game's first four plays on that down, converting fourth-and-5 and fourth-and-1 on the ground in the first quarter.

The Chargers defense then had mixed results on a pair of fourth-and-goal plays at the 1.

The unit first forced Jared Goff into an incompletion for a turnover on downs early in the second quarter but saw Jahmyr Gibbs score from a yard out midway through the stanza as Detroit took a 17-3 lead.

But back came the Bolts, who promptly had the next four plays in the game on fourth down.

Austin Ekeler matched Gibbs with a rushing score of his own on fourth-and-1 inside the 5 just before halftime.

Johnston then drew a defensive pass interference call in the end zone early in the fourth quarter that gave the Bolts a fresh of downs, with the first-round rookie taking advantage a few plays later with his touchdown catch.

Allen then had a magnificent play on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 38 when he had a catch-and-run for a touchdown with less than four minutes to go in the game.

"Those fourth downs were big in the game. That's how they play," Staley said. "They're a good run team, so in that fourth down and 1-to-1, the playbooks open.

"I thought we did a good job down there on the goal line," Staley added. "There were just a couple of ones where you're just close. It just wasn't good enough today."

That included the ninth and final play of the game on fourth down, which came with 1 minute and 47 seconds left.

Detroit had fourth-and-2 on the Chargers 26. A stop meant the Chargers had plenty of time for a potential game-winning field goal, while a conversion meant the Lions were in a spot to seal the seal.

Detroit converted, getting a 6-yard pass down to the 20-yard line. The clock then ticked away before the Lions hit a 40-yard field goal at the buzzer.

"As a defense, I like it when a team goes for it on fourth down," James said. "I feel like it gives us a chance to get off the field.

"Two, three or four of those times we didn't get off the field and execute, especially the one at the end on fourth down," James added. "We just got to be better."

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