The Bolts secured their first win of the season in Washington on Sunday in dramatic fashion. The Chargers got off to an early lead with an opening-drive score but it would take a heroic fourth quarter touchdown from Justin Herbert to Mike Williams to hold off Washington and start the season 1-0.
Chargers pull off the fourth quarter comeback on the road
Sunday's 20-16 Chargers victory over the Washington Football Team proved to be a battle from the very beginning as Washington was able to chip away at the Chargers' early lead. Eventually, Washington would take the lead in the third quarter but the Bolts stood strong and pulled off the close win. Head coach Brandon Staley talked about how his team was able to finish the game.
"I just felt like we were a fourth quarter team," Staley said. "Our big goal during training camp was to become a team of teams, where it's not a collection of pieces. You know, so often people talk about what type of pieces you have, and you have all this talent, and you have all these players, when are they going to talk about you as a team? And so that was a big mission statement during camp, it was to become a team. And that's the way we won this game today, we won this game in all three phases of the game."
The poise of quarterback Justin Herbert was on display on the final drive in the fourth. He hit three different receivers for four third down conversions, three of which went for over 15 yards each.
Veteran receiver Keenan Allen, who finished the day with 100 yards receiving, was a big reason the Bolts were able to close out the game late. The talented route runner came up clutch multiple times on the final drive. Allen made a 17-yard grab on a 3rd-and-16 to move the chains with 5:29 left, and closed out the game on a nine-yard reception, once again on third down.
"In that huddle on the last drive we were telling each other, 'Hey we gotta make all the plays that we need to make to do whatever we need to do so we can go back home happy,'" Allen said. "That's what it's gonna come down to and you know [quarterback Justin] Herbert's put in all the work in, in the offseason, you know comradery with the teammates, so we all feel great with each other."
Following the game, Herbert talked about what the win meant for the Bolts as a whole.
"For us to go on the road and for us to answer some questions on the road, I think that's big for us," he said. "Because our record wasn't great on the road last year and it's a huge step up first game of the year to be able to go on the road and come away with a win because they're never easy in the NFL."
Mike Williams with the game-winning TD
But prior to that final drive, the fourth quarter was not without dramatics.
In a crazy sequence of events, with just over 12 minutes left in the game, the Chargers went from a Herbert interception at the Washington four-yard line to a Football Team turnover, after Bolts linebacker Kyzir White forced Washington running back, Antonio Gibson to fumble on the very next play. Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray recovered the ball and put the Chargers back inside the five-yard line.
Down three points, the Chargers drew up a play that stacked four Bolts receivers on the right side of the field. With Washington's focus on the that side, Williams was left one-on-one to do what he does best, go up and make a catch. Williams' touchdown put the Bolts up 20-16, setting his team up for the victory.
Staley explained that when throwing a fade in the end zone, it's all about the matchup.
"You guys know analytically, statistics they say red-zone fades are low percentage," he said. "But what they don't tell you is when you throw them to the right people with the right matchup, they're a real high percentage. When you throw it to Mike Williams, that's a different statistical movie and you can just see the value there."
Staley was pleased with the big play from Williams and how well the ball was spread throughout the offense.
Williams finished the game with eight receptions for 82 yards and the late touchdown. His performance is something Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi alluded to earlier in the offseason.
"I see a big role for him," Lombardi said of Williams. "If I were a betting man, I'd bet on nice numbers coming from him on the stat sheet, that's for sure."
Herbert also commented on what a unique talent Williams is on the field.
"I think he's an incredible receiver," he said. "He's one of those guys that goes up and 50/50 balls are more like 75/25. He showed up today and he's a trustworthy guy, especially when you get Jared Cook, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton going, it's a lot of options for us."
The Bolts now look to improve to 2-0 next Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in their home opener at SoFi Stadium.
Odds & Ends
- The Chargers outgained Washington 424 to 259 total yards. They had a 334 to 133-yard advantage through the air while Washington had the 126 to 90-yard edge on the ground.
- OLB Joey Bosa's strip-sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first quarter puts him 1.5 sacks away from being the fourth Charger to post 50 sacks with the team.
- In the fourth quarter, LB Kyzir White forced the first fumble of his career, which was deep in Washington territory.
- Sunday was center Corey Linsley's 100th start of his career. He has started every game he's played in.
- In his return to action for the first time since 2019, safety Derwin James notched seven total tackles on the day, the second-most for the Bolts. He also had a pass defensed.
Browse through live action photos of the Bolts season Week 1 matchup against the Washington Fooball Team in Landover, Maryland.
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