Below are three takeaways from Sunday's postgame press conferences with Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert, Mike Williams, and Derwin James.
Historic night on fourth down helped propel a fourth quarter comeback
Throughout the season, the Chargers have shown their willingness and confidence to go for it on fourth down. In the season finale, the Bolts showed their magic on fourth down in the biggest game of the season when they needed it most. The Bolts went 6-of-7 on fourth down against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night. Those six conversions were the most by a team in a single game in the last 40 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
On the Chargers' final drive of the fourth quarter, the Bolts converted two fourth downs (with a third essentially converted via a penalty on Vegas) to keep their drive alive and get the ball down to the Raiders 12-yard line. With five seconds left in the game, Justin Herbert threw a bullet to Mike Williams for the touchdown as time expired that forced the game into overtime. After the game, Williams talked about the clutch play.
"That was big," Williams said of Herbert's throw. "No time left, last play of the game, to get a touchdown that was huge for the offense you know, to get into overtime."
As the Chargers' season depended on those fourth down conversions, Herbert and company continued to make plays when it mattered most. Herbert connected with Keenan Allen, who set a franchise record with 106 receptions on the season, and Jalen Guyton as well to get those crucial first downs.
Another receiver that came up clutch was rookie Joshua Palmer, who hauled in a touchdown pass on 4th-and-21 to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.
Herbert talked about what he saw on the play after the game.
"Held my eyes to the left and Josh went up and made a big-time play," Herbert said. "He's the second read in the progression and I'm really thankful that he was there, and he ran a really crisp route and made a big play on it."
Herbert's record-breaking season
Just a week ago, Herbert broke the Chargers franchise record for most touchdowns in a single season with 35 touchdown passes. This week on Sunday Night Football, Herbert put on a performance for the ages throwing for 383 yards and three touchdowns on 34 completions.
On Sunday, Herbert also passed Philip Rivers for most completions in a single season in Chargers history with 443. He also passed Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts for most passing yards in a single season with 5,014.
"Herbert's amazing," Derwin James Jr. said. "He's been amazing all season and I just hate we didn't get it done for him today. I feel like just having a guy like that always gives you a chance and we are fortunate to have him. You see what he did going down the field in the fourth quarter."
Staley talked about how much he wanted to get into the playoffs for players like Herbert, Allen, and center Corey Linsley, who have been staples for this Chargers team all season. Yet despite the loss, Staley knows the Bolts will learn from this.
"He's one of the best players in the NFL," Staley said of Herbert. "…This is just the beginning for us, we are going to have a tremendous offseason together. We are going to learn from this and we are going to grow form this and we are going to come back in a really big way together, but Justin was fantastic tonight, he gave us a chance and as you guys know he's really, really special."
Building a 'foundation for the future'
The Bolts showed all season long how they can turn their offense up when the game hits the final frame. The Chargers' 181 points in the fourth quarter this season were the second-most points scored in the fourth quarter in NFL history.
Down 29-14 in the fourth against the Raiders, the Bolts didn't fold. They continued to apply pressure on the Raiders and scored 15 unanswered points in the final quarter of regulation that would eventually force overtime.
After the game, Staley talked about how this season is just the beginning of what he's building as head coach of the Bolts.
"This team laid it on the line," Staley said. "Tonight was a great example of the way we played all season. The belief that we have for one another, the belief in this place and how we do things. We set a big time foundation for the future, I hate it for this team that we are not in the tournament because I feel like we are good enough."
Herbert talked about why it's an honor to play for this team and how much everyone cares about each other in the locker room.
"It didn't go our way tonight and that's the unfortunate part," Herbert said. "I'm really proud of the way that everyone has battled this year and we never gave up. It's an honor to be a part of this team and to be a part of that locker room because everyone cares a lot and they left everything out there on the field tonight."
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