Below are three takeaways from podium sessions after a Chargers 24-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders:
Herbert starts off 2022 with a 3-TD showing
A season ago, quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a franchise-record 38 touchdown passes during his sophomore season. In Sunday's win against the Las Vegas Raiders, Herbert picked up right where he left off by throwing for three touchdowns and 279 yards to kick off his third NFL season.
Herbert spread the ball across the offense Sunday afternoon by completing passes to nine different players (targeting 11 players in all) for 26 total completions. All three of Herbert's touchdowns went to new additions on offense, starting with rookie fullback Zander Horvath to tight end Gerald Everett and then wide receiver DeAndre Carter.
After the win, Carter talked about what he saw on the touchdown grab and why Herbert is one of the best QB's in the NFL.
"They talk about us receivers being friendly, but you know Justin makes it easy on us," Carter said. "He's throwing the ball in places that a lot of people can't get it to. Hitting us in the numbers and you know when the ball is right there in the sweet spot it's hard to drop it. So, that's all Justin."
Herbert, who passed 70 passing touchdowns in his career Sunday, talked about the his new offensive weapons in Carter and Everett and the playmaking ability they add to the offense.
"It was an incredible catch by [Carter]," Herbert said. "It was low and he went down for it and caught it.
"I thought his catch in the end zone was pretty impressive," Herbert later added. "That's a very tough catch for him to go so low, and still has to keep his eyes up for any defenders coming at him."
"I thought Gerald's catch was incredible, as well, kind of a broken down play," Herbert said. "He's just a playmaker. He's a special player that when things break down, you have to find him out on the field and he makes a great catch, fights for a couple of yards and finds himself in the end zone."
For Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, what stood out to him the most about Herbert's performance wasn't the stats, but the way he led the team to start off the season with a 1-0 record.
"The best thing he did was lead our team today," Staley said. "He led our team today and kept our team together. Then, to finish with the ball there at the end of the game, protecting the ball, good operation between him and Corey [Linsley] the whole day. Then, you have no sacks and no turnovers, you're going to have a real chance in every game that you play."
Chargers find a way to win "tough, rugged" game
The Chargers featured three running backs in their season opener, with Austin Ekeler leading the way on the ground followed by third-year running back Joshua Kelley and the newly-acquired Sony Michel.
While the Chargers running backs didn't find the endzone on Sunday, Staley explained why the run game was a key part of the Bolts win in a game that Staley described as 'tough' and 'rugged'.
"I thought it was one of those tough, rugged football games," Staley said. "It wasn't like a pretty run game, where we were able to get some explosives, but it was tough and rugged. What we were able to do is control the clock and control the ball.
"Then, I think when we had to have it, a couple of short-yardage deals, and then there at the end in a four-minute to close it out, we were able to get enough done," Staley added. "It was just one of those tough, rugged games. I thought all of those guys did a nice job."
On the other side of the ball, the Bolts' new look defense flashed in their debut as a unit with veteran OLB Khalil Mack registering 3.0 sacks, three tackles for loss and four QB hits. The Bolts also intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times on the afternoon. Staley talked about why they needed all three-levels of the defense to have a big game.
"To be able to defend a team like that, you're going to need an arsenal in order to do it. I think that we saw all three levels of our defense play together," Staley said. "That's what our vision was, was to build a complete defensive football team. I think that's what you saw out there today, was a complete defensive football team.
"There's still a lot of work to do," Staley added. "We're going to look at this and there's going to be a lot that we didn't like, but we competed the right way and we did the things that you need to do in this league, which is force takeaways, play tight in the redzone and take the run away. I think we did that."
Tranquill grabs 1st career INT
The Chargers defense was on full display during the second quarter as Mack recorded his second sack of the afternoon for a 3-yard loss. The next play, Carr fired a pass intended for tight end Darren Waller towards the middle of the field, but linebacker Drue Tranquill read the route and recorded the first interception of his career.
Tranquill's interception proved to make a big impact as it setup Carter's 23-yard touchdown that put the Bolts up 17-3 late in the first half.
After the Chargers win, Tranquill described the emotions he was feeling when he came down with his first career interception.
"It was super exciting," Tranquill said. "Just to see my teammates' excitement, you know [the Raiders] were trying to make a push their right before the half to get some points on the board and to be able to stop them and get some points was huge for our team."
Tranquil, who was a former safety during his time at Notre Dame, said the interception in the middle of the filed took him back to his days as a safety in college.
"It brought back those drills I used to do as a safety," Tranquil said. "Turning in the middle of the field…we had a few drops in the gameplan where I was dropping in the middle of the field, so I felt like I was summoning a little bit of the safety background, but it definitely helped on that play for sure."
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