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5 Takeaways: Herbert Has Fractured Finger as Bolts Look Ahead to Short Week


The Chargers are 5-8 after a 24-7 home loss to the Broncos on Sunday.

Here are five takeaways from Week 14:

1. Herbert has fractured finger

Justin Herbert has a fractured right index finger.

The Chargers quarterback sustained the injury in the second quarter when he hit the finger against a Broncos defender.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Herbert's status for Week 15 is up in the air.

"To be determined," Staley said. "He wasn't able to come back into the game. We'll know a lot more in the next few days."

Herbert said he couldn't grip the ball after getting an X-ray, and noted his fractured right finger is a different injury that the one he sustained on his left hand earlier in the season. He said it's on a different part of the finger.

The quarterback noted that it remains to be seen if he will need surgery.

"If that's something that they recommend, I'm sure that there'll be able to get that done," Herbert said. "I don't know quite the plan right now.

"All I know is that we got one X-ray and we're going to have more done in the next day or two," Herbert added. "We'll figure out that plan. Once I know, we'll let everyone else know."

Herbert has only missed a handful of snaps in his NFL career and said it was tough to not play in the second half.

"You feel bad for hanging the team out like that. You never want to be taken out of the game," Herbert said. "It's something that we'll know more as the week goes on.

"If there's any chance to play, I'll do everything I can to be out there," Herbert added. "I'm going to do everything I can in the treatment room to get back to 100 percent."

Derwin James, Jr. added: "It's tough. 10 is the heartbeat of our team, he means a lot to our team."

Herbert was sacked four times in the first half against the Broncos.

"We didn't protect the passer well enough today, particularly when they blitzed, when they rushed more than five," Staley added. "We didn't protect well enough today. There was a lot of pressure, sacks, and it caused a lot of negative plays for us today."

2. Stick comes on in relief

Easton Stick played in relief of Herbert, playing the final drive of the first half and all of the second half against Denver.

Stick last saw game action in the preseason.

"We got settled in pretty quick," Stick said. "I've taken a ton of snaps with Will [Clapp].

"I've played with these guys, I know these guys, and I know that they have my back," Stick said. "At the end of the day, it's just football. We got in there and we tried to compete."

Stick completed 13 of 24 passes for 179 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice and fumbled twice, losing one of them.

"I thought that he competed in the game," Staley said. "Once he got his feet underneath him, I thought he did some good things, particularly in the second half.

"I thought that he moved the team in the second half and gave us a chance," Staley added. "It was good for him to get into the flow of the game because when you come in there cold, it's tough to just get in there right away and get moving. There are going to be some things in the second half that we can build off of."

Keenan Allen said: "Having Stick in there, we know Stick can make those plays, we know he's got the knowledge for the game, been around for a long time so the confidence is still high with Stick."

With the Bolts on a short week, Stick was asked about the possibility of cramming a game plan in before his first potential NFL start.

"We're all doing it, we're all in it together. That's part of it," Stick said. "Everybody has one of these games and this is where ours falls. We'll be ready regardless."

He later added: "I haven't thought that far ahead. If that's the case, then that's the case. Like I said, right now, we're thinking about Justin."

3. Johnston has breakout game

It came in a loss, but Quentin Johnston had the best game of his career Sunday afternoon.

The Bolts first-round pick had 91 yards on three catches, the highlight of which was a 57-yard deep ball from Stick early in the fourth quarter.

"He did a really good job," Stick said. "[Offensive Coordinator] Kellen [Moore] did a good job of kind of scheming it up during the week.

"'Q' ran a great route and tracked it, made a big-time play," Stick added. "I'm proud of him. He's someone that we have to keep getting the ball to."

Johnston didn't want to hype up his performance, especially after a loss, but said he relied on his preseason rapport with Stick in order to have success in Week 14.

"The most you can do at the time is just stick to the script, do your job, do everything to the best of your ability and just trust each other that you're going to be in the spot he throws it," Johnston said.

He later added: "We did have a few deep ball opportunities during the preseason so they came back to life tonight."

4. Struggles on 3rd & 4th downs

Whether it was Herbert or Stick under center, the Chargers offense had a rough day overall against Denver.

Especially when it came time to move the chains.

The Bolts went 0-for-12 on third downs Sunday and were a combined 1-for-18 on third and fourth downs.

"We didn't execute well enough today, and it was in all phases," Staley said. "It's not just one thing. When you have numbers like that, it's everything. We didn't have a good enough plan today."

Herbert added: "It was a tough day. Obviously, not the way that we wanted it to go."

The Bolts third-down issues were evident from the start as Herbert was sacked on the first one of the game.

He later threw an interception off a tipped third-down pass that set Denver up at the Bolts 3-yard line.

The fourth-down woes were also apparent early on.

Michael Davis intercepted Russell Wilson on Denver's first offensive play of the day, which set up the Bolts offense at the Broncos 13.

But the Chargers couldn't get points off the drive as the offense fell short on a fourth-and-3 pass from the 6 that fell incomplete in the end zone.

"We felt like we had the momentum," Staley said. "Fourth and 3, we were going to get the field position. Felt like being aggressive in the game was the call there.

"We had a good play, just didn't knock it down. Just felt like with the field position there, to our advantage, that we were going to be aggressive," Staley added.

The Chargers also missed on fourth-and-2 at the Denver 29 and fourth-and-1 at the Denver 40 in the first three quarters.

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts' Week 14 matchup against the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium

5. Onto Las Vegas

The Chargers know where they sit in the AFC playoff picture.

At 5-8, the playoffs could be a longshot now based on how the standings look.

Khalil Mack spoke honestly postgame about where the Bolts currently stand.

"It's a lot of disappointment, man, just understanding what this team is capable of and the opportunities we've been given," Mack said. "Making the most of those opportunities has been a downfall this season."

He later added: "Just being in Year 10, just understanding that there's a lot of different intangibles that come with having potential or having talent. It's another thing when you actually take advantage of the opportunities. That team wasn't better than us today but they did all the things to win the game."

Staley said after the game that the Chargers record has "been a combination of things" and that "we've just been a little bit off."

He also noted that this season has been frustrating for him as the head coach.

"It has been, just because you know the type of games that you've been in, you know the fights that you've been in, you see how other teams are doing in the league and how we've competed," Staley said. "We just haven't been able to knock them down. Like I've told you guys, I take full responsibility.

"But, yeah, it's been a tough stretch, but we're not going anywhere," Staley added. "We're going to bounce back and we're going to be ready for Las Vegas."

The Bolts will now turn their attention to Thursday night and a road division game against the Raiders, who also sit at 5-8.

"The best thing for us is that we play on Thursday. We have to put this one behind us quickly," Staley said. "We have get our rest, get recovered. Then, we have to get a good plan for Las Vegas. That's all we can focus on right now.

"I'm glad that we're playing Thursday because after you lose one like this, you want to play again," Staley added. "A division game on the road and we have to be ready."

Mack added: "We're competing at the highest level. If you've got guys that are ready to pack it up, they don't need to be in the locker room. Whether there's a chance or not, you keep going out there to give it everything you've got."

James said: "We got a game in [four] days. If that don't tell you to get ready, Vegas not waiting on us."

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