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    Chargers review: Is Justin Herbert failing to meet expectations?
    • October 17, 2023

    Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next after the Chargers’ 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, their third defeat in five games in 2023 by three points or less offering further evidence that they haven’t come close to fulfilling their promise:


    Among the many burning questions facing the Chargers is whether quarterback Justin Herbert is truly living up to the gargantuan five-year, $262.5 million contract extension he signed back in July, on the eve of training camp. So far, there is plenty of evidence that he’s fallen short.

    Way short.

    To be clear, he does make some remarkable throws and can be extraordinarily effective creating something from nothing when the pass rushers swarm him and his receivers have to change course and look for new routes through the secondary. He is an elite-level quarterback.

    However, and this is where it gets to the heart of the matter, he hasn’t come through in the clutch when handed a late opportunity this season. He failed to guide winning touchdown drives against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 and against Dallas in Week 6.

    Against the Dolphins, Herbert had 75 yards and 1:45 to work with, but he drove the Chargers only as far as their own 33 before he was sacked on a fourth-and-12 and turned the ball over on downs with 55 seconds left. Miami ran out the clock for a 36-34 victory at SoFi Stadium.

    Against the Titans, he drove the Chargers down the field for Cameron Dicker’s game-tying 33-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, sending the game to overtime. But once in OT, the visiting Chargers went three-and-out on their lone possession and Tennessee kicked a field goal to win 27-24.

    Against the Cowboys, he had 2:19 and 75 yards to negotiate, but his desperation third-and-10 throw intended for rookie Quentin Johnston as he was about to be sacked was picked off by the Cowboys’ Stephon Gilmore. Dallas ran out the final 1:22 for a 20-17 victory at SoFi Stadium.

    In the Chargers’ two victories, their defense stopped first the Minnesota Vikings and then the Las Vegas Raiders with red-zone interceptions in the closing minutes. The Chargers held off the Vikings for a 28-24 victory in Week 3 in Minneapolis and the Raiders for a 24-17 win in Week 4 at SoFi.

    “I think we can do a lot better on offense, especially at quarterback,” Herbert said late Monday night, after praising the Cowboys’ defensive pressure against him, which limited him to pedestrian totals of 22-of-37 passing for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

    “I can play a lot better.”


    Herbert declined to fault the fractured left middle finger on his non-throwing hand for some of his misfires Monday, including one possible touchdown and another likely big gain to sure-handed wide receiver Keenan Allen. Herbert wore padding and a white glove on his left hand for protection.

    Of his missed connections with Allen, Herbert said, “I missed a couple of receivers and threw some bad passes. There was a lot left out there. There’s a lot to work on and a lot to improve on.” Of his interception, he said, “I threw it and the guy (Gilmore) picked it off. He made a good play on it.”

    It all added up to another less-than-stellar showing from Herbert.


    Coach Brandon Staley was troubled by two personal fouls called against safety Derwin James Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl selection, including one that followed a 15-yard completion from Dak Prescott to Jake Ferguson that ended up being a 30-yard gain that led to a field goal and a 10-7 halftime deficit.

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    “What I know is that we can’t have 30 yards, two defensive penalties like that because it’s worth a lot of yardage and it keeps drives alive,” Staley said. “We have to keep educating, which we do, and we have to make sure that we’re penalty-free because there’s a lot at stake when you make penalties like that.”


    The Chargers face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Will a certain pop singer of some renown be on hand to watch her boyfriend play for the reigning Super Bowl champs? Of slightly lesser interest, will visiting reporters find a parking spot among the throngs of early-arriving tailgaters?

    ​ Orange County Register