INGLEWOOD, CA. Inside the Los Angeles Chargers’ postgame locker room, the music was blaring, the energy was palpable, and wide receiver Mike Williams offered an apt description of the scene.
“Turn around,” Williams said with a smile.
“I have to agree with him,” quarterback Justin Herbert said with a grin.
Seconds later, Herbert drove six plays, 52 yards, with 44 seconds left, leading to kicker Cameron Dicker’s 43-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 17-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Los Angeles edge rusher Khalil Mack said of Dicker, who has scored two game-winning goals for the Bolts this season.
The win, combined with the Las Vegas Raiders beating the New England Patriots, allowed the Chargers to jump from the outside of the AFC playoff race to the No. 6 seed.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to continue playing football,” Herbert said. “If we just attack it week by week, we’ll see what happens.”
With three games remaining, including an upcoming matchup against the Indianapolis Colts (4-9) on Monday Night Football, the Chargers (8-6) control their playoff future as they try to earn their first postseason berth since 2018 and first. led by second-year coach Brandon Steele.
“Just keep fighting,” said Williams, who caught passes of 16 and 35 yards on the game-winning drive.
Sunday’s game capped a Chargers season that included everything from preseason AFC West billing and even Super Bowl favorites to star running back Joey Bosa and cornerback JC Jackson being on injured reserve and only two complete games. play with Williams. and co-star Keenan Allen.
“We’re a tight-knit team,” Staley said. “Because we’re connected, it allows us to endure what happened this season because that’s the only explanation. There is no other way to explain it. Otherwise we’d be 3-9 or worse.”
Herbert, 24, finished Sunday on 28-of-42 passing for 313 yards with two interceptions and became the only player in NFL history to have 4,000 passing yards in each of his first three seasons. It was also his 22nd career game with 300 passing yards, five more than any other player in NFL history before turning 25.
“He was at his best when he was at his best,” Staley said. “You saw all the things that make him special there. his stamina, his attitude, his game.”
Los Angeles’ offense got off to a quick start with a 14-play, 68-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead.
But the Titans answered in the second quarter when Derrick Henry rushed 4 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.
Then the Bolts offense fizzled.
After the opening score, the Chargers punted on five of their next seven possessions and Herbert had two passes that were broken up, including one in the end zone, with 12 seconds left in the first half.
“We would like to score more points. We didn’t play well offensively, and that starts with me,” Herbert said. “Can’t turn the ball over like that. I have so much respect for a defense that makes stops like that.”
After allowing Henry to score, the Bolts forced the Titans to punt on five of seven drives. On Tennessee’s other two possessions, Los Angeles safety Nasir Adderley intercepted quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Titans missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
“We have a really good defensive culture right now,” Staley said. “We have a lot of guys who believe in each other. What we’ve had to do is get people to step up and play meaningful roles and that’s brought out the best in them.”
Herbert found Allen for a 31-yard completion in the fourth quarter, and running back Austin Ekeler had a 15-yard gain and back-to-back touchdowns to put the Bolts up 14-7 with 10:28 left.
However, a stout Bolts defense gave way to Tannehill on an 11-play, 74-yard drive, and Henry pushed Tannehill over the goal line for a 1-yard score to tie the game at 14.
With 44 seconds left on the clock, Herbert found Williams twice and also completed a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gerald Everett to put the Chargers in field goal territory.
“It was masterful handling,” said Los Angeles defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, who had five tackles, including one for a loss, in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him a week ago. “Like a quarterback [Herbert]we always have a chance.”
Tannehill finished 15-of-22 passing for 165 yards with one interception. He was fired four times. Henry rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
“A lot of things we can get better at,” said Mack, who had five tackles and a pass deflection. “But we tried to give a chance to attack.”
The Chargers played the second straight game without safety Derwin James Jr., who is nursing a quadriceps injury. Staley expressed optimism that James will return and possibly Bosa, who is on injured reserve following week 3 groin surgery.