Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers are headed to the playoffs as they clinched their ticket with a 20-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.
It’s the first time since the 2018 season that the Chargers have made the playoffs, and the first time in young Justin Herbert’s career that he can finally get his shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Herbert was 24 of 31 through the air for 235 yards, though he never threw for a touchdown. But he was able to use his rocket arm to find receivers, such as Keenan Allen (11 catches, 104 yards), to drive downfield and put points on the scoreboard for Los Angeles.
It was an inauspicious start for both teams in this game, as Herbert and Nick Foles, who started in place of Matt Ryan, were fumbles.
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First, Foles threw a ball deep down the right sideline that was intercepted by Michael Davis for his first interception of the season, which he returned 30 yards to the Chargers 41-yard line.
But just three plays later, Herbert tried to shoot one off Keenan Allen that caught his hands and went to safety Rodney Thomas, who caught it before it landed on the turf to turn the field around once more.
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Foles then promptly returned it, throwing his second interception of the game on consecutive possessions, this time with Derwin James Jr. leaping to grab it before going out of bounds.
Speaking of James, he was later ejected from the game after landing a dangerous hit on Colts wide receiver Ashton Dulin, who barely had a Foles pass in his hands when James opened with the crown of his helmet and shook him.
Both players were evaluated for concussions after the hit. Fifteen yards were given to the Colts for unnecessary roughness. The referees announced that James was ejected from the game when he entered the medical tent.
Dulin would eventually be ruled out with a concussion.
This sequence came after the Chargers finally found their footing on offense, and it came in the form of a 13-play drive that ended with Austin Ekeler breaking through the plane on a run for his first touchdown of the night.
Ekeler would find it again by a yard in the fourth quarter, when the Chargers pulled away, 20-3, and the Colts just couldn’t come back.
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The strategy of having Foles throw downfield just didn’t work for interim head coach Jeff Saturday and his coaching staff.
Foles would end up throwing another interception after telegraphing a pass in the second half that Asante Samuel Jr. pounced on, resulting in a Chargers field goal.
He finished the game 17 of 29 for 143 yards and three interceptions. The Chargers were also able to sack him seven times, with Morgan Fox picking up two of them.
At 9-6, the Chargers will play for seed in the AFC playoff picture now. They have the sixth seed right now with the Miami Dolphins trailing behind them at 8-7 in the seventh and final seed.
The Chargers will face the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in an “away” game next week.
Meanwhile, Saturday is just trying to end the year on a high note as the Colts move to 4-10-1 on the year and still have a big question at quarterback.
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They will head to MetLife Stadium next week to take on the New York Giants, who are seeking their own NFC playoff berth.