Studs and duds from Chargers’ victory over Titans

A win is a win.

That’s the mantra for the Chargers after escaping on Sunday with a 17-14 victory over the Titans in a game in which Los Angeles was once again unable to put together a complete, cohesive performance.

Despite it all, the Bolts finished Sunday afternoon in the playoffs, with every other result around the league going in their favor.

Here’s who helped and who hurt the Chargers in their victory on Sunday.

Stud: Justin Herbert

Herbert bounced back from a rocky first half in which it looked like he was forcing throws and struggling to get on the same page with his receivers by delivering a diamond in the clutch and getting the Chargers into field goal range. As has become usual for the third-year quarterback, Herbert constantly delivered throws that only a handful of NFL signal callers can make. Whether it was a layered throw on the sideline, a dart down the field on the run, or the harpoon to Mike Williams in crunch time, Herbert was able to deliver when it mattered most and win the Chargers Sunday’s game.

Dud: Joe Lombardi

Everything to say about this man has already been said. LA runs the ball nine times on their first drive, scoring an opening touchdown to take the lead. Then they run the ball fifteen times for the rest of the game. The DeAndre Carter jet sweep play did not work for the umpteenth consecutive time. Routes didn’t get past the sticks. Play action and bootleg plays worked and then were summarily abandoned. A key third-and-10? Better run a swing pass to Austin Ekeler. It’s oversimplified to say that Lombardi’s primary crime is making an offense starring Herbert into one of the least fun in the league. Still, it’s undoubtedly one of the primary offenses on a lengthy rap sheet.

Stud: Run defense

Whether it was Sebastian Joseph-Day, who took over the first half, or Breiden Fehoko, who had more of an impact in the second, the Chargers’ interior defenders performed admirably against this Titans rushing offense. Khalil Mack, Morgan Fox, and Kyle Van Noy also had sterling games against the run on Sunday. Drue Tranquill forced a fourth-quarter fumble. While the per carry numbers are as bad as usual (5.0 for Henry on Sunday), the performance on Sunday was part of an emerging trend: these days, you either get 0 or 10 on the Chargers. Earlier in the year, you’d get five every time. Now, it’s about finding more consistency, but on Sunday, the defensive line came to play with the energy suggestive of a much better team.

Dud: Third-quarter execution

I grow increasingly convinced weekly that the coaches turn off their headsets for the entire third quarter. Maybe the players have tinnitus from the halftime show or something. There are simply no other explanations for why this team comes out so flat after the half so consistently. The offense failed to score a touchdown in the third frame for the ninth consecutive game, despite the defense forcing a three-and-out, intercepting a Ryan Tannehill pass, and then forcing a four-and-out. The offense responded with three punts and a Justin Herbert interception. While they escaped despite their woes yet again on Sunday, it’s obvious they cannot continue to operate this way if they want to make a run.

Stud: Key sacks

The Chargers had four sacks on Sunday, all 4 of which came in the last 15:28 of the game. Joe Gaziano put Tennessee behind the sticks with a first-down takedown of Ryan Tannehill with the Titans on LA’s 25. Chris Rumph II ended that drive with his sack on 3rd and 9 to force a 51-yard field goal that Titans kicker Randy Bullock pushed wide right. Kyle Van Noy broke through with a swim move on right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere to turn a 2nd and 17 into a 3rd and 23, forcing a Tennessee punt with 8 minutes left. Drue Tranquill finished the action with a huge 3rd-and-9 sack that forced the Titans to punt again with 3:30 left in the game. The defense continued to step up in the most important parts of the contest, and even plays that didn’t turn into sacks made a hobbled Tannehill uncomfortable in the pocket.

Dud: Game management

This was a weird game from Brandon Staley. The decision to go for it on 4th and two from the Titans’ 20 on the opening drive was correct, especially with the mindset of improving the Chargers’ red zone touchdown percentage. Calling the last timeout of the half with 28 seconds left to run a pretty standard play to Keenan Allen was terrible, mainly because it put LA behind the eight-ball once they matriculated down the field. Instead of having time to work with, the Chargers had 12 seconds and no timeouts, leading Herbert to take an end zone shot instead of shortening a potential field goal. That shot play resulted in the acrobatic interception by the Titans to end the half. Asante Samuel Jr., who’s been excellent this season, rotated on the outside with rookie Ja’Sir Taylor, who hasn’t taken outside reps in an NFL game and was teased as a potential option at safety on Sunday. Ostensibly, this was for run defense purposes, but Taylor frequently found himself on the wrong side of routes when Tennessee rolled out passing concepts against those formations. With six minutes left, Staley punted with 4th-and-4 from the Titans’ 45, presumably because he had faith in how his defense was playing. The Chargers then took a delay of game towards the end of the game despite spiking the ball on the play right before. It seemed like a disjointed plan from a staff that felt like they were still testing things 15 weeks into the season.

Stud: Keenan Allen

Allen was in his bag on Sunday, generating the kind of separation Chargers fans are used to seeing from him but haven’t gotten arguably all season. I’m unsure if that means the veteran is finally fully healthy or if it was just a good matchup against a hurting Tennessee secondary. Either way, Allen turned nine targets into eight receptions for 86 yards, a second straight strong performance in a part of the season where LA will need everything they can get from him.

Dud: Chris Rumph II

Draft an edge rusher in the first round. Apart from his one sack late in the game, Rumph struggled to make an impact yet again on Sunday, even against a Titans team that was actively rotating multiple players at left tackle in the first half for non-injury reasons. Joey Bosa’s lingering groin injury has illuminated how badly this Chargers team needs a third rotational rusher, especially before the last two weeks of Kyle Van Noy re-emerging as a productive player. Rumph still just doesn’t have the build to hold up as an NFL run defender, and it’s getting close to time to move on and shift Rumph into a designated pass rusher role.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire

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