Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next for the Chargers after a bruising 27-24 loss to the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night gave them with a 1-1 record to start the season:
Quarterback Justin Herbert suffered a fracture to his rib cartilage when he was hit as he threw a fourth-quarter pass, medical tests revealed Friday. Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Herbert was considered day-to-day, adding that a fractured rib could have been a far worse injury.
However, it wasn’t immediately certain whether Herbert would be sound enough to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25 at SoFi Stadium. Staley said Herbert would be re-evaluated Monday.
“I think we got good news in terms of what the CT scan expressed,” Staley said. “You don’t want it to be a fracture to the bone. It’s going to come down to comfort and how he feels (as to whether he can play). We’re not going to know more for a couple of days, until we get into game week preparation.”
Herbert missed one play after he was injured, returning to the field after backup Chase Daniel replaced him for a handoff to running back Sony Michel and a short gain on first down at the Chargers’ 34. Herbert then returned to the game and tossed two incompletions, forcing the Chargers to punt.
After the Chiefs drove for what proved to be a decisive 31-yard field goal, Herbert directed a 73-yard scoring drive that closed the gap to 27-24 with 1:11 to play. Among his completions were on-the-money passes to DeAndre Carter for 35 yards and Joshua Palmer for 7 (for the TD) on the drive.
Staley said he spoke with Herbert and the Chargers’ medical personnel on the sideline before allowing the quarterback to continue in the game. Herbert was in obvious pain upon returning to the field, particularly when he tossed one ball away rather than scrambling into an open field.
“It’s football,” Staley said via a Zoom call with reporters. “You’re going to have moments when you don’t feel well. No one cares more about Justin than I do. As long as he feels he can go … we’re not going to put him at risk.”
Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. expressed little doubt that Herbert would be back to form in time to face the Jaguars, an opinion not based on any medical training whatsoever but merely on the observation of his strong-willed teammate over the past two-plus seasons.
“He’ll be good,” James predicted late Thursday night, breaking into a hearty laugh. “I ain’t worried. That boy is different. His blood is different.”
Chargers can’t hold early lead, lose Justin Herbert briefly in loss to Chiefs
Cornerback J.C. Jackson makes his Chargers debut against Chiefs
Chargers vs. Chiefs: Live updates from Kansas City for Thursday Night Football
Chargers’ defense bracing for Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: Who has the edge?
Cornerback J.C. Jackson had six tackles and was on the field for all 57 defensive snaps in his Chargers debut. He also was beaten on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes to Justin Watson that cut the Chargers’ lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
Mahomes scrambled on the play and then found a streaking Watson a step behind a hard-charging Jackson. It was a vintage play by Mahomes, who excelled as usual while improvising on the move. The Chargers did well to pressure him, but Watson broke free and Mahomes found him.
“J.C. Jackson was not to blame on that play,” Staley said, indicating that an unnamed safety failed to rotate to aid in the coverage of Watson.
Jackson moved well throughout the game after undergoing minor ankle surgery Aug. 23. He was sidelined for the Chargers’ season-opening victory over the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers signed him as a prized free agent during the offseason.
WHAT COMES NEXT
After playing twice in five days against division rivals to open the season, the Chargers are off until beginning preparations next week to play host to the Jaguars. It will be a chance for several players, including Herbert, center Corey Linsley (knee) and tackle Trey Pipkins III (ankle) to heal.
Staley said he expected Linsley and Pipkins to be fit enough to practice next week.