INGLEWOOD — After more than a week of uncertainty, accompanied by seemingly endless speculation about the severity of his fractured rib cartilage, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert started and finished Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at SoFi Stadium.
Herbert and the Chargers were nowhere near their best during a lackluster 38-10 loss to the Jaguars, overshadowed by Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence. After a competitive first half, Lawrence and his teammates turned the game into an unexpected runaway.
Jacksonville led 16-7 at halftime and extended its lead to 31-10 by the end of the third quarter. The Jaguars broke open the game with a 50-yard touchdown run by running back James Robinson on a fourth-and-one play at midfield and a 4-yard TD pass from Lawrence to Christian Kirk.
There was more – much more – to the Chargers’ second defeat in three games to start the season, starting with Herbert’s injury and continuing with the Jaguars’ offensive superiority and injuries to edge rusher Joey Bosa, left tackle Rashawn Slater and wide receiver Jaylen Guyton.
Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day spoke to his teammates after the game. He declined to talk to reporters later, but linebacker Drue Tranquill revealed a few details, saying Joseph-Day’s message was that “We’ve got to play better. We have to hold ourselves accountable. That’s not our standard of play.”
“We know that, all of us, we all feel it,” he said of a game that failed to live up to the Chargers’ expectations of themselves. “As a competitor, it stinks, but we’re thankful for the opportunity. This is the third game of a 17-game season. We have a lot more games to play. We’ll be better coming down the stretch.”
Tranquill dismissed the notion that the Chargers overlooked the Jaguars (2-1).
“I think we took our preparation seriously this week,” he said. “At the end of the day, we just got outplayed. They beat us down. They whipped our tails. It was embarrassing for us as a unit. We’re a lot better football team than that. We’ll come out ready to prove that next week.”
The Chargers face the Texans (0-2-1) next Sunday in Houston.
Herbert’s ribs aren’t likely to feel any better in the coming weeks, which only added to the postgame concern. He said the decision to play was made only minutes before the kickoff Sunday and he and Chargers coach Brandon Staley said the decision to stay in the game was the quarterback’s.
“He wanted to be out there with his teammates,” Staley said. “He felt good and he wanted to finish the game. He wanted to give our group some energy. We were going to protect him at the end with really sound protection. The best we could. It was more about him wanting to finish with his guys.”
Herbert completed 25 of 45 passes for 297 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Lawrence countered with 262 yards on 28-for-39 passing and three TDs. Robinson gained 100 yards on 17 carries, or 74 yards more than the Chargers totaled on the ground.
Herbert wasn’t sharp in the first half except for a second-quarter drive that produced a flawless 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams that cut the Chargers’ deficit to 13-7 with 6:10 left. The rest of the opening half was about as uncharacteristic of Herbert as imaginable.
Many of his throws were off target, the most noteworthy example of his injury. One pass intended for Sony Michel went into and out of the running back’s hands before it was picked off by Jacksonville linebacker Devin Lloyd. The Jaguars turned that into one of Riley Patterson’s three field goals.
Herbert was later sacked and the Jaguars pounced on his fumble at the Chargers’ 28. Lawrence hit wide receiver Zay Jones for a 14-yard touchdown pass that gave the Jaguars a 13-0 lead with 10:23 left in the half, enabling them to turn two turnovers into 10 points..
“In the first half, we gave ourselves a chance,” Staley said. “That fourth-and-one run that split us for 50 (yards on Robinson’s touchdown run), that really took the air out of us. In the second half, I felt like we didn’t have that same energy. We didn’t affect the quarterback (Lawrence). That also had a big impact on the game.”