INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It was an embarrassing loss for the Los Angeles Chargers, made spectacular only by one incredibly confusing decision.
With 4:54 remaining in a 38-10 beating of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert — 10 days removed from suffering a fracture to his rib cartilage — trotted onto the field at SoFi Stadium to play a series finale.
“He wanted to be out there with his teammates,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “He felt good and he wanted to finish the game.”
Reporters asked Staley 20 questions during a seven-minute, 30-second postgame news conference. More than half of the questions were about Herbert and the risk the franchise quarterback faced by staying in the game.
“I understand all your questioning, I get it,” Staley said. “Justin is going to feel like this when he plays. This injury is going to be there for a while. If you guys know the injury, it doesn’t look like it’s going to feel any better next week or the week after that. This thing is going to be around for some time. He felt good today and we’ll continue to manage it as best we can.”
Staley said he “definitely” had a conversation with Herbert about staying in the game and confirmed the quarterback was adamant he wanted to continue.
“I just didn’t want to stop on the team,” Herbert said.
When asked if he needed to protect the franchise quarterback, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, who the organization has built itself into a Super Bowl caliber roster, Staley said, “Sure.”
“Throughout the game, that’s the first thought during the game and at the end of the game, so trust me, there’s nobody that thinks about it more than me,” Staley said.
For his part, Herbert reiterated that he did not want to quit when asked how he balanced the decision to continue playing against staying on the sidelines to protect himself from further injury.
“It’s what the team needs,” said Herbert, who finished 25-of-45 for 297 yards and a touchdown, with an interception and a lost sack fumble. “Sometimes, you have to put your own goals and everything in front, or behind the team and I think that’s the most important thing and I felt that I was safe out there and I didn’t want to stop in my team.”
Herbert, 24, played without a star receiver Keenan Allenwho is nursing a hamstring injury, and behind a patched-together offensive line that allowed six quarterback hits and a sack.
The Chargers have also dealt with several other significant injuries.
Cornerback JC Jacksonwho signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in free agency, missed his second game of the season as he continues to recover from ankle surgery last month.
The Chargers fall to 1-2 and go on the road to play the Houston Texans (0-2) and Cleveland Browns (2-1).
Herbert said he knew he was going to play Sunday “probably right before kickoff.”
“I felt like I was going to go in and just see how it felt,” Herbert said. “Before warm-ups, it felt good, so I was going to roll with it.”
When asked if he received a painkiller injection before the game, Herbert declined to provide an answer.
“I do take care of my body though, I think that’s one of the things I’d like to keep private,” Herbert said. “I trust the medical staff. I trust the training staff. They’re not going to hurt me. I felt it was safe, they felt it was safe, so I’m going to go out and play.”
Herbert has never missed a game since taking over as the starter in Week 2 of 2020, when then starter Tyrod Taylor was ruled out just minutes before the game after suffering a punctured lung when a team doctor, who is also now tending to Herbert, tried to administer a pain-killing injection to help the quarterback’s cracked ribs.
That doctor is being sued for medical malpractice by Taylor, who is seeking at least $5 million, according to copies of the original lawsuit and subsequent filings related to the case obtained by ESPN.
Against the Jaguars, the Chargers fell behind 13-0 in the second quarter after the Jaguars scored 10 points from turnovers, including the interception thrown and lost a sack fumble.
Herbert returned to lead a nine-play, 75-yard drive that he capped with a 15-yard touchdown pass to a receiver. Mike Williams in the corner of the end zone.
Herbert also completed an impressive 54-yard pass to Guyton to open the second half, which led to a 25-yard field goal to make it a one-possession game before the Jaguars pulled away for good.
“He threw the football well,” Staley said. “The protection – the rush was there today, which forced him to have to step up at times, but he threw the ball well out there today.”
Herbert said of his performance: “It wasn’t a big day by any means.”
But when he was asked how he felt physically? “I feel good,” said Herbert, “thank you.”