It’s never, ever easy for fans of the Chargers. Wildly enough, that also goes for the Falcons, if you’ve ever kept tabs with their fan base.
Possession switched hands a handful of times in the final quarter with the score knotted at 17 and it almost seemed as if neither team felt like leaving as victors. But it was the connection of Justin Herbert and Joshua Palmer that helped put the final nail in the Falcons’ coffin with the two connecting on a 22-yard pass to help set up the game-winning kick by Cameron Dicker.
Despite throwing to a lackluster group of receivers, Herbert overcame several unfortunate drops — one of which led to an interception — to help push the Bolts over the top for the fourth time in their past five contests.
In a game where one side was attempt to Charger, while the other tried their best to Falcon, it was the latter that couldn’t help themselves from handing the game over to the other.
Below is a full, quarter-by-quarter recap of today’s madness.
It didn’t take long for the Chargers to allow an explosive run against the Falcons. On the opening drive, rookie Tyler Allgeier busted a run up the right side for a huge 44-yard gain where he bowled over and carried several Chargers defenders. Five plays later, Cordarrelle Patterson punched it in from a yard out to take an early 7-0 lead.
The Chargers came out on offense and — to be quite honest — looked like a team who didn’t just take an extended period of time to fix their lackluster play-calling. They went three-and-out with a short pass batted down at the line of scrimmage on third-and-two.
Atlanta started their next drive from their own 19-yard line and managed to take the ball all the way back inside the Chargers’ 20-yard line. A couple big-time run stops by Drue Tranquill helped put the Falcons into a 3rd-and-11. Another stop short of the line of gain forced a field goal by Atlanta which gave them a 10-0 lead near the end of the quarter.
The Bolts took over and gained seven yards on their first two plays before time ticked away in the opening period.
The Chargers failed on their third-down attempt which forced their second three-and-out to begin this game. That’s six plays and zero first downs through the first quarter-plus.
Luckily, the defense forced a three-and-out for themselves but the Bolts offense came this close to recording a third three-and-out, but a big hookup to Josh Palmer for 23 yards helped extend their drive for the first time all day.
That play ended up paying huge dividends as the offense FINALLY came alive. They converted several more third downs to march down the field before Austin Ekeler punched it in from a yard out. With 4:38 remaining in the first half, the Chargers shrunk the Falcons lead to 10-7.
It was then the Falcons’ turn to record a consecutive three-and-out as Derwin James sacked Marcus Mariota for a huge sack.
The Chargers got down the field with some haste thanks to a threaded needle from Herbert to DeAndre Carter that he was able to break for 23 yards. A couple players later, Carter took another pass to the Falcons one-yard line before Herbert found Ekeler on a designed rollout for his second touchdown of the day.
The Bolts were on top for the first time Sunday at 14-10 as both teams headed to the locker room.
The Chargers almost started the second half with a huge gain, but a perfectly-thrown ball from Herbert to Everett up the left seam was allowed to slip through his fingers. The frustrating play led to another three-and-out for the Bolts.
But then something incredible happened.
On the Falcons’ ensuing drive, they drove the ball down the field deep into Los Angeles territory with all kinds of positive momentum behind them. Just outside the 10-yard line, Mariota threw a short out route to Drake London near the left sideline which he attempted to turn upfield by evading the first defender. As he hit the ground following his first cut, Khalil Mack was right there to yank the ball out of London’s hands before lumbering back the other direction for a return of 46 yards.
But then something incredibly bad happened.
On the third play of the Chargers’ next drive, Herbert fired a pass to Joshua Palmer over the middle which slipped threw his hands, ricocheted off his helmet, and landed in the arms of a Falcons defender.
Atlanta proceeded to run the ball right down the Chargers’ throat to retake the lead at 17-14. On the short touchdown run by Patterson, he obliterated Tranquill with an immense truck stick in the hole.
The Chargers couldn’t get anything going on their next drive before punting it away once again. On the following drive for Atlanta, defensive tackle Austin Johnson went down with a knee injury that looked severe. He was helped off the field and could not put any weight on it.
As the third came to an end, the Falcons lead 17-14.
The Falcons got within field goal range but Younghoe Koo was wide right on a 50-yard attempt which kept the score 17-14
The Chargers thought they came away with a big break on their next drive when Ekeler looked like he he avoided hitting the ground when tackled and then scampered 40+ yards for a touchdown untouched as everyone looked around confused at the lack of whistles. Unfortunately, one specific angle of the replay showed his left elbow hitting the ground before rolling over the defender which meant he truly was down.
The Bolts got a but closer to the end zone before stalling. They kicked a field goal to knot the score at 17-17.
True insanity hit this game with under a minute left. Ekeler fumbled well within field goal range and the Falcons defender who picked it up ran back 20+ yards before fumbling it back to the Chargers. After a lengthy review process, Herbert hit Palmer for 22 yards to put the ball back where it was before the initial Ekeler fumble. After a short run, the Bolts took their final timeout with two seconds remaining.
Cameron Dicker, the team’s emergency kicker, would bang home the final kick to give the Chargers a 20-17 victory over the Falcons.
Justin Herbert finished the game 30-of-43 for 245 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Austin Ekeler rushed for 47 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. He also caught seven passed for 24 yards and another score.
Joshua Palmer filled in as the WR1 to record eight receptions for a career-high 106 yards.
Drue Tranquill paced the defense with 10 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Derwin James also posted a sack and nine total tackles.