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Chargers-Vikings Game Recap: Herbert, Allen cook up history in 28-24 win over Vikings

Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen combined for 18 catches and 215 receiving yards in what became one of the most-entertaining games of the young 2023 season.

Los Angeles Chargers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Chargers-Vikings was everything you would have expected:

  • Plenty of points
  • Back-breaking penalties
  • Injuries
  • Mind-numbing turnovers
  • Plays that left your mouth open

Before the final buzzer sounded, you’d probably have gotten some rave reviews by either fan base, but the clock must tick zero in the end.

When it did, the Chargers were the ones to come out on top of the Vikings 28-24. Brandon Staley went for it on fourth-and-one at their own 20-yard line only for it to backfire. Anyone who has spent a notable amount of time watching the Chargers would have thought that meant an inevitable loss, but in a game between these kindred spirits, it was everything but.

The defensive side for the Chargers — the one that’s been the butt of every national headline regarding this team — had the last laugh in the end as linebacker Kenneth Murray picked off Kirk Cousins to send the Viking to 0-3.

For the compete quarter-by-quarter recap of today’s game, continue on below!

First Quarter

The Vikings won the toss and deferred. The Chargers and Justin Herbert were up first.

After a run for two yards to begin the game, Rashawn Slater was called for a hold which backed them up into a second-and-very long. Herbert hit Keenan Allen on a short curl, followed by a bubble screen on third down but fell short of the first. JK Scott’s ensuing punt went for just 27 yards after a favorable Vikings bounce and they began their drive at the Vikings 43-yard line.

After a minimal run on first, Alexander Mattison broke loose for a 13-yard gain to move the ball into Chargers territory. Things slowed down for the Vikings when they got inside the Chargers 30-yard line. On third-and-eight, Kirk Cousins hit TJ Hockenson for what looked like a first down but safety Alohi Gilman managed to rip the ball out on the tackle attempt for a “fumble recovery.” The Chargers were now set up for their next drive at their own 21-yard line.

The Chargers found their groove on the second drive of the game with Herbert mixing in a number of receivers, including tight end Gerald Everett and Quentin Johnston. On third-and-seven at the Minnesota 28, Herbert threaded a needle over the arm of an out-stretched cornerback to Allen who was tackled at the three-yard-line. On the very next play, Herbert hit Donald Parham in the flat for a walk-in score. With 2:51 remaining in the first half, the Chargers were on the board over the Vikings 7-0.

The second defensive drive for the Vikings came with a slew of injuries. Vikings running back Alexander Mattison and cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. each walked to the sideline while Chargers defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day walked off after being in on a gang tackle.

A neutral zone infraction by Morgan Fox got the Vikings out of a third-and-short situation deep inside their territory. Several plays later, Tuli Tuipulotu and Joey Bosa brought down Kirk Cousins on third down as time expired in the quarter.

Second Quarter

The Chargers continued to be money on third down early on their third offensive drive, but that momentum finally fizzled out as they neared the 50. A short run by Isaiah Spiller and a quick incompletion towards Allen forced another pressured throw by Herbert on third down. This one went to Everett for a loss of three yards which led to another punt by Scott.

Justin Jefferson and the Vikings woke up with authority on their first drive of the second drive quarter. Jefferson caught back-to-back passes that marched them down the field 54 yards to quickly set them up inside the Chargers’ red zone.

After a defensive holding penalty by the Chargers, it took the Vikings two more plays to find the end zone. Kirk Cousins found tight end Josh Oliver for a score off play action to tie the game at 7-7 halfway through the period.

The Chargers only got three plays into their next drive before disaster struck. Wideout Josh Palmer caught a quick slant route but coughed it up on the hit. The turnover was the first given away by the Chargers through the first 2+ games of the 2023 season.

A defensive holding penalty by Michael Davis helped get the Vikings into Chargers territory and another deep completion to Justin Jefferson helped set them up inside the 15-yard line. An unnecessary roughness penalty by Derwin James put the Vikings at the three-yard line.

On the next play, Mattison looked like he was stripped by Alohi Gilman, but officials chose to rule him down after forward progress was stopped. The Chargers defense held on to keep the damage to a field goal so with 2:11 remaining in the first half, the Vikings led 10-7.

Herbert led the Chargers down the field on a flurry of short throws to Allen and Everett. He hit Palmer on a go route which was bumped forward by a defensive pass interference call to set them up at the six-yard line.

With the ball at the one on third down, the Chargers brought in three tight ends and an extra offensive lineman. The Vikings held strong by bottling up Joshua Kelley short of the end zone.

But Brandon Staley wasn’t phased.

The offense stayed out on the field and ran a four-tight end play with Herbert finding Donald Parham for his second score of the game. The Vikings couldn’t muster a quick drive and both teams headed into the locker room with the Chargers leading 14-10.

Third Quarter

The Vikings began the second half with the ball but couldn’t make much happen. They punted without crossing midfield but an excellent kick setup the Chargers at their own six-yard line.

After a three-yard run by Kelley, the Bolts were pushed back a bit on a false start call against Donald Parham. On third-and-12, Herbert found Mike Williams up the right sideline for a catch that might have actually not have been one at all. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell threw the challenge flag but after a lengthy review, the officials upheld the call of a completion.

Allen hung another chunk play on the defense to put the offense at the Minnesota 35. Herbert missed a wide-open Mike Williams up the right sideline before turning to his left and firing an incompletion. Their third-down attempt was also incomplete and Cameron Dicker came on to try a 53-yard field goal attempt. Dicker hooked it left and the Chargers came away from a promising drive with zero points to show for it.

The Vikings managed to get onto the other side of the 50 into Chargers territory, but Tuli and Morgan Fox combined on a sack to force a punt back to the offense.

Herbert continued his stellar day with an off-script completion to Keenan Allen for 25 yards early on their next drive. On the very next play, Herbert threw a bubble screen to Allen but the receiver pulled up and lobbed a perfect pass to Mike Williams who was running wide open behind the defense for a 49-yard touchdown.

With just under six minutes in the quarter, Allen had 12 receptions for 135 yards on top of the aforementioned 49-yard scoring throw.

The Chargers defense needed to step up in a big way on the ensuing Vikings drive to help keep momentum on their side. That unfortunately wasn’t meant to be as Kirk Cousins moved the offense downfield before hitting a crossing K.J. Osborn for a 36-yard touchdown on fourth-and-six. When it matter most, the Chargers defense once again fell flat in coverage.

Now back to staring at a four-point lead, the Chargers got off to a good start with an 11-yard screen pass to Williams. On the play, Williams was seen grasping his left knee and would be helped off the field by trainers. The incident seemed to shake the offense as Herbert was nearly stripped by Danielle Hunter on third down. The Chargers would punt.

Just before the period ticked away, Alexander Mattison broke a 14-yard run to get the Vikings moving.

Fourth Quarter

The Chargers looked like they were going to wrangle the Vikings offense into another punt with Tuli Tuipulotu sacking Kirk Cousins to put them behind the chains near midfield. On the very next play, Cousins hit Justin Jefferson across the middle, breaking a tackle attempt by JT Woods, and racing 54 yards to the end zone. The score put the Vikings on top of the Chargers 24-21 with 11:20 remaining in the game.

Herbert and Co. stepped up to the plate on their next drive.

After more Herbert-Allen connections, Allen was called for offensive pass interference which set the Chargers back into a first-and-20. He’d find Allen again two plays later to convert on third-and-17. The madness continued from there as Josh Palmer hauled in a miraculous touchdown pass that ricocheted off the hands and face mask of Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans right into the waiting arms of the receiver. The score put the Chargers back on top 28-24 with a little over eight minutes remaining in regulation.

More penalties on third downs and big passing plays by the Vikings spurred on their rebuttal to the Chargers’ latest score. The Vikings drove all the way down to the one-yard line, but the defense stiffened to force a fourth-and-three. The Vikings were called for an illegal shift on the fourth down incompletion and it was Chargers ball going back with the score still remaining 28-24.

Now nearing the two-minute warning, Herbert hit Allen for his 17th pass to get them out of the shadow of their own goal post. Kelley took a short handoff on the next play before they hit the two-minute warning.

Another run for no gain forced the second of the Vikings’ remaining timeout. A third-down pass to Allen came just a yard short of the sticks and the Chargers attempted a fullback dive via Kelley. It came up short and the Vikings were back in business inside the Chargers’ 30-yard line.

The Chargers got the Vikings into a third-and-11 before forcing an incompletion in the end zone. Michael Davis was called for illegal hands to the fae which gave the Vikings an automatic first down at the 20-yard line.

Three plays later, the Vikings faced fourth-and-five. Cousins stared down Khalil Mack barreling down on him to throw a nine-yard strike to TJ Hockenson for a first down.

One play later, a tipped ball fell into the arms of Kenneth Murray which sealed the 28-24 win for the Chargers.

Justin Herbert finished with 40-of-47 passing for 405 yards and three touchdowns.

Keenan Allen finished with a game-high 18 receptions for 215 yards. Both were career highs. Mike Williams also had seven receptions for 121 yards.

Herbert and Joshua Kelley each led the ground game with 12 yards.

Kenneth Murray led the Chargers with nine total tackles to go with one tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and the game-sealing interception.