Justin Herbert can now add a divisional victory onto his list of achievements during his rookie season. Oh, and a game-winning touchdown in overtime, too. The Chargers rookie quarterback took a goal-line keeper over the pile to give L.A. the 30-27 victory in overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders to kick off Week 15.
This game wasn't shy at producing drama from the early goings as the Raiders rather quickly needed to turn to backup quarterback Marcus Mariota following a groin injury that forced starter Derek Carr out of the game in the first quarter. Despite coming in under duress, Mariota kept the Vegas offense afloat and nearly pulled off the win. He immediately stepped in and produced points, hitting Darren Waller for a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders the lead in the early portions of the second quarter. That lead didn't last long, however, as Herbert continued his strong rookie season and was able to go toe-to-toe with Jon Gruden's offense throughout the evening.
Los Angeles was even in a position to win this game on a number of occasions, but two missed field goals by Michael Badgley in the fourth quarter helped bring this game to overtime. There, Antony Lynn's defense was able to make a strong stand at the goal line, which opened the door for Herbert to eventually score the game-winning touchdown.
Herbert finished with 314 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a 68.7 completion percentage. With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams limited in this contest, Jalen Guyton and Hunter Henry proved to be his go-to options, finishing with 91 and 65 yards receiving respectfully. As for the Raiders, Waller was the stud offensively, catching nine of his 12 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Below, you'll find our main takeaways from Thursday's AFC West head-to-head, and even further down you can relive the action as it unfolded in our live blog.
Why Los Angeles won
This is what happens when you have a top-10 quarterback under center; he can erase nearly any mistake the club makes. Los Angeles did its best at times to give this game to the Raiders even after Derek Carr went down due to injury. The brilliance of Herbert, however, shined on Thursday night. The rookie started the game hot, completing all eight of his passes in the opening quarter for 97 yards, a touchdown, and a perfect passer rating. That stellar play only continued as the game progressed and proved to be a necessity rather than a luxury for Anthony Lynn's club.
After Los Angeles and Las Vegas began matching touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter, kicker Michael Badgley missed two field-goal attempts on back-to-back drives for the Chargers that likely would have ended the game in regulation. Typically, misses of that magnitude implode a team, but Herbert was able to almost single-handedly march L.A. 75-yards down the field in OT to score the game-winner.
While Herbert is the top reason why the Chargers came up with the win in Week 15, there should be some credit given to the defense, who came up with some timely plays. It didn't produce points, but Chris Harris' interception of Mariota with under two minutes to go in regulation did snatch a scoring opportunity away from the Raiders, who were sitting on the Chargers' 21-yard line. The big moment, however, came in overtime where they were able to hold Las Vegas to a field goal, despite Mariota bringing the offense as far down as the Los Angeles three-yard line. Holding them to three points gave Herbert the opportunity to go win it on the ensuing possession.
Why Las Vegas lost
When your starting quarterback goes down in the first half, that more often than not can be pointed to as a reason why you lost the contest. Not here. Marcus Mariota filled in wonderfully for Derek Carr after he was sidelined due to a groin injury. He kept Las Vegas in the contest as it moved into overtime and made a number of game-winning plays throughout the contest. As has been the case throughout the season for the Raiders -- and the reason why former DC Paul Guenther was simply a viewer to this game after being fired this week -- the defense once again failed Jon Gruden.
They allowed Justin Herbert to have his way with the secondary out of the shoot and that continued throughout the game and into overtime when he led the 75-yard game-winning drive. Really, that final sequence for the Raiders secondary was a microcosm of this entire game. On a second-and-10, corner Trayvon Mullen, who was a liability throughout the evening and was penalized a number of times, was called for DPI, which advanced the ball 20 yards for the Chargers. When Mullen wasn't forcing the officials to throw laundry all over the field, the rest of the secondary was creating open pockets for Herbet to exploit. On that game-winning drive, Herbert found a wide-open Jalen Guyton for a 53-yard pass that put L.A. on the doorstep of their eventual game-winning touchdown.
While some of the decisions on offense (one target for Darren Waller on the overtime drive) was a bit questionable by the Raiders, that unit wasn't the reason why they've now fallen to .500.
This game did teeter late in the direction of the Raiders after Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missed a 47-yard field goal with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter. That miss came fresh off a 19-play drive by the Las Vegas offense that resulted in a touchdown and that unit was now in a position to step on the field and go for the win. They did get as far down as the L.A. 21-yard line by Chris Harris was able to pick off Mariota as a throw that went a bit behind Zay Jones. That took at least three points off the board for the Raiders, which gave the Chargers a bit of life as the game moved into OT.
In overtime, the major swing came courtesy of the goal-line stand that allowed just a field goal and Herbert's 53-yard toss to Jalen Guyton that put the Chargers on the Raiders' 2-yard line, which immediately flipped the field and gave L.A. the opportunity to punch it in for the win.
Play of the game
Marcus Mariota was extremely impressive coming in under duress in the first half. After Carr went down with that groin injury, he rolled out left on his first pass attempt and completed an eye-popping sideline throw to Foster Moreau for 22 yards. While that play was certainly one to write home about, he quickly bested it with his 35-yard touchdown dime to Darren Waller. Mariota hit his star tight end in-stride while facing some pressure in the pocket. Couldn't have placed it any better and immediately put the Chargers on notice that they had a ballgame on their hands.
Mariota finished stayed hot throughout the first half, completing all five of his throws for 80 yards and that score. He finished his night with 226 yards through the air, a touchdown, and a pick. He also rushed for a game-high 88 yards and added another score with his feet.
From here, the Raiders will stick in Las Vegas and await the Miami Dolphins, who'll host the Patriots on Sunday. After that, they'll finish out the regular season with a trip to Denver to face the Broncos. As for the Chargers, they'll host Denver in Week 16 and then head on the road to Kansas City for a regular-season finale against the Chiefs.