Chargers lose gamble, but still hold off Vikings for 1st victory of the season – Orange County Register

MINNEAPOLIS — The Chargers needed a fortunate bounce and a goal-line stand to take a 28-24 victory Sunday from the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, their first win of the season after two nerve-jangling defeats. Justin Herbert’s third touchdown pass of the game put them ahead to stay in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers’ defense then stopped the Vikings three times inside the 2-yard line, taking over on downs with 2:53 remaining in what was a must-win game for Minnesota, which also started the season with two defeats. Kirk Cousins misfired on third and fourth downs at the 2.

Instead of punting on a fourth-and-1 at their own 24, Chargers coach Brandon Staley went for it. Joshua Kelley was stopped for no gain on a run up the middle and the Vikings took over on downs with 1:46 remaining in the game, needing a touchdown to take the lead in the closing seconds.

Kenneth Murray Jr. sealed it for the Chargers with an end-zone interception with 7 seconds left in the game.

Herbert completed 26 of 30 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, leading the Chargers to a 14-10 lead. Tight end Donald Parham Jr. caught touchdown passes of 2 and 1 yards, the second of which came with 47 seconds left in the half and capped an effective two-minute drill.

Herbert threw a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Josh Palmer that gave the Chargers a 28-24 lead with 8:05 left in the game, an underthrown pass that bounced off the hands of defensive back Akayleb Evans. Palmer snatched the ball and jogged into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Cousins didn’t throw a pass in the direction of standout wide receiver Justin Jefferson until well into the second quarter, but then hit him three times for 80 yards by halftime. Cousins connected with tight end Josh Oliver for a 4-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Cousins hit a streaking Jefferson for a 52-yard touchdown pass play that gave the Vikings their first lead of the game, 24-21. Jefferson split the Chargers’ coverage, caught the pass and raced away from a pack of pursuers with 11:20 left in the game.

The Chargers went ahead 21-10 on a trick play in the third quarter, with Herbert lateraling to wide receiver Keenan Allen and then Allen firing a strike to wide receiver Mike Williams for a 49-yard touchdown pass. The Vikings countered with Cousins throwing a 36-yard scoring pass to wide receiver K.J. Osborn.

Williams suffered an apparent left knee injury later in the third quarter.

J.C. Jackson, an All-Pro cornerback who is the Chargers’ highest-paid player this season with a guaranteed salary of $12 million, was inactive for Sunday’s game. Jackson ruptured his right patellar tendon in a game last Oct. 23 and underwent season-ending surgery a few days later.

It wasn’t immediately known if Jackson’s knee was giving him trouble and that was why he was scratched from the lineup. He and his fellow defensive backs struggled to contain opposing receivers in the Chargers’ first two games of the season, including in Week 1, when Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards.

Running back Cam Akers, acquired last week from the Rams, was inactive for the Vikings. Akers fell out of favor with the Rams after he returned to the team after departing last season over a dispute over his role. He played in Week 1 and was inactive for Week 2 before he was traded Wednesday.

More to come on this story.

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