MINNEAPOLIS — Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns, and the Chargers held Kirk Cousins and the Vikings out of the end zone twice in the last three minutes to secure a wild 28-24 victory against the winless Vikings on Sunday.
With 7 seconds remaining, Kenneth Murray Jr. produced the game-winning interception in the end zone, catching a pass that bounced off the chest of diving tight end T.J. Hockenson. Michael Davis intercepted Cousins’ fourth-down pass to Justin Jefferson near the goal line on Minnesota’s previous drive.
The Chargers’ daring decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 24 within the 2-minute warning gave the Vikings that second shot. Jonathan Bullard stonewalled Joshua Kelley in the hole. However, the Vikings (0-3) have just lacking the late-game magic that propelled them to 11 one-score victories last season.
Keenan Allen not only established career highs with 205 yards and 18 receptions, but he also tossed a 49-yard touchdown throw to Mike Williams on a trick play in the third quarter, giving the Chargers (1-2) a 21-10 lead.
Herbert, who finished 40 for 47 and established a team mark with 213 straight attempts without an interception, connected with Donald Parham Jr. for two first-half touchdowns, including a fourth-and-goal catch with 50 seconds remaining before halftime.
Cousins completed a fourth-down throw for a 36-yard touchdown to K.J. Osborn late in the third quarter in a frenetic final stretch between two explosive offenses and teams in desperate positions following two consecutive defeats. Then, with 11:20 remaining, he connected Jefferson for a 52-yard touchdown and a 24-21 advantage.
Herbert led the Chargers on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown throw to Joshua Palmer with 8:05 remaining. Akayleb Evans almost made a diving interception, but the ball slid through his hands, off his helmet, and into the air, where it was intercepted by Palmer at the goal line.
The Vikings allowed 259 rushing yards to Philadelphia last week, but with Austin Ekeler out again, the Chargers abandoned the ground game. So why not? Herbert has the most completions in a player’s first four seasons in history, with 14 games left to add to that number.
Staley defeated his buddy Kevin O’Connell, who worked with him on the Los Angeles Rams’ staff in 2020, in this matchup between 2022 playoff teams.
The fact that 31 teams have begun 0-2 and reached the playoffs since the NFL expanded the field in 1990 gives Staley and the Chargers hope. Last season, Cincinnati did so.
The road ahead seems to be difficult for O’Connell and the Vikings. Since 1990, just four teams have entered the playoffs after starting 0-3: the Chargers (1992), Detroit (1995), Buffalo (1998), and Houston (2018).
that's our quarterback pic.twitter.com/mNvJKdLEma
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) September 24, 2023
This season, the Vikings have fumbled seven times and lost all of them. Hockenson was the most recent offender, giving up a potential first possession at the 21-yard line after Alohi Gilman pulled the ball away in a swarm of opponents. The Vikings have the league’s lowest turnover ratio of minus-seven.
THE HEROES OF HERBERT
In his 52nd career regular season game, Herbert became the second-fastest player in NFL history to surpass 15,000 throwing yards. Patrick Mahomes made it in 49 games.
REPORT OF INJURY
S Derwin James (hamstring) and Williams (knee) of the Chargers were hurt in the third quarter. In addition to Ekeler, LB Eric Kendricks (hamstring), who played for the Vikings for eight seasons, was inactive.
Vikings: Jefferson missed the game on the last drive due to an injury that kept him on the field for a few minutes before going slowly to the bench. Josh Metellus (shoulder) was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter after aggravating an existing ailment. C Garrett Bradbury (back) missed his second game in a row. Marcus Davenport (ankle) was also sidelined once again. This season, he has played four snaps.