Wednesday, Feb 2024

In a battle of two playoff teams from the 2022 NFL season, the Los Angeles Chargers hung on to defeat the Minnesota Viking in Minneapolis, 28-24, for their first victory of the 2023 NFL season. The Chargers improved to 1-2 for the season and the Vikings are 0-3 on the season.

The Chargers held on for the win after failing to get a first down on fourth and one from their own 24-yard line with 1:47 remaining in the game. The Vikings got the ball back and drove to the six-yard line, but Viking quarterback Kirk Cousins had his pass in the end zone deflected by linebacker Nick Niemann and intercepted by linebacker Kenneth Murray. The Chargers had their first victory of the season.

Another tough loss for the Vikings, who have lost all three games by six points or less, while the Chargers narrowly avoided another heartbreaking loss. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was lambasted across the NFL world for his decision to go for it on fourth and one from his own 24, instead of punting. After the game, Staley was asked about the controversial decision. “I believe in our group,” Staley said. “We came here to win, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Cousins threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers struggling pass defense. Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson had 7 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown, while running back Alexander Mattison rushed for 93 yards. The Chargers committed 12 penalties for 94 yards, which contributed to seven first downs for the Vikings via penalties. It was another rough day for the Chargers defense.

The Chargers were led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who completed 40 of 47 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns, and a record-breaking performance by wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 18 passes for 215 yards and also threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Mike Williams. The 18 receptions by Allen was a Charger franchise record. Allen leads the NFL with 32 receptions.

Herbert set the franchise record for passes without an interception with 213 and counting. His three touchdown passes gave him 100 in 52 games. Williams caught seven passes for 121 yards, but on the seventh catch he went down with a knee injury, which later was determined to be an ACL injury. He is lost for the season. The loss of Williams is a huge loss for the offense.

To replace Mike Williams at wide receiver, the Chargers signed Semi Fehoko off of the Steelers practice squad and onto the Chargers 53-man active roster. Fehoko played his college ball at Stanford and was a teammate of Chargers left tackle Foster Sarell. Fehoko was drafted in the 5th round by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 NFL draft. Fehoko was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2020 at wide receiver.

Fehoko was viewed as a size/speed prospect in the NFL draft and the Chargers like big receivers. At 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, with a 4.44 official forty time, he definitely fits the profile at wide receiver. He had an unofficial time of 4.37 in the forty. He played sparingly with the Cowboys in 2021 and 2022, hauling in three receptions for 24 yards. His offensive coordinator in Dallas was Kellen Moore, the current Charger offensive coordinator.

Ourlads Scouting Services described Fehoko as, “one of the most intriguing offensive prospects in the 2021 NFL draft.” UCLA Bruin fans do not have fond memories of Fehoko, who torched the Bruins secondary in a 2020 regular season game at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins were leading 34-20 with less than three minutes remaining in that 2020 game against Stanford. Fehoko caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Davis Mills in the last three minutes of regulation, the second a 21-yard touchdown reception with just 18 seconds left, which tied the game and sent it into overtime. Fehoko then caught the winning touchdown pass in the second overtime as Stanford stunned UCLA, 48-47. Fehoko finished with 16 receptions for 230 yards and three touchdowns, a Keenan Allen type of performance.

The Chargers greet their long-time rival from Las Vegas this weekend, the hated Raiders. The game will be played on Sunday, October 1st, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The game will start at 1:05 PM locally and will be televised on CBS. The Raiders hold a 67-57 lead in the series and over the years the Chargers have suffered some heartbreaking losses to the Raiders, the most recent the overtime loss to the Chargers in Las Vegas to end the 2021 regular season. The Raiders went on to the playoffs and the Chargers were done for the season.

The Raiders are 1-2 on the season and have struggled offensively. Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is currently in the concussion protocol and may not be available for the Chargers game. Backup Brian Hoyer would be the likely starter if Garoppolo is out. The Raiders are averaging just 15 points per game and are last in rushing yardage per game. They have struggled with Garoppolo in the lineup.

The Raiders do have offensive talent. Running back Josh Jacobs and wide receiver Davante Adams were both first-team All-Pro in 2022. The Chargers are ranked 31st out of 32 teams in defensive yardage allowed per game, so they may be just what the Raiders need to get their offense going in Week 4. On defense, the Raiders defense has five sacks and zero turnovers, which is an indication that things have not gone well for the Raiders defensively.

The Chargers rank 2nd in total offensive yardage in the NFL and are tied for 5th in the NFL in scoring average with the Cowboys at 28.7 points per game. Herbert is 2nd in passer rating in the NFL, behind only Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins. If the defense improves, the Chargers could make a run at the playoffs. But first, they need to get by the Raiders.