Chargers’ Justin Herbert could use Mike Williams, Keenan Allen

Justin Herbert’s completion total and percentage are both up while he threw for 115 fewer yards and five fewer touchdowns.

His rating is seven points lower and he has passed almost a full yard less per try.

Through nine games this year and nine a season ago – a season that ended with Herbert in the Pro Bowl – one thing is the same: the Chargers are 5-4.

The above math and the lack of images of Herbert’s spiraling rainbows deep in field have led some observers outside the team’s Costa Mesa practice facility to wonder why the quarterback declined in his third season.

“I think it was more of a challenge with all the different plays,” said offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. “I think if you get in a situation like that, you can push too hard and turn the ball around. Most of the time he protected it well.

“I think maybe some of the opportunities to make the big games just weren’t there for him and he’s just trying to play smart. I’m not worried about his regression.”

For the record, Herbert has had seven interceptions at this point in 2021 and currently has six. He’s lost a fumble more than a year ago.

There’s no denying that injuries have impacted Herbert and the Chargers’ offense this season, those “different pieces” that come up as the game progresses. Above all:

  • Keenan Allen only played 45 snaps, half of them at maybe three quarters of speed, as he tried to push through a sore hamstring in Week 7.
  • Mike Williams has missed the last two games and has three touchdowns for the season. He had twice that in nine games last year.
  • Left tackle Rashawn Slater has been out since Week 3 with a bicep injury, while right tackle Trey Pipkins III has been a recurring feature in the lineup with a knee sprain.
  • Herbert was injured in Week 2 in Kansas City when he suffered a fractured rib cartilage, an injury that severely limited his ability to perform until recently.

Now comes the Chargers vs. Chiefs rematch Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, a Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes renewal enticing enough that the NFL and NBC moved the showdown to prime time.

Allen and Williams have been limited in training for the last two days, and their availability for Sunday is still in question. Both have said they want to play and hope.

“When they go, it’s huge,” Lombardi said. “They are our two best recipients. If they’re out there and healthy, that’s a big boost.”

Starting in 2020 for the first time in his career against Kansas City, Herbert threw for 311 yards and nearly led the Chargers to an upset victory.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes runs to the first down against the Chargers at SoFi Stadium.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes his debut against the Chargers in 2021 at SoFi Stadium.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

After taking over as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback in 2018, Mahomes made his first start against the Chargers, throwing for four touchdowns.

The two players are as familiar as the teams – and almost as difficult to separate.

Six of the last seven meetings between the Chargers and Chiefs have been decided by a point, not counting the regular-season finale at the end of the 2020 season when Kansas City had already secured their playoff position and were not playing against their regulars.

Herbert and the Chargers are trying to recover from a scoreless second half Sunday night against San Francisco, with the post-half performance boasting just three first downs and 52 total yards on five possessions.

The Chargers were only able to convert one of five third downs but failed to maintain anything as they annihilated an earlier 10-point lead and lost 22-16.

Herbert and offense must be way better against Kansas City, which leads the NFL in points per game.

“It was a tough time for us, five or six games, because there was just no continuity,” said coach Brandon Staley. “What I’m proud of is our coaching staff and our players who hang hard, and that’s what you have to do in the NFL sometimes.”

Hard hanging for Herbert on Sunday would be easier with Allen and Williams, two plays he’s fairly familiar with.


Pipkins, wide receiver DeAndre Carter (ribs), tight end Gerald Everett (groin) and edge rusher Chris Rumph II (knee) were also all restricted in practice Thursday. … Punter JK Scott (ill) missed his second straight day. Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker has also punched in college and during NFL preseason games. Chargers’ Justin Herbert could use Mike Williams, Keenan Allen

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