How Justin Herbert’s spike added to punch of juiced up Chargers

There were signature throws, signature scrambles, and a signature clock-heavy, game-winning drive.

After writing his name all over the Chargers’ 23-17 win over Miami on Sunday, Justin Herbert also made one final exclamation point.

As usual, NBC presented Herbert with a ball for his on-field interview after the game. When he returned to the locker room minutes later, Herbert walked in and forcefully spiked the thing, which ignited cheers from his teammates.

The punctuation capped a night of energy and emotion as the Chargers finally defeated an opponent with a winning record and boosted their playoff chances with a dominant effort.

Herbert also achieved a cartoonishly one-sided triumph over fellow quarterbacking Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted 5th overall by the Dolphins in 2020, one spot ahead of Herbert, who the Chargers inherited.

“Our team played a very hungry game,” said coach Brandon Staley on Monday. “It was a lot of energy that we put into all three phases. It started with Justin and how he played in the game – not just passing and making play – but I’m talking about influencing his teammates in a positive way. Our team comes alive when he plays like that.”

Herbert completed 39 of 51 passes for 367 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He secured 16 first downs through the air and converted two third downs with ties to Keenan Allen as the Chargers closed the game.

Herbert also rushed for 10 yards on the third and eight for the Chargers’ final first down and set up a 28-yard field goal in a streak that lasted 17 games, covered 79 yards and consumed nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter.

At the end of his tussle, Herbert got up and, with a gesture that also worked well as punctuation, signaled down first – the ball still in his right hand.

“When you see Justin out there showing those emotions, you can see we’re on a rhythm,” said running back Austin Ekeler. “It’s always a plus to see one of the guys, especially Justin, out there having fun.”

Chargers' Austin Ekeler beats Dolphins runners-up

Chargers’ Austin Ekeler beats Dolphins runners-up The running back said coach Brandon Staley preached about playing with emotions that come into play.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Ekeler said Staley emphasized playing with emotion before the game and showed his team highlights, where the ability position of the Chargers’ players at different points in their careers showed energy on the field.

Images included Herbert catching a pass from Allen for a two-point conversion in a win in Cincinnati last season. After this game, Herbert also smashed the ball onto the lawn to celebrate.

“I could feel it [Sunday] night,” Ekeler said. “The energy, let’s keep going because that stuff is contagious. The touchline feeds on that, and the offense feeds on that.”

Ekeler said Herbert was particularly lively on Sunday night, noting that he deviated from his usual even-tempered demeanor and post-game routine, which Herbert typically includes sitting quietly at his locker for a few minutes to unwind.

After the win against Miami, Ekeler said that Herbert even spoke up as the team gathered around Staley, something Ekeler said he couldn’t remember happening in the past.

After Staley announced that players wouldn’t have to lift weights as a reward for winning Monday, Ekeler said that Herbert jokingly disagreed, saying, “‘We should boo,’ because he says, ‘We should lift in there.’ because everyone is cheering.”

After the Chargers’ win in Arizona in Week 12, Ekeler spoke about Herbert’s growth on the field and pointed to a beep he called to convert a third deficit on the team’s late, game-winning drive.

Ekeler was asked if Herbert’s contagious behavior on Sunday meant more growth for the third-year pro.

“Yes, we’ve all grown,” said Ekeler. “We’re all looking at him. He’s our leader out there in the field. That’s why we always want to hear what he has to say. … I think as he plays more he’ll realize we’re looking for him to guide us, whatever that looks like.

“Whether it’s an encouragement. Whether it is in the field, just something. He does it better this year. … It will take some time because the demand for this position is very high. He’s coming with me.”


Staley said right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee), cornerback Bryce Callahan (core muscle) and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (knee) will return to practice Thursday. The Chargers are off Tuesday and have a walk-through on Wednesday. … Staley pointed out that safety Derwin James Jr. (quads) is further behind than this trio on the return. … Tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) is expected to be available Sunday when the Chargers play Tennessee at SoFi Stadium. How Justin Herbert’s spike added to punch of juiced up Chargers

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