Jaguars rip Chargers; Justin Herbert risks ripped rib cartilage

Previously, the questions were about whether Justin Herbert would start the game.

After that, questions turned to why Justin Herbert ended it.

That is How comprehensive was the Chargers’ collapse on Sunday as they lost to Jacksonville 38-10 at SoFi Stadium.

From the opening thrust to the final shot, their performance was sorely lacking as Herbert struggled to play through a ruptured rib cartilage and the defense collapsed under the weight of a 17-minute possession deficit.

Things didn’t improve much after that as Brandon Staley tried to explain why Herbert stayed in the game even though the Chargers fell four touchdowns in the last five minutes.

The coach seemed to contradict himself when speaking of the importance of thinking long-term while acknowledging that Herbert has triumphed in his desire to remain on the field in the short-term.

“He felt good and wanted to finish the game,” Staley said. “… We wanted to protect him there in the end… as best we could. But it was more about wanting to finish the game with his boys.”

Staley has been asked to balance the present with the future, especially when it comes to a franchise quarterback working under health conditions.

“The big picture is always what we think about,” he said. “We’re not thinking about this game with Jacksonville. We think of our entire football team. We’re talking about the whole season.”

Still, Herbert stayed in the game even when the Chargers were without their two best offensive linemen — left tackle Rashawn Slater and center Corey Linsley, both Pro Bowl selections.

Chargers fullback Zander Horvath is brought down by Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell in the fourth quarter.

Chargers fullback Zander Horvath is brought down by Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell in the fourth quarter.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Slater left the team early in the third quarter after suffering a potentially serious bicep injury and Linsley did not play with a knee problem.

According to official NFL stats, Herbert was fired once and hit five more times. Two of those hits — by Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen — came on back-to-back games on the Chargers’ last ball possession.

“What wins in the end is always the long-term,” emphasized Staley. “There was that exact point where he wanted to make sure he could handle his teammates.

“Until you were in that position, you know, it’s hard to explain. But it was important for us to do it. We were aligned all the way. Going forward, we will keep Justin at the forefront of all decisions we make.”

Staley has emphasized player safety since joining in January 2021, notably changing everything from training the team off-season to pre-season playtime.

What happened on Sunday seemed contrary to much that the coach had preached and practiced over the past 20 months.

Staley said that there were definitely discussions during the game about removing Herbert. But when asked if the quarterback was “adamant” about staying home, Staley replied yes.

Circumstances will not improve so quickly in the future. Staley acknowledged that Herbert’s ribs will be a problem for the foreseeable future.

“Justin will feel that way playing out there,” Staley said. “This injury will be around for a while. Knowing the injury, it’s not like it’s going to feel any better next week or the week after.”

Herbert was injured late in the Chargers’ previous game, on September 15 in Kansas City. He ended the 27-24 loss to the Chiefs despite suffering obvious pain in the final five minutes.

His ribs became history the same week that quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s medical malpractice lawsuit against a Chargers team doctor was publicized.

David Gazzaniga is being sued by Taylor because a pregame injection in 2020 – intended to help the quarterback cope with the pain of two broken ribs – resulted in Taylor suffering a punctured lung.

Gazzaniga remains part of the Chargers medical team and was on site in Kansas City when Herbert was injured.

Chargers receiver Mike Williams catches a touchdown pass alongside Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell in the second quarter.

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams catches a touchdown pass alongside Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell in the second quarter.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Late on Sunday afternoon, Herbert would not reveal whether he had had injections before the game.

“I think however I take care of my body, that’s one of the things I like to keep private,” he said. “I trust the medical staff. I trust the coaching staff. And they won’t put me in danger. I felt safe. They felt safe.”

Herbert finished 25 for 45 for 297 yards with an interception and a lost fumble. The 56% graduation rate was his fourth worst in 35 career starts.

The Chargers produced just one touchdown in 10 possessions, Herbert hit wide receiver Mike Williams for a 15-yard score in the second quarter.

Despite this, Staley said Herbert’s accuracy was not an issue.

“He threw the football well,” Staley said. “He wasn’t… the protection… the rush was there today, which forced him to accelerate at times. But he threw the ball out well.”


Not only did the Chargers lose Slater Sunday, but they also lost another Pro Bowl player in Joey Bosa, the edge rusher, who left late in the first quarter after suffering a groin injury. Wide receiver Jalen Guyton also suffered a knee injury that could potentially be significant. … The Chargers were without Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen, who continues to struggle with a hamstring problem, and Pro Bowl cornerback JC Jackson, who has an ankle injury. Jaguars rip Chargers; Justin Herbert risks ripped rib cartilage

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