The only thing hotter than the sun beaming down on Fed Ex Field in Landover on Sunday — second-year quarterback phenom Justin Herbert, who guided the Los Angeles Chargers to a 20-16 victory over the Washington Football Team (WFT).
But more bad news awaited the home team of maroon and gold after their starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, went down hard following a sack and sustaining an injury that’s expected to keep him sidelined for about four to six weeks.
Once again, Taylor Heinicke, who had an electric performance in last season’s playoff game against the Buccaneers, stepped in as quarterback, piling up impressive numbers. But despite Heinicke’s best efforts, the offense’s output appeared as sluggish as last season where they held court near the bottom of their division.
Heinicke, who in interviews with the local press appears optimistic about this year’s roster, will continue as the WFT’s quarterback. But he will need more help from his skilled position players. Other than running back Antonio Gibson, who had a very productive day outside of a very costly fumble late in the game, and the reliable Terry McLaurin, who did not make his first catch until the second half, there were not many contributions from other offensive players.
Logan Thomas, the team’s emerging talent at tight end, did account for the team’s sole touchdown. However, with the absence of Curtis Samuel who was expected to give a jolt to the offense, the skilled position offensive players left much to be desired. Samuel remains on the short-term injured reserve list and will be ineligible to play until at least week four.
The defense did not fare much better. On the first drive of the game, the Chargers marched easily down the field. It appeared WFT faithful would be in for a long day. But the defense settled down and ended up holding the Chargers to 20 points. Still, they failed to generate an effective pass rush, giving Herbert far too much time to operate and find his big, speedy wide receivers. Herbert finished 31 for 47 for 337 yards.
The defense did generate two turnovers but when it counted they could not get off the field on third down – something which would cost them dearly on the final drive of the game.
Bright spots for the team included a solid effort from Gibson who had 100 total yards from scrimmage, as well a good showing from the special teams who dropped punts inside the 20. Dustin Hopkins was 3 for 4 on field goals and the team’s new returner, Deandre Carter, also had a good day with a 14-ard punt return and a 31-yard kick return. The team’s young secondary held up fairly well in coverage as William Jackson had an interception but collectively, they allowed Herbert too much time to find receivers.
Now, Heinicke and company only have a short week in preparation for Thursday night’s game at home against the New York Giants. Scott Turner will need to get more out of his skilled position players. And the team’s pass rush has to be more effective for the WFT to have a chance.