Takeaways for the Chargers: Benching J.C. Jackson because he “wasn’t good enough”
The Chargers defeated Denver 19-16 in overtime Monday night at SoFi Stadium to improve to 4-2 and pull even with Kansas City atop the AFC West.
The Chiefs defeated the Chargers in Week 2, giving them the early-season tie-breaker.
Observations from a night filled mostly with defense and penalties:
Pro Bowl player pulled: The Chargers have to figure out what’s happening with cornerback J.C. Jackson. Signed to be one of their new defensive stars, Jackson was benched 3½ games into his first season with the team.
“It just wasn’t good enough in the first half,” coach Brandon Staley said, “and we felt like we needed to make a change.”
Jackson was pulled after the second quarter in favor of Michael Davis. Signed in March to a five-year contract that guarantees Jackson $40 million and is worth up to $82.5 million, Jackson never left the sideline after halftime.
He missed the season opener and the Chargers’ Week 3 game while dealing with the lingering effects of an August surgical procedure on his right ankle. When Jackson has played, he mostly has struggled.
Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler ran past him on a 47-yard reception late in the second quarter. On Denver’s first drive, Jackson was called for a pass interference penalty that cost his team 21 yards.
Davis was a starter the previous three seasons before losing his job after the Chargers signed Jackson.
“I thought Mike gave us a chance in the second half,” Staley said. “I liked the way that he played. He was ready. Proud of him. Proud of his teammates for helping him along, his coaches.”
Throwin’ up and down the field but not into the end zone: Justin Herbert has been setting records since practically his first NFL snap. On Monday, he set a rather odd one.
In games without a touchdown pass, his 57 attempts were the most for a quarterback in a victory, according to Elias.
Monday also marked only the second time Herbert hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in 38 NFL games.
He finished 37 of 57 for 238 yards. That’s 4.2 yards per attempt, the second-lowest single-game mark of his career.
With their offensive line hurting, the Chargers struggled to protect Herbert, leading to many quicker, shorter routes. Running back Austin Ekeler was targeted 16 times, matching his career high.
Herbert also explained that Denver’s defensive style — “A lot of shell [coverage]. They were sitting on a lot of the routes.” — led to him checking the ball down more.
“They are not pretty passes, three or four yards, but they move the chains and they get the ball going,” Herbert said. “We would love to be able to push the ball downfield, but we had to be smart. We tried to do our best to limit turnovers.”
O-Line details: The Chargers were without Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley, who was out because of an illness. Right tackle Trey Pipkins III played despite suffering what Staley said was a sprained MCL in Week 5.
They already are dealing with the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater, who is on the injured reserve list because of a torn biceps.
At one point Monday, Linsley’s backup, Will Clapp, left the game limping and was replaced by the little-used Brenden Jaimes, who normally plays guard.
Herbert was sacked twice and hit six other times, according to the NFL’s official statistics.
Sack attack: Entering Monday, linebacker Drue Tranquill had 1½ career sacks. Then he sacked Russell Wilson twice.
The second resulted in a nine-yard loss and forced Denver to punt just before the two-minute warning near the end of regulation.
After a Broncos timeout, Tranquill expertly timed a blitz up the middle and smothered Wilson.
“I loved the call,” Tranquill said. “They called a timeout and I was like, ‘Coach, let’s keep it on.’ Great design by coach Staley and our staff. … Everybody did their job, and it opened it up for me.”
Tranquill finished with eight tackles and had a third hit on Wilson.
Quiet night for Williams: Along with his 16 targets to Ekeler, Herbert targeted Joshua Palmer 12 times, a career high for the second-year receiver. Palmer finished with nine catches — also a career best — for 57 yards.
Ekeler and Palmer were popular options on a night when Denver’s defense largely took Mike Williams out of the game. Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II spent much of his time on Williams, who had just two catches for 17 yards. He was targeted six times.
Williams had topped 100 yards receiving in three of his previous four games as he helped fill the void left by the injured Keenan Allen.
Parham makes contribution: Tight end Donald Parham Jr. made his first three receptions of the season, totaling 54 yards. Parham hadn’t caught a pass in a game since suffering a concussion in Week 15 last season.
He missed the first four games this year because of a hamstring injury before returning in Week 5 at Cleveland.
“I have so much respect for Parham, especially what he’s fought through for the past couple of years,” Herbert said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s a great team guy. It’s great to see him go out there and catch a couple of passes like that.”
D raises up: The Chargers’ defense allowed only three points after halftime and those came after a possession on which Denver netted zero yards.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos were set up at the Chargers’ 30-yard line when Baron Browning intercepted Herbert on a pass that deflected into the air.
Two running plays advanced the ball four yards. Then, on third down, Tranquill sacked Wilson for a four-yard loss.
Brandon McManus kicked a 48-yard field goal for Denver’s only points on its final seven possessions. On those seven series, the Broncos gained 72 yards and produced five first downs.
Along with Tranquill’s starring efforts, safety Derwin James Jr. led the Chargers with 10 tackles and a sack and edge rusher Khalil Mack had five tackles, a sack and a pass knocked away.