By Lewis Gould
Justin Herbert and the Chargers excelled on third down to give Brandon Staley a victory in his first game running the sideline, beating Washington 20-16 in a sloppy Week 1 matchup full of turnovers and big penalties.
Herbert threw for 337 yards and a touchdown, overcoming a fumble into the end zone and a red zone interception and leading an offense that went 14 of 19 on third down.
The teams combined for 14 penalties for 151 yards and three giveaways. Antonio Gibson’s fumble inside the Washington 5-yard line set up the Chargers’ shortest but most important scoring drive that ended with Herbert’s TD pass to Williams.
Los Angeles also got a 3-yard TD run from Austin Ekeler, who rushed 15 times for 57 yards and showed he was good to go after being questionable with a left hamstring injury.
Washington lost veteran starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a right hip injury midway through the second quarter. Coach Ron Rivera did not have an update on Fitzpatrick and said he hopes to know more about the 38-year-old’s status Monday.
“He’s in good spirits,” tight end Logan Thomas said. “Obviously not real sure what it is yet, but hoping for the best for him.”
Fitzpatrick was replaced by popular backup Taylor Heinicke, whose name was chanted by fans still remembering his surprise playoff heroics in the wild-card round loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
Even though the FitzMagic never materialized, Heinicke had some of his own special moments, including a perfect pass to top receiver Terry McLaurin and a TD throw to tight end Logan Thomas. Heinicke was 11 of 15 for 122 yards and could be Washington’s starter moving forward.
“There is something about Taylor,” Rivera said, adding Heinicke’s ability to improvise gave Washington’s offense a spark.