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Justin Herbert, Chargers avoid epic collapse in wild win versus Steelers

Justin Herbert, Chargers avoid epic collapse in wild win versus Steelers
  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 celebrates after scoring his fourth touchdown of the night against Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Kyler Fackrell #52 and Joey Bosa #97 sack Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joe Gaziano #92 and Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Kyler Fackrell #52 celebrate after forcing the Pittsburgh Steelers to turn the ball over on downs in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 gets a hand to the face from Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush #55 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert #10 runs for a first down against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James #33 , Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 and Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis #43 stop Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris #22 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu #42 and Los Angeles Chargers Joey Bosa #97 force the fumble as they sack Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers Joey Bosa #97 celebrates his sack of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 with Los Angeles Chargers True Tranquill #49 and Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams #81 takes the field during player introductions before play the Pittsburgh Steelers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers fans wave their terrible towels after a Steelers touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Storm Norton #74 blocks Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Taco Charlton #98 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Kyler Fackrell #52 sacks Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen #13 is taken down by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram #8 after the first down catch in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James #33 sends Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool #11 flying after the catch in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II #94 screams in pain after being hit by a teammate while tackleing Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris #22 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool #11 singles first down after his catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers tight end Donald Parham #89 is taken down by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton #20 after the catch in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fans cheer after a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers safety Miles Killebrew #28 blocks the Los Angeles Chargers punter Ty Long #1 punt in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton #20 intercepts a tipped Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert #10 pass in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Storm Norton #74 hits Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton #20 after he intercepted a tipped pass from Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert #10 in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron #85 pulls Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 across the goal line for the touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon #25 hits Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert #10 after a short run in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 celebrates after scoring against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams #81 runs for yards after the catch as Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon #25 tries to bring him down in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Joe Schobert #93 stops Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 on fourth down in the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Tevaughn Campbell #20 sends Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris #22 flying after the catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 hits him in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James #33 and Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 stop Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth #88 short of the goal on fourth down in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert #10 runs for a first down against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joe Gaziano #92 stops Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris #22 at the line in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers free safety Derwin James #33 hits Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool #11 as he leaps over Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. #26 after the catch in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. #26 breaks up the pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool #11 in the end zone in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 argues with field judge Eugene Hall #103 after not getting a penalty call against the Los Angeles Chargers in the end zone in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris #22 leaps over the Los Angeles Chargers line for the touchdown in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush #55 gets the facemark of Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 on a run in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joe Gaziano #92 bats down a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 pass in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 scores in front of Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush #55 after the catch in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool #11 makes the catch behind Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. #26 in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 runs for his fourth touchdown of the night against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler #30 celebrates after scoring his fourth touchdown of the night against Pittsburgh Steelers with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Andre Roberts #7 in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Arthur Maulet #35 prays before taking the field to warmup before playing the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 talks with fans while signing autographs before playing the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • In the first half of the Chargers-Steelers game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers fans show up early to to watch Pittsburgh Steelers warmup to play the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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INGLEWOOD — Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert had the Pittsburgh Steelers frustrated with timely runs and was punched in the stomach by defensive tackle Cam Heyward after a 36-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Heyward wasn’t ejected for the double punch and it didn’t take long before he was the one frustrating Herbert.

The Chargers’ unfathomable meltdown peaked when Heyward tipped a Herbert pass that landed in the hands of cornerback Cameron Sutton for an interception. The Chargers took a few more figurative gut punches after that.

But the Chargers landed the final blow and avoided an epic collapse after Herbert found a wide open Mike Williams downfield for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The Chargers prevailed 41-37 over the Steelers in a thrilling “Sunday Night Football” battle at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers improved to 6-4 and the Steelers dropped to 5-4-1.

“We finished as a team,” Chargers safety Derwin James said. “It didn’t always go as we scripted it, but they battled back, they got some momentum and we put the fire out. We got the job done.”

The Steelers erased a 17-point second-half deficit after kicker Chris Boswell made a 45-yard field goal to take a 37-34 lead with 3:24 left in regulation. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 5-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 34-34 with 4:23 remaining.

The Chargers had a 27-10 lead with 3:40 in the third quarter. The Chargers had a dreadful stretch in the fourth quarter, but Herbert and his offense regained their rhythm.

Herbert found his groove with timely runs and was accurate with downfield throws to wide receiver Keenan Allen and Williams. Herbert’s biggest run was a 36-yard scramble after the Steelers made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.

Herbert had 382 passing yards with three touchdowns and added 90 rushing yards. He became the first player in NFL history to record at least 350 passing yards and 90 rushing yards in a single game.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler had four total touchdowns. Allen recorded nine catches for 112 yards and Williams contributed five receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. The Chargers had a season-high 533 total yards.

Heyward tackled Herbert on his clutch third-down run and threw two punches at Herbert’s stomach out of frustration.

“I haven’t really seen it,” Herbert said after being asked if he thought Heyward’s punches was dirty. “He’s a tough player. Football is an emotional game. Whatever happened, happened in the game. We’ll shake hands and say, ‘Good game,’ after the game.”

Herbert was back to frustrating opposing defenses, something he did often in his Rookie of the Year season last year and five games into this season before the offensive funk of the past month.

The Chargers weren’t extending plays and Herbert was overthinking against the complex defenses of the NFL amid their offensive slide. Herbert had lost his comfort zone in the losses to the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings in the past month.

But Herbert was having fun on the field before the nightmare fourth quarter with critical runs and a pump fake way past the line of scrimmage in the second quarter. Herbert was aggressive and decisive throughout the game.

“He was fantastic in the game today,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “He was the best player on the field. He has real instincts at the game for the position. He has real instincts at the game. His legs, today, really helped us win that football game.”

But the Steelers made a late push and trimmed the deficit to 27-20 after a 1-yard rushing touchdown from rookie running back Najee Harris with 11:35 left in regulation. The Steelers capitalized on a blocked punt and returned it to the Chargers’ 3-yard line.

The Chargers gained some breathing room after Herbert’s 36-yard run and Ekeler’s fourth touchdown to extend the lead 34-20 with 8:48 left in regulation. Ekeler finished with 50 rushing yards, two touchdowns and had 65 receiving yards with two touchdowns.

Williams’ decline in production and the Chargers’ struggles to sustain long drives were reasons why they entered Sunday with a broken offense. The Chargers got Williams involved early against the Steelers and it led to a lengthy opening drive, which ended with a 6-yard touchdown run from Ekeler.

The Chargers went 3 of 3 on third-down conversions and had a 7-3 advantage with 2:09 in the first quarter. Williams had three catches for 41 yards on the touchdown drive.

Herbert did most of the work on the Chargers’ second touchdown series by throwing for 50 yards and rushing for 40 yards on the 98-yard drive. Herbert scrambled and found Ekeler for a 10-yard touchdown pass and a 14-3 lead with 3:42 left in the first half.

The Steelers quickly responded with a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that took 2:33 off the clock. Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who made an impressive 10-yard touchdown catch to trim the Chargers’ lead 14-10 with 1:09 left before halftime.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins added a 30-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 17-10 lead at halftime. The Chargers only had three possessions in the first half, but recorded two touchdowns and a field goal.

The Steelers took more than six minutes off the clock on their opening drive and were assisted by three penalties from the Chargers’ defense. Pittsburgh settled for a 36-yard field goal from Boswell to take a 3-0 advantage with 8:29 in the first quarter.

The Chargers had a critical goal-line stand in the second quarter after the Steelers had first-and-goal from the Chargers’ 5-yard line. Roethlisberger connected with Chase Claypool for 37 yards, but they failed to score and were stopped on fourth-and-2.

The Chargers’ defense had plenty of rough moments, but they had the game-clinching stop after Herbert’s touchdown to Williams. Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa had a timely sack on the final drive.

It was wild and ugly, but the Chargers did enough on a memorable Sunday night.









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