LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Justin Herbert threw for 337 yards and a touchdown to help the Los Angeles Chargers beat Washington 20-16 in an ugly Week 1 matchup Sunday full of turnovers and big penalties.
Herbert led scoring drives of 75, 76 and 68 yards, and a go-ahead touchdown pass to Mike Williams made up for his fumble into the end zone and red zone interception on consecutive possessions. The reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Chargers went 14 of 19 on third downs, wearing down Washington’s defense led by last year’s top defensive rookie, Chase Young.
The teams combined for 14 penalties for 151 yards and three giveaways.
Los Angeles also got a 3-yard TD run from Austin Ekeler, who was listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Ekeler finished with 57 yards on 15 carries and joined Danny Woodhead as the only undrafted players in the NFL’s common draft era with 10-plus rushing and 15-plus passing TDs.
Loud cheers erupted from the visiting locker room as the Chargers celebrated Brandon Staley winning his coaching debut.
Washington lost veteran starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a right hip injury midway through the fourth quarter of his team debut. 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.
Herbert was 31 of 47 and joined Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes as the only players in league history with 4,500 yards passing in his first 16 career starts.
After not being targeted by Fitzpatrick, McLaurin made quite the splash early in the third quarter with a highlight-reel catch. Heinicke dropped the ball in perfectly for McLaurin along the sideline, and he came down with it for a 37-yard gain after it went through safety Derwin James’ outstretched arms.
The next play was Heinicke’s TD pass to Thomas.
FIELD GOALS APLENTY
Chargers kicker Tristain Vizcaino connected on 33- and 27-yard field goals. Washington’s Dustin Hopkins was good from 30, 43 and 48 and missed from 51 yards.
The Chargers lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a back injury in the third quarter and safety Nasir Adderley to a shoulder injury early in the fourth.
Bulaga battled various injuries during training camp and was derailed by back problems last season. He was replaced on the offensive line by Storm Norton.
Washington was without receiver Curtis Samuel, placed on injured reserve Friday with a groin ailment that has lingered for months.
Chargers: host the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday.
Washington: host the New York Giants on Thursday night.