The Los Angeles Chargers got the hard part right on Sunday.
But they came up painfully short of a dramatic victory over the Carolina Panthers thanks to a botched lateral on a trick play as time ran out.
The Chargers started their final drive facing a long shot, trailing 21-16 after Carolina downed a Joseph Charlton punt at the 1-yard line with 1:46 remaining. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert responded to the moment, completing six consecutive pass attempts to drive the Chargers to the Panthers 23-yard line with 13 seconds left.
A false start pushed the Chargers back five yards, and a deep Herbert pass to Keenan Allen on the next snap didn’t connect, setting Los Angeles up with one last shot at the end zone from the 28-yard line with five seconds remaining.
Chargers set up trick play
The Chargers declined to set up a desperation end zone shot for Herbert, instead opting for one of the game’s oldest trick plays — a hook-and-lateral. Herbert escaped pressure and found Allen streaking across the field right-to-left at the 15-yard line.
Allen hauled in the pass and immediately looked to running back Austin Ekeler, who was running in the opposite direction. Allen lateraled the ball to Ekeler, who faced a wide open path to the left corner of the end zone as Carolina’s secondary leaned right to pursue Allen.
Except the lateral didn’t connect.
Oh so close
The pitch bounced high off of Ekeler’s hands, and instead of walking in for a touchdown, he scrambled to recover the loose ball. Carolina’s Efe Obada jumped on it, and time ran out for a Panthers win.
The botched play denied Herbert his first NFL victory in his second professional start after being selected in the first round of April’s draft. He took over for starter Tyrod Taylor last week after a pregame pain injection punctured Taylor’s lung.
Herbert threw for 300 yards for the second time in two starts, connecting on 35 of 49 passes for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was another productive but disappointing result for Herbert, whose NFL debut last week ended in an overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Herbert’s first win will have to wait.
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