Even without two of their top players, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers were able to get wins in consecutive games for the first time since early October.
Now comes their biggest test of the season.
Herbert threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns in Los Angeles' 37-21 victory over the New York Giants. The Chargers improved to 8-5 and are a game behind the Kansas City Chiefs going into Thursday night's pivotal AFC West matchup.
“It’s one week at a time for us. Coach (Brandon) Staley did a great job of emphasizing that all week, and I feel like the guys were focused," said Herbert, who completed 23 of 31 passes. "They were dialed in this week and took care of business, and now we move on to the next one. We’re facing a really good Chiefs team on Thursday, so it’s going to take a lot from us.
"As long as we keep building, we keep getting better, I think we can play some really good football.”
The game was tied at 7 after the first quarter before the Chargers broke it open with 30 straight points.
Los Angeles won despite missing wide receiver Keenan Allen and safety Derwin James. Allen tested positive for COVID-19 last Monday while James injured his hamstring during practice on Friday. He was added to the injury report with a questionable designation on Saturday.
Joshua Palmer and Jalen Guyton both picked up the slack without Allen in the lineup. Both had TD receptions in the second quarter.
Palmer, who had five receptions for 66 yards, had a 12-yard score to give the Chargers a 14-7 advantage. Herbert, who completed 23 of 31 for 275 yards, then connected with Guyton on the 59-yard bomb with 17 seconds left in the half. Guyton, who made three catches for 87 yards, blew by Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney.
“The kid has arm talent and ripped it down the middle of the offense, 95% of the quarterbacks don't make that throw. It was 59 yards on a rope," Ryan said.
Herbert reached a trio of milestones in the win. He is the first player to reach 30 touchdown passes in his first two seasons; has the most completions by a player through his first two seasons (734); and is the second-fastest player to reach 8,000 career yards (28 games).
Herbert also had a 1-yard TD pass off play-action to Jared Cook early in the fourth quarter to make it 37-7.
“There were some things in the fourth quarter that I’m not comfortable with, but for three-and-a-half quarters I’m really comfortable with that type of performance," Staley said. "I really liked the way we competed in the game today. I felt like we played with a lot of purpose. I felt like it was a complete performance.”
Mike Glennon, starting for the second straight week with Daniel Jones out with a neck injury, was 17 of 36 for 191 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Giants (4-9), who have dropped three of their last four. He also ran for a score.
Glennon had a 3-yard TD pass to Eli Penny late in the first quarter to tie the game at 7. New York added a pair of scores in the final 15 minutes on Glennon's 18-yard pass to Saquon Barkley and Glennon's 7-yard scramble, plus a 2-point conversion.
“I’m encouraged the way the team fought, but it wasn’t good enough to have success,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “Simply put, you have to go out and execute. There were too many opportunities we didn’t take advantage of.”
SWEET 16 FOR EKELER
Austin Ekeler opened the scoring with his 16th touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run. It was Ekeler's ninth rushing score of the season.
Ekeler finished with 12 carries for 67 yards along with two catches for 17 yards. He hurt his ankle in the third quarter and did not return.
NOT MANY HIGHLIGHTS
Penny's touchdown was set up by Kyle Rudolph's 60-yard reception, the longest catch of Rudolph's 11-year career and the Giants' longest play this season.
From the Giants 35, Glennon fired a pass to Rudolph near midfield. Rudolph caught it at the Chargers 47 and went up the left sideline, stiff-armed Trey Marshall at the LA 20, but was tackled by Marshall and Michael Davis at the 5-yard line.
The Giants' previous longest play was a 54-yard pass from Jones to Barkley against New Orleans. Rudolph's gain is the second play of at least 25 yards in the three games since Jason Garrett was fired as offensive coordinator.
Giants: DL Leonard Williams suffered an elbow injury during the second quarter. Judge said Williams will have an MRI the next couple days.
Giants: host Dallas next Sunday.
Chargers: host Kansas City on Thursday night.