Khalil Mack’s sackfest in Chargers’ win spurred by late hit on Justin Herbert

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By Samantha Rose

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t need any extra motivation playing against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. However, former Chargers first-round selection Jerry Tillery doused gasoline on the flames with just over nine minutes left in the first half at SoFi Stadium, serving as a catalyst for L.A.’s 24-17 victory over its longtime AFC West rival. 

On second-and-6 from the Las Vegas 36-yard line, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was flushed right out of the pocket. He shook Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby in the open field, causing him to fall to the ground, and the L.A. QB headed toward the sideline.

As Herbert geared down after stepping out of bounds, however, defensive tackle Tillery dipped his shoulder and leveled the quarterback. 

Tillery made a similar play at SoFi Stadium last season against the Los Angeles Rams. He received a personal foul for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against quarterback Baker Mayfield that extended a drive and helped the Rams defeat the Raiders in a come-from-behind victory late in the year. 


On Sunday, officials and Las Vegas players had to pull Tillery out of harm’s way, as the entire Chargers sideline came to the defense of their fallen quarterback. Tillery received a personal foul penalty for unnecessary roughness for the undisciplined play and was ejected from the game.

Three plays later, Herbert found a wide-open Keenan Allen for a seven-yard score, part of a 17-point second quarter that gave the Chargers a 24-7 lead at halftime.

Veteran edge rusher Khalil Mack put it plainly.

“That was bulls—,” he said. “And Jerry knows it, too. But I like the response we got, knowing how everyone felt about that from the sideline. It was a good feeling.”  

Mack responded with a franchise-record six sacks. He now has 14 sacks since joining the Chargers last season, and nine of those have come against his former team.

“When something like that’s going on, you just feed him,” Chargers defensive lineman Morgan Fox said. “He’s a shooter, so you let him keep shooting. He’s running and he can’t be stopped. He was in a groove. He’s one of the best to ever do it, so you just let a guy like that go.” 

Fox was one of the first players to come to Herbert’s aid.

“At the end of the day, that’s one of our teammates, one of our leaders and one of our best players,” Fox said. “This business is hard enough as it is. When stuff like that happens, you’ve got to go to bat for your guys. That’s the culture we’ve built here. You can’t let stuff like that happen, so we all ran over there.”

Added fellow defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day: “I was like, what the hell is going on? That’s just dumb. We put our bodies on the line every week. And he should know. Everyone knows how dangerous this game is. Stuff like that isn’t necessary.”  

Herbert did not have his best day, finishing 13-of-24 passing for 167 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran a career-high 12 times for 27 yards and two scores. 

Herbert suffered an injury to the middle finger on his left hand in the fourth quarter that initially required tape and a stint. He injured the finger while trying to make a tackle on the interception by Tre’von Moehrig. The Chargers moved to a pistol formation instead of having Herbert take snaps from under center. He was able to finish the game and now has the bye week to heal up from the injury. 

For the Raiders, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was not active because he did not pass concussion protocol this week. Instead, the Raiders started rookie Aiden O’Connell, who looked good in the preseason. But the Purdue product found out the hard way that exhibition speed of play is much different than regular season. 

Mack made life hard for O’Connell, finishing with 10 combined tackles, including five tackles for loss. The six sacks were a career-high for him.

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Injuries once again remain a storyline for the Chargers. Receiver Mike Williams is out for the season after suffering an ACL knee injury in last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings. Also out for the Chargers against the Raiders were defensive end Joey Bosa (hamstring/toe), safety Derwin James (hamstring) and running back Austin Ekeler (ankle). 

Center Corey Linsley was placed on the reserve non-football illness list with a non-emergency heart-related issue. Safety JT Woods also was placed on the non-football illness list. 

Down a handful of foundational players, the Chargers persevered — despite going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own territory and failing for the second straight week. Herbert ran a quarterback sneak with his injured left hand and failed to get a yard on fourth-and-1 from L.A.’s 34-yard line with 3:34 remaining in the game.

However, the defense came up with a big interception. Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. undercut an O’Connell offering intended for Jakobi Meyers near the goal line with 2:33 left to play.

On third-and-10 from L.A.’s 11-yard line, Herbert put the game away with a 51-yard pass to Josh Palmer, converting the first down and putting the Chargers at 2-2 on the year heading into the bye week.

“We could easily be 4-0,” coach Brandon Staley said. “Some people could say that we could be 1-3. Right now … we are a 2-2 football team, and we’re a team that is improving.” 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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