February 25, 2024

He was asked about losing to Kansas City, about the challenges Chicago brings and about his finger.

To be exact, Justin Herbert was asked 14 questions about his finger Wednesday.

The Chargers’ quarterback might not be broken, but the middle digit on his left hand is, and the dissection of all that the injury means to this offense and this franchise continues to be intense.

Sitting at 2-4, the expectation-rich Chargers are under a microscope entering another game that isn’t mathematically a must-win but feels like a game they can’t afford to lose.

Last season the Chargers were no better than 6-6 in early December before winning four in a row to grab their first playoff berth since 2018. Now they have to rally just to be in a similar, desperate position.

“Any time you go through adversity like that you’re going to learn,” Herbert said. “You’re going to get a lot of experience from it. We have a lot of guys on this team that have been through things like that before…

“That’s the tough part about it. You have to keep answering. You have to keep fighting. No one in that locker room is down. No one is worried or panicking. We have to get this thing going.”

Herbert and the offense definitely have to get this thing going, the Chargers struggling to generate consistency since the quarterback fractured his finger in Week 4 against Las Vegas.

Starting with the moment Herbert was hurt late in the third quarter, the Chargers have had 22 full possessions and punted on half of them. They’ve produced only four touchdowns and two field goals.

“It’s on us, as players,” Herbert said. “It’s on me. We’re not going to point any fingers. We’re going to get better because of it. There’s a lot of football left. … We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

There are other factors to consider: center Corey Linsley (heart-related issue) and wide receiver Mike Williams (knee) are out, the running game has turned unreliable and Herbert has faced increased pressure.

But three times over the last two games he had the opportunity to connect with Keenan Allen from a relatively clean pocket for significant plays and overthrew him.

“I’ve missed them,” Herbert said. “That’s what it is. It’s nothing other than I missed them. I’d love to be perfect and would love to make every throw. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that.”

It’s difficult to gauge whether the broken finger has affected him. He has acknowledged being in pain but refused to blame his recent performance on anything.

But the Chargers’ offensive downturn is as obvious as the casts Herbert has been wearing to protect his finger. After three games, they were eighth in the NFL in points per play. In the three games since, they’re 18th.

“You’re dealing with something that you’re not used to being there and you have to get used to it,” coach Brandon Staley said. “But I don’t think that it has impacted the way that we call a game or play the game.”

Against Kansas City on Sunday, Herbert had the cast ripped off his finger during a handoff. He managed to continue playing without missing a snap but had to adjust his ballhandling along the way.

Herbert said the plan is to find a more reliable way to secure the cast before facing the Bears. He has been wearing a customized glove to help him grip the ball.

“It didn’t work, so I think we’re probably going to have to switch it,” Herbert said. “That’s something we’ll figure out in the next couple of days.”

The Chargers’ offensive issues especially have flared after halftime. Over their last three second halves, they’ve produced just one touchdown and one field goal.

Nine of their 14 full possessions during that stretch have lasted three or four plays as sustaining drives has proven difficult.

“What I’ve learned is that every time that you start an NFL season … there is going to be a point where you need to make adjustments,” Staley said. “We’re at a point right now where we have to perform better.”

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