The Chargers had a prove-it opportunity Sunday at SoFi Stadium and proved their offense can impressively produce, but their defense still is not good enough.
Detroit converted a fourth-and-two in the final two minutes, setting up Riley Patterson’s game-winning 41-yard field goal on the final play as the Lions won 41-38 at SoFi Stadium.
The Chargers lost despite their offense scoring touchdowns on five consecutive possessions to close the game.
Justin Herbert finished 27 of 40 for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Keenan Allen 11 receptions for 175 and two scores.
But the defense yielded 533 total yards in a game the Chargers never led but which was tied four times.
Playing for Jacksonville last season, Patterson kicked a 36-yarder on the final play to beat the Chargers in an AFC wild-card playoff game.
The defeat dropped the Chargers to 4-5 in a tight AFC race as the Lions improved to 7-2.
Down seven points at the half, the Chargers pulled even, 24-24, when Herbert hit Jalen Guyton for an 18-yard touchdown seven minutes into the third quarter.
The pass concluded a 10-play, 92-yard drive as the Chargers scored a touchdown on their third consecutive possession.
But Detroit answered right back, going 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 31-24 lead on a 20-yard catch and run by Amon-Ra St. Brown.
It was then the Chargers’ chance to respond, and they did so with a 16-play possession that went 75 yards and consumed eight minutes.
Herbert connected with Quentin Johnston on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line for the rookie wide receiver’s first career touchdown, making it 31-31with 11:30 to go.
The Chargers scored on their sixth snap from the one-yard line, the possession extended by a pass interference penalty in the end zone by Detroit cornerback Cam Sutton on fourth down.
Sutton was called for pass interference earlier in the possession to convert a third-and-11.
The Lions retook the lead on their next series, with Jared Goff passing 25 yards to tight end Brock Wright, the score going to 38-31 with 7:30 to play.
The Chargers then scored a touchdown on their fifth straight possession to again knot the score at 38-38. Herbert and Keenan Allen hooked up for a 38-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one with 3:34 remaining.
Detroit scored on its first two possessions to open a 10-3 lead just past the midway point of the opening quarter.
After going 61 yards for a field goal on their first series, the Lions went 75 yards in only five plays for a touchdown on their second.
The big play was a 35-yard run by Jahmyr Gibbs, who started right and then cut back left, eluding Morgan Fox and Eric Kendricks and sprinting toward the end zone until Alohi Gilman knocked him out of bounds at the one-yard line.
Gibbs scored on the next play.
In between, the Chargers managed a field-goal drive, Cameron Dicker booting a 48-yarder for their first points.
Starting late in the first quarter, the Lions again moved deep into Chargers territory after safety Kerby Joseph intercepted Herbert along the sideline.
Herbert was pressured on the play and forced a hurried throw, which Joseph picked off at the Chargers’ 33-yard line.
Detroit then converted a pair of fourth downs — both on running plays — en route to reaching the Chargers’ one-yard line. But the Chargers turned the Lions away, twice stopping Montgomery runs and then a Jared Goff pass on fourth down.
When Herbert and the offense followed with a three-and-out, Detroit marched right back into striking range, this time scoring on fourth down from the one-yard line on another Gibbs run.
At that point, exactly halfway through the second quarter, Detroit led 17-3 and had advantages of 12-2 in first downs, 227-60 in total yards and 16 minutes to six in time of possession.
The game teetering on a blowout, Herbert and the Chargers’ offense responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to make it 17-10. Herbert hit Keenan Allen for 29 yards for the score with 3:21 left before halftime.
The Chargers converted three third downs during the series, two on Herbert passes and the third on a Herbert sneak.
After working hard for their score, the Chargers then gave up another touchdown on the next play from scrimmage when Montgomery ran 75 yards to put the Lions up 24-10.
The carry put Montgomery over 100 yards for the afternoon on eight attempts. Detroit went into halftime with 177 rushing yards and an average of 9.3 per attempt.
The Chargers kept the score close after two quarters with another touchdown drive that ended with a two-yard scoring run by Austin Ekeler.
The plunge came on fourth-and-one and capped a 75-yard drive, making it 24-17 entering the third quarter.
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