INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- A week for the opponent to study film of Justin Herbert and three turnovers by the Los Angeles Chargers, while not all Herbert's fault, combined to undo the 22-year-old rookie quarterback in his second start.
Herbert was thrown into the mix last week for the Chargers against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the shock might have worked in his favor in an overtime defeat. Sunday's 21-16 loss against the Carolina Panthers was, let's say, a reality check of sorts.
Gone were the easy slants, the surprise dump-offs and any sort of surprise, really. And no Christian McCaffrey? No problem for Carolina. The Panthers were 5-for-5 on field goals and added a touchdown from McCaffrey's replacement, Mike Davis. And next week gets no easier for the Bolts, even if Herbert starts: They play the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite his rookie struggles -- Herbert threw an interception and lost a fumble -- he nearly saved the day. Herbert, who threw for 330 yards on 35-for-49 passing and a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, drove the Chargers from their own 1-yard line to the Panthers' 14 after the two-minute warning.
But a potential game-ending 99-yard drive wasn't to be, as what appeared to be a hook-and-ladder play between Allen and Austin Ekeler wasn't executed, with Ekeler dropping the lateral and Carolina recovering as time expired.
It was an exciting ending to a game filled with errors and gaffes. Not at all what the Chargers expected.
Defense gets jolted: The Chargers' defense had been patting itself on the back all week after allowing the Chiefs 125 rushing yards and 23 points. But maybe it took Carolina lightly as eight-point favorites. Gone was the consistent swarm -- it was much more erratic -- and the Panthers were able to have success moving the ball in the first half. The Chargers were without end Melvin Ingram III and linebacker Nick Vigil -- both huge losses.
Looking forward: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is likely out again next week against Tampa Bay, and the Chargers have plenty to work on to get ready for the Buccaneers, who are 2-1 after defeating Denver 28-10 on Sunday.