Down by four with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter and the ball on the Chargers’ 40, Washington head coach Ron Rivera had a decision to make.
It was fourth-and-7. Washington had already lost its starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to a right hip injury. Backup Taylor Heinicke had led the team to a scoring drive, but the Chargers had largely been successful sustaining drives.
Nevertheless, Rivera elected to punt.
The Chargers never gave the ball back.
Rookie head coach Brandon Staley started his career 1-0 with a 20-16 victory over the Football Team.
Reigning offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert was on target throughout the contest, finishing the day 31-of-47 passing for 337 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he was especially on target on the last drive in the fourth quarter, moving the sticks four times on third down.
His last pass went to receiver Keenan Allen on third-and-4 at the Washington 16, getting seven yards to seal the ballgame. That reception gave Allen nine catches for 100 yards. And it made the Chargers 14-of-18 on third down in the contest. They would finish 14-of-19, but only because they took a knee on the final third down.
For Washington, the story of the week will be Fitzpatrick’s health. He exited the game in the second quarter after taking a hard hit in the pocket and did not return. Heinicke finished the game 11-of-15 passing for 122 yards with a touchdown. He also had three rushes for 17 yards.
Washington has a quick turnaround, too, facing the Giants on Thursday Night Football in Week Two. The Chargers will take on the Cowboys next week at SoFi Stadium.