INGLEWOOD (CNS) - Michael Badgley kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired as the Los Angeles Chargers rebounded from the most one-sided loss in the franchise's 61-season history by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, 20-17, Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
The Chargers began the game-winning drive on their own 26-yard line with 30 seconds left after Michael Davis intercepted a short pass by Matt Ryan at the Chargers' 33-yard line and ran out of bounds at the Chargers' 41-yard line. However, Joey Bosa was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, pushing the ball back to the Chargers' 26-yard line.
Justin Herbert's pass on the first play of the drive was incomplete but he completed the next three -- the first to Jalen Guyton for 8 yards, the next to Hunter Henry for 15 and the third to Tyron Johnson for 25, the Chargers' longest play from scrimmage -- advancing the ball to Atlanta's 26-yard line with 10 seconds left.
Kalen Ballage ran for 1 yard on the next play as the Chargers sought to get the ball to the right hashmark because Badgley is “pretty good from the right hash," coach Anthony Lynn said.
The Chargers then called their third and final time out of the second half with three seconds to play to bring on the field goal unit.
“That was a hell of a last drive by a young quarterback -- not having a right side of his (offensive) line, not having (receivers) Mike (Williams) and Keenan (Allen) on the field -- somehow those guys engineered a drive and went down the field and put us in position to kick the field goal to win the game,'' Lynn said, referring to the absence of right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, both of whom had left the game to be evaluated for concussions.
“That's what it was all about. They shook off last week, didn't let one game beat us twice.''
Lynn said Allen was taken out of the game because “Keenan's been sore and he showed some soreness at the end of the week last week.''
Williams “had some back soreness in pregame,'' Lynn said.
“He's had some soreness in the past and it just came back,'' Lynn said. Williams started, but did not have a pass thrown his way during his brief time in the game.
The Chargers' defense intercepted three passes -- all in the second half -- holding the Falcons scoreless in the second half. The three interceptions by the Chargers were their most since making five in a 54-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 19, 2017.
The Chargers converted the first interception -- made by Rayshawn Jenkins in the third quarter on Ryan's long pass into the end zone -- into a touchdown as Herbert passed 12 yards to Johnson, tying the score, 17-17. Herbert completed nine of nine passes for 63 yards as the Chargers drove 80 yards on 13 plays in eight minutes, 21 seconds.
Jaheel Addae intercepted a short pass by Ryan at the Chargers' 22-yard line and returned the ball 3 yards with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter. The Chargers advanced to the Falcons' 45-yard line but Herbert threw a short pass that was intercepted by Blidi Wreh-Wilson at Atlanta's 38-yard line with 47 seconds remaining.
The Chargers (4-9) outgained the Falcons, 345-319, and led 23-19 in first downs and 34:15 in time of possession, winning for the second time in nine games this season decided by eight points or less and fourth time in 20 games over the past two seasons.
Herbert completed 36 of 44 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns with the one interception.
The two touchdown passes gave Herbert 25 on the season, the fourth rookie to throw 25 touchdown passes in a season. Baker Mayfield set the record with 27 in 2018, while Russell Wilson threw 26 in 2012 and Peyton Manning 26 in 1998.
It was Herbert's eighth game with multiple touchdown passes, one behind Mayfield's record.
Allen set the NFL record for most receptions through the first 100 games of a career with 623 through 99 games, breaking the previous record of 622 by Antonio Brown. Allen made a game-high equaling nine catches for 52 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown on the Chargers' opening drive.
After being forced to punt after three plays in its first possession, Atlanta (4-9) scored on each of its other three possessions of the first half. With Ryan lined up as a receiver, receiver Russell Gage took a direct snap and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Falcons took a 10-7 lead 9:47 before halftime a 45-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo.
Koo was the Chargers' kicker for the first four games of the 2017 season, all losses, including a 24-21 loss where Koo's potentially game-tying 44-yard field goal attempt with one second to play was blocked in a 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos and a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins where he missed a potentially game-winning 44-yard field goal with five seconds left in a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The Chargers tied the score, 10-10, on Badgley's 35-yard field goal with 8:13 left in the second quarter, four plays after Nasir Adderley's 76-yard kickoff return to Atlanta's 23-yard line. The kickoff return was the longest by a Charger since Michael Spurlock had a 99-yard return for a touchdown in 2012.
The Falcons regained the lead with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter on Ryan's nine-yard touchdown pass to Laquon Treadwell.
Ryan completed 21 of 32 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown with three interception. He increased his career yardage total to 54,846, setting the NFL record for the most passing yards by a player in his first 13 seasons. Peyton Manning had the previous record of 54,828.
The Chargers, who lost to the New England Patriots, 45-0, a week earlier, missed a chance to score at the end of the first half. With no time outs remaining and the ball at Atlanta's 8-yard line with 22 seconds left in the first half, Ballage was stopped for no gain.
As the Chargers lined up in field goal formation with one second left in the half, they were called for an illegal shift penalty which ended the half.
“I don't want to elaborate on it, but you cannot run the ball in that situation,'' Lynn said, obliquely criticizing offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who called the play. “You just can't. You know, we try to be aggressive, but you cannot run the ball in that situation.
“That right there, that's an area where we have got to improve as a coaching staff communication-wise, and we will. But you cannot run the ball there. I'm going to say again: we cannot run the ball in that situation. I don't want to go into that but that will get better, but we cannot run the ball there.''
Photos: Getty Images