MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Herbert passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns for Los Angeles and the Chargers kept Kirk Cousins and Minnesota out of the end zone twice in the last three minutes to preserve a wild 28-24 victory over the winless Vikings on Sunday.
Kenneth Murray Jr. made the game-sealing interception in the end zone with 7 seconds left, snagging a ball that deflected off the chest of diving tight end T.J. Hockenson. On Minnesota's previous possession, Michael Davis knocked down Cousins' fourth-down throw toat the goal line.
The Vikings had that second chance thanks to the bold choice by Chargers coach Brandon Staley to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 24 inside the 2-minute warning. Joshua Kelley was stonewalled in the hole by Jonathan Bullard. But the Vikings (0-3) have simply lacked the late-game touch they had last season on the way to 11 wins in one-score games.
Keenan Allen not only set career highs with 205 yards and 18 catches, but the 11th-year standout threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams on a trick play that gave the Chargers (1-2) a 21-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
Herbert, who went 40 for 47 and set the franchise record with 213 consecutive attempts and counting without an interception, hit Donald Parham Jr. for two first-half touchdowns, including a fourth-and-goal grab with 50 seconds left before halftime.
In a dizzying final stretch between two potent offenses and teams in desperate situations after two straight losses, Cousins converted a fourth-down pass for a 36-yard touchdown to K.J. Osborn late in the third quarter. Then he hit Jefferson, who had 149 yards, for a 52-yard score and a 24-21 lead with 11:20 left.
Herbert guided the Chargers on a seven-play, 75-yard march to get back in front on a 30-yard touchdown pass Joshua Palmer with 8:05 left. Akayleb Evans almost made a diving interception, but the ball slipped through his hands, off his helmet and in the air to Palmer at the goal line.
The Vikings gave up 259 rushing yards, but with Austin Ekeler out again, the Chargers abandoned the running game. And why not? Herbert has the most completions in history for a player's first four seasons, with a whopping 14 games to go to build on that total.
In this game between 2022 playoff teams, Staley got the edge on his friend Kevin O'Connell, who worked with him on the Los Angeles Rams' staff in 2020.
For Staley and the Chargers, encouragement can be found in the fact that 31 teams have started 0-2 and made the playoffs since the NFL expanded the field in 1990. Cincinnati did so last season.
For O'Connell and the Vikings, the road looks rough. Only four teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start: the Chargers (1992), Detroit (1995), Buffalo (1998) and Houston (2018).
The Vikings have fumbled seven times this season and lost them all. Hockenson was the latest culprit, surrendering a promising first possession at the 21-yard line as Alohi Gilman wrestled the ball away in a crowd of defenders. The Vikings have a minus-seven turnover ratio, the worst in the league.
Herbert became the second-fastest player in NFL history to reach 15,000 passing yards, in his 52nd career regular season game. Patrick Mahomes got there in 49 games.
Chargers: S Derwin James (hamstring) and Williams (knee) were injured in the third quarter. ... In addition to Ekeler, LB Eric Kendricks (hamstring) — who played eight seasons for the Vikings — was inactive.
Vikings: Jefferson left the game for a play on the final drive with an injury that kept him on the field for a few minutes before walking slowly to the sideline. ... S Josh Metellus (shoulder) aggravated an existing injury and was forced out in the fourth quarter. C Garrett Bradbury (back) was out for the second straight game. OLB Marcus Davenport (ankle) was also inactive again. He has played four snaps this season.
Chargers: Host Las Vegas next Sunday.
Vikings: Visit Carolina next Sunday
End zone INT gives Chargers 28-24 win over Vikings
An end zone interception after a pass to T.J. Hockenson was broken up ends the Vikings' last-ditch efforts, and the Chargers win 28-24.
Vikings stuff Chargers' 4th down try, take over with short field
The Chargers tried to put the game away with a 4th and short try with less than two minutes left, but the Vikings' defense stood firm and forced a turnover on downs. The Vikings take over with a short field needing a touchdown to win.
Vikings' 4th down try falls short at goal line, Chargers take over
The Vikings drove down to the goal line trailing 28-24, but a penalty and incomplete pass on 4th down gave the Chargers the ball back.
Akayleb Evans' dropped pick turns into Chargers TD
Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans had his hands on an interception, but he couldn't hold on and it fell into Josh Palmer's hands for a touchdown.
The Chargers now lead 28-24 midway through the fourth quarter.
52-yard Jefferson TD gives Vikings 24-21 lead
Justin Jefferson's first touchdown of the season came at the perfect time.
The 52-yard catch-and-run gives the Vikings a 24-21 lead over the Chargers in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers have been bitten by injury luck, with safety Derwin James and wide receiver Mike Williams both leaving the field and questionable to return.
Vikings' 4th down TD cuts Chargers' lead to 21-17
With little choice, the Vikings went for it on 4th and 6, and Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a long touchdown.
The score cuts the Chargers' lead to 21-17.
Trick play gives Chargers 21-10 lead
The Chargers went deep in the playbook to nab their third touchdown of the day.
A trick pass from wide receiver Keenan Allen to Mike Williams puts the Bolts up 21-10 midway through the third quarter.
Chargers miss field goal, lead stays at 14-10
The Vikings held firm on 3rd down, forcing the Chargers to kick a 53-year field goal on 4th.
Cameron Dicker hooked it wide, and the Chargers' lead stays at 14-10.
O'Connell loses challenge on big Chargers catch
The Chargers were backed up to their own end zone when Justin Herbert hit wide receiver Mike Williams for a big gain.
Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell threw the challenge flag, but lost, as the call was upheld.
Donald Parham's 2nd TD gives Chargers 14-10 lead before half
The Chargers went for it on 4th and goal, and Justin Herbert hit Donald Parham Jr. for his second touchdown of the day.
Los Angeles leads 14-10 with less than a minute before hafltime.
Field goal gives Vikings 10-7 lead
After an extended goal line sequence featuring penalties, non-fumbles and more, Greg Joseph kicked the Vikings to a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter.
Chargers' challenge unsuccessful, Vikings keep ball at goal line
It appeared the Vikings were set to lose another fumble when running back Alexander Mattison dropped the ball on a goal line run. The referees ruled forward progress, but Chargers coach Brandon Staley threw the challenge flag.
The call stood, however, and the Vikings will keep the ball.
Vikings get a turnover of their own
After their first score, the Vikings get the ball right back.
Jordan Hicks punched the ball out of Josh Palmer's hands and the Vikings recovered. They'll take over in Chargers territory.
Two big Jefferson catches set up Oliver TD
Justin Jefferson didn't have a catch in the first quarter, but on the first drive of the second quarter, he caught two big passes to set up a Vikings score.
Tight end Josh Oliver reached across the goal line on 2nd down to give the Vikings their first score of the day.
It's knotted up at 7-7.
Chargers take 7-0 lead after takeaway
The Chargers turned a takeaway into 7 points with a touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to tight end Donald Parham. Los Angeles leads 7-0 in the first quarter.
Vikings' promising 1st drive ends in Chargers takeaway
The Vikings' defense made quick work of the Chargers' first offensive drive.
Minnesota's first offensive drive, powered by Alexander Mattison, was looking promising before a takeaway after a T.J. Hockenson catch gave the Chargers the ball back.
Davenport, Bradbury, Akers inactive
Center Garrett Bradbury and pass rusher Marcus Davenport will both miss another game.
The Vikings released their list of inactive players ahead of Sunday's matchup, with Bradbury and Davenport among the names listed. Newly acquired running back Cam Akers is also inactive, along with quarterback Jaren Hall, tight end Nick Muse and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga.
For the chargers, former Viking Eric Kendricks, cornerback J.C. Jackson, running back Austin Ekeler, offensive linemen Brenden Jaimes and Zack Bailey and defensive lineman Christopher Hinton are all inactive.