By BRIAN HALL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and the Los Angeles Chargers had seen a Brian Flores-coached defense before, flummoxed in 2020 by Flores’ blitz-heavy approach in a loss at Miami during Herbert’s rookie season.
Three years later, with the quarterback and receiver in nearly perfect sync, Herbert and Allen knew just how to attack the Minnesota Vikings’ defense, coordinated by Flores.
Herbert completed 40 of 47 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns, and Allen had a franchise-record 18 receptions for a career-high 215 yards in Los Angeles’ 28-24 victory on Sunday. Allen added his first career touchdown pass, a 49-yard completion to Mike Williams on a trick play.
“The first time we played them when Flores was in Miami, it was tough,” Allen said. “We didn’t know what to do. We were kind of mind-boggled out there. We didn’t know what we were looking at. They kind of fooled us. … So, today, I think we had their number on every play.”
Allen credited his communication with Herbert. Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Allen was making decisions on how to run his routes against the defense and was continually open.
Four years together with the experience of facing different defenses makes Herbert and Allen a potent combination.
“Just that chemistry with him and Justin,” Staley said. “He’s just so good at understanding leverage and attacking different coverages. Today, you need a guy like him that’s a security blanket for the quarterback when there’s that much pressure. He was just fantastic. … It was one of those complete performances and part of Chargers history today.”
Capping Allen’s record day was his touchdown pass to Williams. After running screens earlier in the game with receivers running the ball, Herbert threw a lateral to Allen on his right. Allen stopped, surveyed the defense with both Williams and Josh Palmer open and connected with Williams.
It was another example of Allen learning from the past. The Chargers tried a similar play two years ago against the Kansas City Chiefs, but his pass fell short of Williams.
“A little atonement there for an incompletion,” Staley said. “Keenan really throws a good football, but we’ve been working on that play. I’m excited for Keenan because it really capped off one of those maestro performances for him.”
Herbert, who set the mark for completions (1,406) by any player in NFL history through their first four seasons — with 14 games to go — appreciated Allen’s throw.
“It was perfect form, an incredible ball,” Herbert said.
When he wasn’t throwing, Allen was catching nearly everything sent his way. He set the NFL record for most games with at least 11 catches with his 14th on Sunday. He also became the third player in history to have at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a passing touchdown in a game.
Allen has three games with at least 15 catches, the most by any NFL player. He also passed Lance Alworth for receiving yards (9,689) by a Chargers player, trailing only tight end Antonio Gates (11,841).
“He’s a future Hall of Famer, really,” Vikings safety Cam Bynum said. “He’s Keenan Allen, so we have to know that, know where the premium receivers are on the field. At the end of the day, we didn’t do our job of knowing where he was at all times.”
Even when they knew the ball was going to Allen, Minnesota had trouble stopping it.
“Everybody on the field can know where the ball is going, but somebody’s got to make the play,” Allen said. “You can point at it. You can say, ‘He’s going here.’ You can do all this, but you’ve still got to go stop it.”
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