June 13, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS — It was two years in the making, but Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen finally got his shot at redemption.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021, Allen botched a trick play that had him throwing the ball after a lateral. Mike Williams was wide open down the right sideline, but Allen threw the ball short. He threw his arms in the air in angst and frustration at the time.

Fast forward to Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings when the Chargers dialed up the exact same play in the third quarter. Allen, who already had over 100 receiving yards by that point, drew almost the entire Vikings’ defense when he caught the lateral pass — and this time hit Williams for a 49-yard score.

“It was atonement,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley deadpanned after the game. “Keenan really throws a good football, but we’ve been working on that play. I’m excited for Keenan because it capped one of those maestro performances for him.”

The throw was Allen’s best highlight on a day when he had an abundance of them, as he finished with 18 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers’ a 28-24 victory, their first of the season.

“He is a quarterback’s best friend,” Justin Herbert said. “To be able to get the ball out to him quickly, for him to make plays, he makes my job so much easier.”

In his eleventh season, Allen had arguably the best game of his career. The list of records and milestones is lengthy: He became the first NFL player to register 15 receptions and throw a passing touchdown in a game, his 18 catches were the most in a single contest in Chargers history and his 9,689 career receiving yards are tops for a Chargers wideout.

Allen also now has the most games with 15 catches in NFL history with three, breaking a tie with four other players.

The Vikings thwarted the Chargers’ rushing attack, limiting them to just 30 total rushing yards on 15 carries. So the Chargers leaned on their passing, and the ball almost always went to Allen. The Vikings’ secondary didn’t have any answers.

“Everybody on the field can know where the ball is going, but somebody has got to make a play,” Allen said. “You can point at it and say, ‘Oh, he’s going here’ and do all of this, but you still have to go stop it.”

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores came into this game blitzing on 58% of snaps, which was first in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats.

Flores had a similar approach when he was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2019 to 2021. Herbert played the Fins as a rookie. Allen remembered that 2020 tilt and how the Chargers’ offense “didn’t know what to do” or “who to be looking at.” Herbert had his third-lowest quarterback rating of that season (86.3) and was sacked twice in the Chargers’ 21-29 loss.

But the paradigm shifted on Sunday. The Vikings blitzed on 81.3% of Herbert’s dropbacks, plays in which he completed 32-for-38 of his passes for 307 yards and a touchdown. The blitz often left Allen facing single coverage, and he created at least three yards of separation on 13 of his 18 receptions, according to Next Gen Stats.

“Today, we had their number on every play,” Allen said. “[Herbert] was in there; he was settled down, not getting rattled at all. Every time he came to the sidelines, we had more answers and more answers.”

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