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Return of Michael Schofield III to the Chargers feels different this time

·4 min read
INGLEWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 10, 2021: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) passes own field against the Cleveland Browns at SoFi Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Inglewood, California. He threw for 398 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Chargers 47-42 win.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Herbert's ability to throw from all different positions has wowed Chargers teammates and the NFL. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

He hasn’t been here long — not during this second stint with the Chargers, at least — so Michael Schofield III understandably was stunned.

Last weekend against Cleveland, Justin Herbert scrambled to his right and unleashed a pass seemingly toward nowhere.

“It was one of those, ‘Wait, don’t throw that! No, wait. Yes, throw that!’ ” Schofield recalled, laughing. “That was crazy.”

Herbert somehow found Keenan Allen down the sideline with absurd precision, Allen punctuating the completion with expert timing that saw him land both feet barely inbounds.

The improvised 37-yard gain converted a third and five late in the fourth quarter as the Chargers scored two touchdowns in the final 3:15 for a 47-42 victory.

“That was one of the greatest throws I’ve ever seen,” Schofield said. “It was incredible.”

Indeed, of Herbert’s 535 career completions, that one might have been the best yet.

The fact that Schofield was on the field to witness it is rather incredible, as well. He was an offensive lineman without an offense just a few weeks ago, the Chargers signing the free-agent veteran just in case.

When right guard Oday Aboushi went down because of a knee injury early against the Browns, just-in-case became reality. Schofield was thrust into the game and now, with Aboushi out for the rest of the season, is the starter.

This sort of sudden, off-script participation is a time-honored NFL tradition, one good teams almost always must follow if they are going to realize their potential.

The Chargers most recently made the playoffs in 2018. That team received unexpected contributions from Sam Tevi, Trent Scott and Isaac Rochell — support players forced into starting positions.

If the 2021 Chargers are going to become something memorable — and there might not be a team in the NFL right now generating more belief — Schofield won’t be the only bolt, so to speak, from nowhere.

“I think that we keep proving to ourselves and to everybody that we can come from behind and pull off those close wins,” edge rusher Joey Bosa said. “After missing the [extra-point attempt against Cleveland], I went, ‘Oh, God, here we go. This is an old Chargers move right there.’

“But, no, we’re able to come together. The defense made a great stop when we needed to. That offensive operation right now, they wouldn’t be denied. It definitely gives us a lot of confidence.”

Bosa was referring to kicker Tristan Vizcaino’s miss with slightly more than three minutes left. Instead of tying the score 42-42, the Chargers still trailed by a point after the errant try.

The defense responded by holding the Browns to a three and out, allowing Herbert and the offense to produce the winning touchdown.

“I think it’s always stressful a little bit …” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “There’s less stress when you know your guys are playing well, when you feel that they're in a rhythm, when the quarterback's finding the right throws and guys are getting open.

“You can sometimes feel that momentum. Whether it's real or not, you believe in it. It makes it a little bit less stressful because you feel like, ‘Man, we're gonna score if we get the ball.’ ”

Schofield was the starting right guard on the 2018 Chargers playoff team. He appeared in 47 games for the franchise in 2017-19 before departing for Carolina via free agency. He said he was reminded of something last weekend while coming off the field at SoFi Stadium, a reality as dramatic as the comeback win his team had just put together.

“In like ’17, the year we barely missed the playoffs, that’s a game we lose,” Schofield said. “We would have found a way to lose that game. This year, we found a way to win it. That’s what’s going to make this year special.”

On Sunday, Schofield will start for the Chargers for the first time since December 2019. The assignment will come against Baltimore, the team that waived Schofield just seven weeks ago.

He had signed with the Ravens as a free agent in June but failed to make their roster. Two and a half weeks later, Schofield returned to the Chargers.

“Amazing how these things work out, huh?” he said.

He’s right. The NFL does have a way of creating wild, incredible connections.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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