He put up 175 yards on 11 receptions and scored two touchdowns while playing through a shoulder injury that, for one stretch, knocked him from the game.
His team couldn’t be stopped, reaching the end zone on five consecutive possessions to close the afternoon and totaling a season-high in points.
And Keenan Allen still lost, as did the rest of the Chargers, 41-38 to Detroit at SoFi Stadium.
The longest-tenured player on the team — a man who has seen plenty of these types of defeats — was asked how he felt Sunday.
“In this particular game, like Kobe,” Allen said. “You go out and score something crazy and take an ‘L.’ One of those.”
Indeed, Kobe Bryant could have related, the Lakers legend authoring several highlight shows that nevertheless ended in lights-out defeat.
As good as the Chargers were on offense against the Lions, they were just as bad on defense — and even worse when it mattered most.
The Chargers were powerless to stop Detroit on fourth-and-two in the final two minutes, Jared Goff hitting tight end Sam LaPorta for a six-yard gain to set up Riley Patterson’s winning 41-yard field goal as time expired.
“We gotta be better on defense,” safety Derwin James Jr. said. “I mean, 38 points is enough for us to win any game. We wasn’t good enough today.”
The bitter loss came with an extra flavor of sting. Playing for Jacksonville in January, Patterson kicked a 36-yard field goal on the final snap to oust the Chargers from the playoffs.
This time, his kick was the final gut punch as the Chargers were repeatedly slashed and pounded, yielding 533 total yards and an average of 8.3 yards per play.
Goff threw for 333 yards, David Montgomery ran for 116 yards and Amon-Ra St. Brown caught passes for 156 yards. Yards, yards and more yards … the Chargers just couldn’t make it stop.
“You have a standard that you set,” linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. said. “Not being able to get a stop is not the standard we set. It sucks. I’m a bit pissed off right now.”
The Chargers allowed the Lions to convert on four of five fourth downs. Detroit moved into Chargers’ territory on all nine of its full possessions, scoring seven times and once turning the ball over on downs — at the one-yard line.
The Lions punted just once — early in the third quarter — and then scored the next three times they had the ball to win it.
“We gotta point the finger at ourselves first and figure out what we did wrong,” defensive lineman Morgan Fox said. “We just have to be better.”
The Chargers (4-5) were coming off back-to-back smothering defensive efforts in victories over the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. After struggling early this season, especially against the pass, the Chargers were trending positively.
But Detroit (7-2, second in the NFC) represented a bigger challenge, the Lions also having had last week off and arriving at SoFi Stadium refreshed and ready to resume their stellar, feel-good season.
They came out and proved it by running through, over and around the Chargers, amassing 177 rushing yards and an average of 9.3 per attempt in the first half.
The lowlight for the Chargers was a 75-yard touchdown sprint by Montgomery late in the second quarter.
“You give up a play like that,” coach Brandon Staley said, “and it takes a lot of air out of you.”
This defense is Staley’s. Along with general manager Tom Telesco, he built it. He runs the schemes and calls the plays and, after another failed performance, took the blame.
Defensive lapses have been one of the few consistencies over Staley’s time as head coach. Big plays were again a problem Sunday as the Lions generated eight that netted at least 20 yards.
Afterward, Staley was pushed for answers that remain elusive 2½ seasons into his reign. He repeatedly talked about having the right players and maintaining the belief that things would work out.
“I know the group that I’ve been coaching for nine games, and it is good enough to beat anybody we play,” Staley said of this team. “We’ve played the very best teams in the NFL, and we’ve been in every single football game.”
The Chargers certainly were in this game but never led. The score was tied four times after they came back from being down two touchdowns late in the first half.
Justin Herbert finished 27 of 40 for 323 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Along with Allen’s production, running back Austin Ekeler had 115 yards from scrimmage and a score.
Rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston had his first career touchdown catch and veteran wideout Jalen Guyton his first of the season.
And all of that just wasn’t enough.
“It’s frustration,” Allen said. “I felt like I did everything I could. So I’m happy with that. I left all 110% in the box. That’s really all I can do.”
The five-time Pro Bowler was asked about a potential rift forming between the Chargers’ offensive and defensive players as this uneven season continues to bump along.
“We’ll never do that,” Allen said. “We go to work everyday together, and we come out of this thing together. No matter what’s going on, we still got each other’s back. They just had a rough day today.”