INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Logan Ryan had an idea the play was coming, and he sensed an opportunity for a game-changing moment.
He was right. Unfortunately for the Giants, it changed the game in the opposing team’s favor in what became a 37-21 victory for the Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Ahead 17-7, the Chargers faced a third-and-11 from their own 41 with 25 seconds left in the first half. Ryan looked at the formation and correctly guessed that the ball was going to third-year receiver Jalen Guyton.
"We’re in two-high defense, a safe defense," the safety said, referring to the conservative alignment intended to avoid big passing plays by keeping two safeties deep. "Guyton is a speedster, and [Chargers quarterback Justin] Herbert has one of the strongest arms in the league. It’s an opportunity we prepared for."
Guyton lined up in the slot and raced upfield, just as Ryan expected. Herbert rolled to his right and faced pressure from the Giants’ defense, but just as he was being hit, he released a high, arcing pass deep downfield.
Ryan and second-year safety Xavier McKinney were in deep coverage, but Guyton had moved between the two safeties and had a step on Ryan.
Even so, Ryan felt he could make a play on the ball.
"I felt like I had a good shot at it," he said. "I felt like I was in a good spot to steal it."
Instead, the ball sailed farther than Ryan had expected. It was one of the best passes the strong-armed Herbert has ever thrown. In fact, it was one of the best passes any quarterback in any era has ever thrown. You simply will not see a more perfectly thrown deep pass.
"I feel like I didn’t track the ball well," Ryan said. "We practiced that play, and I just didn’t make the play. That’s on the players. That’s on me. Very frustrating, but [Herbert] has arm talent. We’ve done a good job all year of preventing plays like that."
Ryan felt he was in position to make a momentum-changing interception, but suddenly the opportunity was gone. Herbert’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Guyton gave the Chargers a 24-7 lead.
"I feel like I didn’t track the ball well," Ryan said. "You have to make a split-second decision, and I didn’t make the right one. I’ve got to go steal that. I wear that one heavy. You don’t get them back. That one didn’t go in my favor."
The touchdown was just the latest defensive misfortune for the Giants, especially late in the half. They have been positively miserable in that category this season, having been outscored 59-0 in the final two minutes of either half.
"I feel like I let a lot of people down on that," Ryan said. "That’s the weight you carry as a captain. I’m frustrated for the fans that travel that made the trip."
Give credit where credit is due, though. Ryan said Herbert made a play that most quarterbacks simply can’t.
"Ninety five percent don’t," he said. "The ball carried, and he put it on a rope — 59 yards on a rope."