What a phenomenal game by Justin Herbert! The former Oregon Duck had one of the finer performances by a rookie quarterback in a rookie debut. To begin his career, Herbert played the defending Super Bowl champions and was the first Chargers’ Quarterback to ever play in SoFi Stadium. He nearly led his team to a victory against the former NFL MVP, reigning Super Bowl MVP and the richest player in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes.
Herbert completed 22 of 33 attempts (66.7%) with one passing touchdown and one interception. He also had four rushing attempts for 18 yards to go along with a rushing touchdown. Herbert showed better than expected passing accuracy, not just in his completion percentage, but placing the ball in areas to best set up for a catch and run or protecting the player from taking unnecessary hits. His decision making was mostly positive and he kept his team in the lead up to overtime.
He did all this without taking starter reps in practice last week. In fact, he didn’t even find out he was starting until minutes before kickoff. In Anthony Lynn’s post-game press conference, he said Herbert thought that Lynn was joking. Herbert was not prepared for this game and that is what makes his positive play all the more fascinating.
The biggest draw to Herbert’s game might have been his maturity. For reference, Justin Herbert is only 22-years-old and at no point did it look like he was rattled. He did take two hits, one in the end zone on a score, another on the sideline where he was trying to get a first down that seemed to leave Damian Wilson a little concussed. Herbert popped back up, flipped the ball back to the ref and was ready to go again. Even after throwing an interception, Herbert continued to show maturity beyond his age.
Rookie mistakes are never good, and Herbert made a few along the way. The first mistake was early in the second half, when Herbert rolled out of play action looking for something deep. It wasn’t there and Herbert had Nabers open in the flats. He didn’t see it, but he still had the option of throwing it away. Instead, he took a 14-yard sack. They were able to still get a first down, but the 2nd and 24 didn’t put the Chargers in a great situation.
The next was an interception in scoring territory. On the play, Herbert scrambled toward the left side where he continued to keep his eyes down field and thought he saw an open Keenan Allen deep middle. The scrambling ability and keeping eyes down field were great traits, but the issue was that the throw required Herbert to twist his frame and throw cross body deep down field. This mechanic sucked the power out of the throw, forcing it short into double coverage. Herbert had the ability to pick up a first down with his legs and keep the drive alive instead of the turnover.
The last bad thing was the hits that Herbert took. It’s never great to subject yourself to hits, especially when the team is already down a quarterback. There was some reasoning behind the hits, considering one was for a touchdown and the other was an attempt to convert a 3rd down to keep the drive alive. Still, there are ways to try and convert while still limiting the risk for injury. That comes with experience, but there will always be flinching when a quarterback opens themselves up for hits like that.
The Chargers’ offense played last seasons best team better than it played last seasons worst team. Justin Herbert had a better game against the Super Bowl Champs and Tyrod Taylor noticeably struggled against a team the Cleveland Browns scored 30+ points against on Thursday Night Football. In theory, this should be an easy decision for Anthony Lynn and the Chargers’ coaching staff.
While it is true that Herbert provided a spark to a lackluster offense, Anthony Lynn seems to value experience over ability. Lynn has tied himself to Tyrod Taylor and for whatever reason, isn’t going to budge easily. The leadership that Taylor provides and his more agile running ability is something that Lynn covets. Herbert will likely get another opportunity while Taylor is getting healthy, but Taylor will eventually take back over.
Long-term though, Herbert showed a glimpse of the future of this Chargers team and that is something to look forward too. Taylor’s leash is shortened by Herbert’s phenomenal game. If Taylor is unable to produce, it will force the coaching staff to make a decision before it wants too. Either way, once Herbert takes over full-time, Charger fans have lots to look forward too. The Los Angeles Chargers look to be in good hands.