Going into the Los Angeles Chargers Week 2 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, no one had any idea we might be seeing No. 5 overall pick Justin Herbert out there at quarterback. But as it turned out, Tyrod Taylor got injured during pregame warm-ups. So in Herbert came, and after his performance, it’s quite likely Taylor will never see the field again (barring injury). Despite losing in overtime 23-20, Herbert proved himself ready to be the guy.
Justin Herbert Impresses for Los Angeles Chargers in First Start
A Fast Start
We pretty much had no idea Herbert was playing until he walked out there into the huddle. But he stepped in with a lot of confidence immediately. A couple things that became clear quickly where his quick decision-making and his fastball pass – which actually did cost him a few passes early on he might have otherwise hit because he threw it too hard.
Herbert helped drive the team down the field on his very first drive, and he got his first NFL touchdown in impressive fashion. He rolled out at the four-yard line, and did a couple of small pump fakes to fool the defender into following the receiver into the flats. This allowed Herbert to coast in easily.
Building the Lead
As the game went on, Herbert’s confidence seemed to build. While most of his earlier passes were simpler dump-offs or dink-and-dunks, he started throwing balls into harder spots. The best throw of the day for Herbert came when he stood in the pocket despite incoming pressure and delivered a tough bullet to Keenan Allen between two defenders. Speaking of which, he developed a rapport with Allen pretty quickly, who finished with seven catches for 96 yards.
There was also his first touchdown pass, which was a great 14-yard spiral to Jalen Guyton for his first career touchdown, putting them up 14-6 towards the end of the half.
The Fourth Quarter/Overtime
By the start of the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes finally kicked into gear after being stifled for most of the game by the Chargers defense and the game eventually got tied up at 17-17. Despite that, Herbert kept his confidence; and with a good combination of him passing and the run game, they ate the clock and went up 20-17 with two and a half minutes to go. The defense held the Chiefs to a field goal, sending it to overtime.
Overtime didn’t go as well as on third down, Herbert threw a pass too short and they were forced to punt – one of his biggest mistakes of the day. The defense wasn’t able to hold the Chiefs off at that point, and the game ended there.
Areas for Improvement
There wasn’t a ton that needed obvious improvement for Herbert in his first start; most of his throws were quite good. However, his inexperience showed on the two-minute drive (or 60-second drive) at the end of the first half. Instead of throwing towards the sidelines, Herbert kept throwing it up the middle – even when they ran out of timeouts. A similar issue happened in overtime with the earlier mentioned third down pass that was too short – in that situation, you have to throw past the chains.
There was also a couple of poor decisions made in the second half; namely, the interception where he could’ve easily run for the first down but instead tried throwing a deep bomb. But there was another play where he let himself get sacked too easily and could’ve dumped it off to the nearby halfback.
Last Word on Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert finished going 22-for-33, 311 yards, one touchdown and one interception, plus the rushing touchdown. It wasn’t a showing without mistakes, but despite the loss, the Chargers are left with plenty to be optimistic about going forward. Herbert had to come in unexpectedly on the spot against the juggernaut Chiefs and Mahomes, and held his own. While Herbert probably won’t reach the heights of Mahomes in terms of talent (few can), this could be the first of many more divisional duels between these young quarterbacks.
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