By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
The Chargers are coming off their first loss of the season, against the NFL’s defending champions, last Sunday. That game took a weird turn as, just after the coin flip, as they would be forced to start the game with their rookie quarterback due to an awkward pre-game injury suffered by Tyrod Taylor, who was slotted to be their starting quarterback. It was announced this past week that Taylor endured a punctured lung when he received a pain-killing injection, moments before the coin flip.
Justin Herbert fared better than expected with it being his first NFL start, as he became the first player since 1954 to have 1 passing TD and 1 rushing TD in the first half of his NFL debut. Herbert finished the game with 311-yard passing making him just the third player to pass for 300 + yards and run for a TD in his debut. Even in losing fashion, this performance was enough to earn him Pepsi’s Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the week for week 2.
Now that the NFL has tape on Herbert, his preparation would have to be much more refined to take the next step in his development. They welcomed the Carolina Panthers who have lost 10 consecutive games, which is the 2nd-longest such streak in franchise history and who would be without former rookie of the year running back Christian McCaffrey. No wins come easy in this league, though this would especially difficult as Carolina’s starting Quarterback has yet to lose 3 consecutive starts in his 37 career NFL starts.
Even though the Chargers are starting a rookie in his second game as the starter, they made winning especially difficult by with unforced penalties and turnovers. The first one coming on a strip-sack of Justine Herbert, that could’ve been challenged but wasn’t. The second fumble came on a fumble from Rookie Running Back Joshua Kelly who had the ball knocked out by a Panthers defender on his way to the ground. The third turnover came on an interception by Justin Herbert where he starred down Keenan Allen just before the defender cut in front of his pass to Allen. Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn on turnovers, “We have to do a better job of creating turnovers. We may have to get a little more aggressive with our calls, but our players also have to be a little more aware of when they can get those turnovers. I thought we had our hands on one today and we dropped it.”
Though the Chargers lost this game, their defense stood fairly firm by giving up 5 field goals, after the Panthers received the ball multiple times in scoring position. More frustration came by understanding the Panthers allowed fewer than 20 points for the first time in their last 15 games (14-game streak allowing 20+ was longest in team history).
Austin scored the Chargers first touchdown on his first Rushing TD since week four of last season early in the game and Keenan Allen caught his touchdown pass from Herbert late in the fourth, and yet they still had a chance to win the game on their final drive of the ballgame. After the Panthers downed the ball on the one-yard line the Chargers had a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown on a hook and ladder play that Allen and Ekeler just missed connecting on.
Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn on the play, “Yes, it is something we practice. You practice that play every week just in case it comes up, and it came up. I’m not sure how well the toss was, but we did not execute the play. I thought it was there. I thought if [RB Austin Ekeler] had caught the ball, he might have scored.”
Here is Herbert’s response to my question on his thought process when he took the field, with the ball on the one-yard line with an opportunity to win the game, “What a great opportunity to go 99 yards. I knew we had the guys out there to go execute and what an opportunity to go play football. We got the ball on the one-yard line, fine. If it is on the one-yard line it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go out there and execute. We’re going to get the plays called. We got the ball moved quite a bit and it’s unfortunate we didn’t finish. I was really proud of the way the guys battled.”
When I asked Herbert about what he took away from that final drive, he responded by saying, “We fought incredibly tough. Even though we lost the turnover battle, 3-0, we gave ourselves a chance. To start the drive on the one-yard line, that is tough, but I knew that we had the guys, and everyone believed. We did as much as we could, and it’s unfortunate, but I know we’ll learn from it.”
Not only should the Chargers be excited that Herbert has thrown for consecutive 300+ yard passing games, but they should also be excited about his toughness and resiliency as their quarterback of the future. Even though this is back to back losses for Herbert, after talking to him a few times he appears to have the proper mindset to be successful in this league. Let us know your thoughts on Herbert and if you believe he can develop into a winning quarterback in the NFL, by reaching out to us email@example.com or tweet us at @whatsgoodnsport.
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