it was clear in his first start for the LA Chargers that Justin Herbert had something special. Herbert started on 15-minute notice and looked more NFL-ready than some quarterbacks look after an entire season under center. Chargers fans knew then and there that the team had its guy.
The rest has been history. While Herbert has gained some retractors over the years because of the lack of team success, there is no denying that he is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. With Herbert, anything is possible over the next decade for the Bolts.
In most divisions, the Chargers would have the best quarterback because of Herbert. Not the AFC West. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs still run the yard and are the measuring stick that Herbert and the Chargers use.
With the two AFC West rivals squaring off in Week 7 (in what is a must-win game for the Chargers), let's take a trip down memory lane at all the times these two elite quarterbacks squared off.
A brief history of Justin Herbert vs Patrick Mahomes:
BY THE NUMBERS:
- Head-to-head record: Mahomes leads, 4-1
- Passing yards: Mahomes 1,536, Herbert 1,442
- Passing touchdowns: Mahomes 13, Herbert 12
- Completion percentage: Herbert 67.4%, Mahomes 62.3%
- Interceptions: Mahomes 3, Herbert 4
Patrick Mahomes has the advantage in every stat except completion percentage. While the numbers are close, Herbert's performance in Week 15 in 2021 is what ultimately hurts him as he turned in a sub-standard game compared to the other games he has played against Mahomes.
Herbert has actually played the Chiefs six times and has a 2-4 record. However, one of those games was in Week 17 of the 2020 season where the Chiefs had nothing to play for and rested most of the starters. Herbert and Mahomes have faced each other five times. Here is how the games went down:
2020 Week 2 - Chiefs 23, Chargers 20
This was the first start of Herbert's career as Tyrod Taylor was a last-minute scratch after a team doctor punctured his lung trying to administer a pain-killer. Herbert looked the part of an NFL quarterback and took the Chiefs to their absolute limit in this game.
Herbert was able to orchestrate a scoring drive late in the game, giving the Chargers a three-point lead with 2:31 to play. That was too much time for Mahomes, who drove down and set up a 30-yard Harrison Butker field goal to send the game to overtime. The Chargers went three-and-out to start overtime and Butker would eventually drill a 58-yard game-winner.
2021 Week 3 - Chargers 30, Chiefs 24
Herbert's only win head-to-head over Mahomes came in the game where Brandon Staley established himself as the aggressive head coach who would go for it on fourth down. Staley passed on kicking a long field goal in a tie game and trusted his offense to go for the kill shot. Herbert ultimately proved his head coach right as the team converted the fourth and nine. Herbert eventually found Mike Williams for a four-yard passing touchdown.
Herbert threw for 281 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. This was a bad game for Mahomes' standards as he threw for 260 yards with three touchdowns and two picks.
2021 Week 15 - Chiefs 34, Chargers 28
Staley's aggression won the first game against the Chiefs and lost the second game as the Chargers left points on the board that could have kept this game from going to overtime. Despite scoring 28 points, this was a bad start for Herbert as he finished with only 236 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.
Mahomes lit the scoreboard on fire in this game as both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had insane games. The two-time MVP completed 31 of 47 passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns and one pick. Hill and Kelce combined for 339 receiving yards.
2022 Week 2 - Chiefs 27, Chargers 24
The ill-fated game where one mistake was the difference. The Chargers didn't give a noticeably gassed Gerald Everett a chance to sub out of the game. Joe Lombardi then called a play designed for him. Herbert threw Everett the ball, Everett gave up on the route because he was gassed, and it turned into a pick-six at the goal line for the Chiefs.
That was the swinging factor in a game where Herbert also fractured rib cartilage and toughed it out late. Herbert completed 33 of 48 attempts for 334 yards with three touchdowns and one pick. Mahomes went 24-35 for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
2022 Week 11 - Chiefs 30, Chargers 27
What do you know, another one-score loss for the Chargers against the Chiefs. Justin Herbert orchestrated a beautiful scoring drive to give the Chargers a four-point lead with 1:31 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. But like so many other teams in the past, he simply gave Patrick Mahomes too much time.
Mahomes would march down the field. 18-yard completion, 6-yard scramble, incompletion, defensive holding on third and four, 13-yard completion, 16-yard scramble, 17-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Chiefs ripped the Chargers' hearts out. Herbert was sacked on the first play on the next drive and then threw a pick in a drive that looked very similar to the Cowboys losing drive in Week 6.