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In an otherwise phenomenal rookie season, Justin Herbert had one glaring outlier on his record — a 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots.
Sunday didn't quite see a repeat. But the New England Patriots once again had Herbert's number as they scored a 27-24 road upset of the Los Angeles Chargers. Like in 2020, they held the reigning Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl candidate to his worst performance of the season.
Sunday's game was tight early as the Chargers took a 14-13 lead into halftime. But ex-Charger Adrian Phillips returned a late interception of Herbert for a touchdown in a tide-turning play that gave the Patriots the lead for good.
New England secured a 24-17 lead with the score and subsequent two-point conversion. A Chargers three-and-out and a Patriots field goal later gave New England a 27-17 lead with 2:19 remaining.
The Chargers responded with 24-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Josh Palmer to cap a 72-yard scoring drive with 40 seconds remaining. But it was too little, too late for a Chargers offense that was previously neutralized by Bill Belichick's defense.
Herbert finished the day completing 18-of-35 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both of them to Phillips. Like his second pick to Phillips, several of his passes were uncharacteristically off target. He repeatedly found himself under pressure and took three sacks on the day.
Eighty of his 223 yards and one of his two touchdowns arrived on that desperation final drive, salvaging what was a considerably worse day in the box score. It was, however, a marked improvement on his 2020 effort against New England that saw him tally 209 yards and a pair of interceptions on 53 pass attempts in the shutout loss.
Sunday's loss dropped the Chargers to 4-3, ensuring they'll remain a game behind the first-place Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC West during their rivals' bye week. New England improves to 4-4 to remain competitive in the AFC playoff hunt.
For Herbert, he'll surely look forward to better days ahead that don't include facing a Belichick-coached defense.