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Anthony Lynn: Justin Herbert not the Chargers starter despite sizzling NFL debut

Jason Owens
·5-min read

Justin Herbert sizzled in his NFL debut on Sunday and looks more than ready to take reins of the Los Angeles Chargers offense.

Except Anthony Lynn doesn’t seem to think so. The Chargers head coach told reporters after Herbert’s surprise start on Sunday that Tyrod Taylor will resume starting duties whenever he’s healthy.

After a late lineup change, Herbert led Los Angeles to an opening-drive touchdown in a sizzling debut that fell just short of a stunning upset of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers led most of the way, but couldn’t convert in overtime of a 23-20 Chiefs win.

Tyrod Taylor scratched late, hospitalized

Herbert, a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, replaced Tyrod Taylor late in the starting lineup after the regular starter suffered a chest injury during pregame warmups. Taylor dealt with rib issues throughout the week, and head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters after the game that he left the game to be hospitalized.

The nature of his injury is unclear. But whenever he’s healthy, the journeyman quarterback will get his job back.

“If he’s 100 percent ready to go, he’s our starter,” Lynn told reporters.

This despite Herbert clearly being ready for the job.

Big debut for Herbert

The Chargers rookie finished his first NFL game completing 22-of-31 passes for 311 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He showed no hesitation in throwing the ball downfield and did not appear fazed by his first look at an NFL defense.

He was fearless on the ground as well, rushing four times for 18 yards and a score while inviting contact from defenders with his 6-6, 236-pound frame.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Justin Herbert scored a touchdown on his first NFL drive. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Big plays early from rookie

Herbert’s first completion was a catch-and-run by running back Joshua Kelly that went for 35 yards and set the Chargers up at the Kansas City 26-yard-line. Four plays later, Herbert rolled right on a designed pass and decided to keep the ball himself on a 4-yard touchdown scramble for his first NFL score.

He showed off his legs again in the second quarter on scramble that ended with a big hit from Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson. But it wasn’t Herbert that was left reeling. Wilson struggled to get up from the collision and had to leave the game.

Rare air for Herbert

Herbert showed off his arm to end the second scoring drive, delivering a pinpoint throw to wide receiver Jalen Guyton along the left end zone sideline for his first NFL touchdown pass.

With the two scores, Herbert becomes the first NFL player with a passing and rushing touchdown in the first half of his NFL debut since Bobby Clatterbuck with the New York Giants in 1954.

Big conversion leads to points

Herbert continued to wow after halftime with throws fitting of a confident veteran NFL starter. Facing third-and-10 in the third quarter after taking a first-down sack that made it second-and-24, Herbert met intense pressure from the Kansas City defensive line. He responded by splitting the Chiefs secondary with a precision downfield pass that Keenan Allen hulled in for a 25-yard gain.

The conversion ultimately set up a 41-yard field goal from Chargers kicker Michael Badgley to take a 17-6 lead.

Rookie mistake

It wasn’t a perfect day for Herbert. He made a critical mistake late in the third quarter on a second-and-two play from the Kansas City 42-yard line with the Chargers leading 17-9. He rolled out left and could have easily run for the first down. Instead he targeted Allen in triple-coverage downfield, resulting in an interception by Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Snead. It was a bad throw and a worse decision.

The Chiefs responded with a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion set up by a 54-yard bomb from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill.

The teams traded field goals in the final three minutes of regulation to set up overtime tied at 20-20. The Chargers won the toss and elected to receive. The Herbert magic fizzed in the extra as Los Angeles went three-and-out and punted after receiving the ball.

They were in a reasonable spot to gamble, but chose to punt on fourth-and-one at their on 34-yard line. The Chiefs responded by setting up Harrison Butker for the game-winning 58-yard field goal on the ensuing possession.

Big expectations for Herbert

The Chargers selected Herbert with the No. 6 pick in April’s draft. The Oregon star was the third quarterback off the board after Joe Burrow at No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals and Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5 to the Miami Dolphins.

Burrow was the starter in Cincinnati from Day 1, while the Dolphins are easing Tagovailoa into the lineup after a hip injury ended his college career at Alabama.

The Chargers also planned to groom Herbert from the bench. It sounds like Lynn is sticking to the script.

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