Chargers’ Justin Herbert ready for the first playoff moment of his career – NFL Nation

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COSTA MESA, California – Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is playing the biggest game of his young NFL career. Beat the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium (20:20 ET, NBC), and the Chargers get to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Loss, and it’s back to, well, there’s always next season.

Herbert will never say that – he is too humble and modest – but he knows the effort and there is no doubt that he is excited, which is different from being nervous. He’s been through the nerves before – in sixth grade he tried to get on the travel team, made a come-from-behind win over Wisconsin in the 2020 Rose Bowl at college in Oregon and was thrown into the starting lineup minutes before his second game. NFL career last year after Tyrod Taylor was injured.

But Herbert has had good coaches, good builders of the brick wall who have given him a structure to stand on, win or lose. Those who know him well say he’s still more than excited every day (and somewhat in disbelief) that he’s going to go out and throw to receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, handing over to running back Austin Ekeler, face defensive Joey Bosa and try to figure out what security Derwin James Jr. is underway.

“Fridays at 3pm, when the rest of our facility is empty, he and I are the last ones here,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “It never ceases to amaze me. The peace and quiet, the serenity of a professional building where you are a little at the end of the week, your quarterback is still here. It never ceases to amaze me, but it do it in the same way. It’s a reminder of why he earns all he earns. “

And why Herbert is in the situation he’s in.

There are two teams playing Sunday night with a chance to advance to the playoffs, and Herbert’s Chargers squad (9-7) is one of them. That’s pretty cool for a 23-year-old in his second season in the NFL. Staley realizes that, too.

“I’ve been in a lot of games like this in my lifetime, not in the NFL as a head coach, but I think every time you’re in a game like this where a lot is at stake, it’s down to your preparation and you trust your game and treat that week as if it has its own life, “Staley said. “You have to roll into this week, you have to roll into your team and make sure you have the focus, the level of detail that the week requires.

“That’s what we’re trying to do; establish that consistency and performance over the course of the week. I like the way we’re kind of got started as a team, with me in my first year. I think We are always getting better. We have to do that this week. “

James and other teammates are still surprised that Herbert set the franchise record for single seasons for passing touchdowns last week, throwing his 35th of the season in a 34-13 win over the Denver Broncos to break a record set by Philip Rivers in 2008, and celebrated by tackling by Williams, who caught the 45-yard touchdown pass.

“I do not like the guys tackling each other out there,” James said. “But it was great to see their celebration and the team’s camaraderie together, where everyone connected to the special moment.”

During the celebration, Herbert tried to hide from the camera, which pursued every movement. He did not want the attention.

“Justin Herbert is a superstar,” James said of his quarterback, who is missing 369 yards to pass 5,000 yards this season. “If you were to be around him, he’s so humble. He does not like the limelight. You have nothing but respect for such a guy.”

Herbert will have a chance to earn even more national respect on Sunday against the Raiders (9-7), who have won three straight to establish the showdown. The Chargers beat the Raiders in their first meeting, a 28-14 win in Week 4 at SoFi Stadium.

What are Herbert and Staley talking about the Friday afternoons when the sun starts to set and the preparation week is about to run out?

“I usually go into the quarterback’s room before I go,” Staley said. “Know that he’s there, just to connect before the weekend, the silence before the storm. When you’re towards the end of the week, you’re trying to get into that room, how it’s all with the preparation, and now you’re coming into the space of how it’s time to perform. It’s one of those spaces during the week that I’ve enjoyed. At the same time, it’s one of those reminders of what makes him really special. “

Just do not ask Herbert about it.

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