Justin Herbert's NFL debut was, simply put, unexpected. That being said, Herbert, the Chargers' rookie quarterback, played well in his first NFL game, going 22-of-33 for 311 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Chiefs. With Tyrod Taylor dealing with multiple chest injuries, Herbert will be under center again on Sunday, when the 1-1 Chargers host the 0-2 Panthers, as coach Anthony Lynn announced Wednesday.
Despite the quarterback change, the Chargers' offense did not change much this past Sunday when compared to how it looked during Los Angeles' Week 1 win over the Bengals. Taylor attempted 30 passes against the Bengals, while the Chargers ran the ball 39 times for 155 yards. In Sunday's overtime loss to the Chiefs, Herbert threw 33 passes while handing off to his running backs 40 times. Herbert also ran four times, which was two less attempts than Taylor attempted in Week 1. Herbert's first NFL touchdown came on a 3-yard scamper against the Chiefs on the Chargers' first drive of the game.
The division of labor among the Chargers' top two running backs, Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, was also similar. Ekeler rushed for 84 yards on 19 carries against the Bengals before rushing for 93 yards on 16 carries against the Chiefs. Kelley, a rookie, rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown (on 12 carries) against Cincinnati before gaining 64 yards on 23 carries against the Chiefs.
Both quarterbacks had success getting the ball to tight end Hunter Henry, who led the Chargers with 73 yards on five receptions against the Bengals before catching six passes for 83 yards against the Chiefs. Herbert did have more success than Taylor as it related to getting the ball to receiver Keenan Allen, who tallied just 37 receiving yards on four catches against the Bengals before catching a team-high seven passes for 96 yards against the Chiefs. Conversely, Taylor had more success getting the ball to Mike Williams, who caught four passes for 69 yards in Week 1 before catching just two passes for 14 yards against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs, knowing they were facing an inexperienced quarterback, consistently blitzed Herbert. The Chargers countered by having Herbert roll out while also providing him with several safety valves in the flat. An example of the latter took place on the Chargers' first drive, when Herbert, facing an outside rush, found Kelley in the flat for a 35-yard gain. Herbert had tremendous success throwing to Ekeler and Kelley, who combined to catch six passes for 104 yards.
Expect Los Angeles to continue to integrate these things into its offense on Sunday, as the Chargers will face a Panthers team that is 10th in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed. And while they have been solid against the pass, Carolina is 32nd in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed and 22nd in yards per carry allowed, which could lead to a big day for the Chargers' duo of Ekeler and Kelley.