The irony did not escape Justin Herbert. Almost a month to the day after his 2021 season and the Chargers ended in Las Vegas, Herbert stood alongside Raiders passing thrower Maxx Crosby as this year’s Pro Bowl offensive and defensive MVP.
If Herbert ever forgot where he was, the contingent of Raiders fans who attended the first Pro Bowl played inside Allegiant Stadium would call him back.
“When I was named Offensive MVP, [there were] a lot of boos, so I was reminded very quickly that we were in Vegas,” said Herbert, who was told the great Kobe Bryant was once booed during an all-star game in his hometown of Philadelphia after receiving MVP honors.
“It’s good company,” Herbert said. “I have a lot of respect for this team and especially for this city, because they managed to create very good football.”
Herbert has partnered with Dr. Squash, a personal care brand focused on products using natural ingredients. Herbert might consider sending some of his products to Crosby, who can make a quarterback’s life a living nightmare.
Crosby was just one of the obstacles Herbert and his teammates faced in the Chargers’ regular season finale, a game both teams needed to win to qualify for the playoffs. Trailing 29-14 late in the game, the Chargers rallied to force overtime behind two touchdown passes from Herbert. The teams then traded field goals in overtime before the Raiders won the game on Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal.
“Maxx is an incredible player,” Herbert said. “He’s done such a good job of disrupting the setter all year. We got to see that in that Pro Bowl as well. He was a guy who was making plays and finding a way to get to the setter. But at the same time, in that last game, we had no choice. We had to do our best to get back there. We were down a few scores and we only had to convert those fourth downs. Luckily, we got Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, all those guys on the outside who make my job so much easier, I know they’re going to open up and as long as I’m fluid and have pace, it’s going to be pretty good.
Herbert considers this match one of the most exciting he has had in his career.
“It’s definitely near the top,” he said. “I know the ‘Sunday Night Football’ environment, winning to get into the playoffs and the environment that was in Vegas, I don’t know if it gets much better than that. The unfortunate thing is we have lost it’s obviously very difficult but at the same time just being there with the teammates and knowing what’s at stake, the opportunity we had, that’s why you play football, and I thought that it was great.”
The Chargers could have benefited from this game by having the fourth and 15 rule that was put into effect at the Pro Bowl. For the first time, the scoring team had the option of trying to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 25-yard line to retain possession.
Because it was the Pro Bowl, neither offense had the plays, preparation, or continuity to be very successful in those situations, which was a big reason teams went 0-for-8 on aggregate. fourth and 15 attempts. Herbert said if the NFL implemented this rule change for the regular season, offenses would be more successful in these situations. That could be a significant advantage for high-powered offenses like the one Herbert leads in Los Angeles.
“I think if you spent more time really studying what [defenses] play fourth and 15 and exactly how to open receivers, I think you can handle it,” Herbert said. I feel like if we attack him with the regular season mindset, we really need him. I think we could convert more of them.
“The onside kick was such a difficult task to achieve because of the quality of the opposing teams. I know with the talent we have with Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Jared Cook and Jalen Guyton, I think it helps our team.”
Herbert said the Chargers have taken a big step forward in 2021. Held 7-9 in 2020, the 2021 Chargers posted their first winning season since 2018. Individually, Herbert was named to his first Pro Bowl while leading an offense that finished fifth in the league in runs scored.
“The unfortunate thing is that it ended a little earlier than we would have liked,” Herbert said. “But at the same time, I saw a lot of growth in our team. We were able to make and go play the playoffs. That’s the hardest part. At the same time, we had the feel like we shouldn’t have been in this position of having to win the last game to get in. If we had won a few games earlier in the season, we wouldn’t have been in this position. It’s about putting up a whole year of good football which I know we are capable of playing.
“Going into this offseason I know it’s going to be big for us. Who’s coming back and who we’re going to have, I’m really excited to see that because we’re going to bring in some really good talent and hopefully we’ll to nurture certain talents as well.”
Although they share SoFi Stadium with the Rams, Herbert and his teammates are also familiar with the AFC’s Super Bowl representative LVI. In Week 13, the Chargers traveled to Cincinnati and came away with a 41-22 victory. While he’s been sacked four times, Herbert has managed to complete over 74% of his passes for 317 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Chargers defense forced four turnovers, including Tevaughn Campbell’s 61-yard fumble return for a score.
“The Bengals are very solid defensively,” Herbert said. “They’ve got really good coaches on that side of the ball. They’ve got really good athletic guys on defense. They make plays and they’re able to disrupt the passer. They’ve got linebackers that really fly all over the place, and DBs that are really good in the press and in the zone. It was really hard for us.
“I think we had some deep shots. Jalen Guyton caught a ball from 40, 50 yards which really changed the momentum of the game. I think any time you’re able to finish those balls, I think that gives you a really good chance of winning.”
Herbert knows that for Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense to succeed, they will have to do their best to contain world defensive tackle Aaron Donald and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
“I can’t imagine,” Herbert said with a laugh when asked about the prospect of facing the dynamic Rams duo. “Having these guys rush the passer. You’re always worried about where they are and how you can slide to protect yourself against them. At the same time, you can’t be too focused on them because you can’t watch That’s one of the tough things and that’s why they make the Rams so good.
In addition to facing Burrow (another member of the 2020 NFL Draft class) this season, Herbert and his teammates defeated a Steeles team led by Ben Roethlisberger, who retired shortly after Pittsburgh’s loss. against the Chiefs in the wild card round. the playoffs. Hebert relished the chance to share the field with some of the quarterbacks he grew up watching.
“I think it’s been so much fun,” he said. “I grew up a huge NFL fan and watched Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, all those guys. I played video games with them, had their jerseys, and now to be able to play against them, to learn from them and to be able to talk with them, I don’t think it gets much better than that.”
Along with preparing for the 2022 season, Herbert is excited to continue his partnership with Dr. Squash, whose Star Wars soap packet was one of the items that initially caught his eye.
“I’m really thrilled to be partnering with Dr. Squash,” said Herbert. “I think the great thing about their company is that they’ve been able to produce these high performance skincare products. Soaps, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners that are free of synthetic materials or chemicals. harsh chemicals.
“They did a great job providing me and my teammates with soap and anything we might need after games, after lifts after practice. That’s what we’re going to do. … They make some of the peppermint soap bars that me and Bryan Bulaga love. In fact, he gave me a bunch. I think the smell should be either pine tar or birch breeze, just because it reminds me of football. It’s what I’ve had all year and the smells are kind of bringing me back to football.”