Once a young starter with a promising future in the Chargers organization, the 41-year-old Drew Brees is now a longtime New Orleans Saints standout bound for Canton with high hopes of further championship achievement before getting there.
Following the Saints’ dramatic 30-27 overtime win against the Chargers on Monday night, Brees walked away victorious and impressed by the young gunslinger who opposed him.
“I told him, I was really impressed with him … he’s got a really bright future,” Brees said, via KGW TV’s Orlando Sanchez, of Chargers first-round rookie Justin Herbert.
Indeed, Herbert was impressive, a shining light amid a dim Bolts loss. The Oregon product flexed his arm strength, ability to throw on the run and calm in the clutch. All told, Herbert completed 20 of his 34 passes for 264 yards, no interceptions, a 122.7 QB rating and four touchdowns — the latter a first on Monday Night Football for a rookie.
In addition to high praise from the record-holding Saints signal-caller, Herbert also garnered kind words from the opposing coach.
“He’s a good young talent,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, via NOLA.com’s Luke Johnson. “You don’t feel like you’re playing against a young player. He’s someone that gets the ball out of his hands. I think he’s got a promising future, and he’s impressive to watch.”
Herbert hardly looked like a rookie in the opening half, stringing together a trio of touchdown passes for a 20-3 lead, perhaps the most impressive coming on a 17-yard laser to Keenan Allen in which Herbert rolled right to escape a pair of speeding Saints with bad intentions and fired off six points to his wideout.
Herbert did make some rookie mistakes on ill-advised incompletions that could’ve ended up with worse fortunes and fumbled a snap. Like the Chargers as a whole, he went cold late in the second quarter and through the third stanza. But after Brees and the Saints rallied for 17 consecutive points to tie it, Herbert tossed his biggest highlight — and likely his easiest throw — when he hit Mike Williams on a 64-yard bomb to put the Bolts back ahead, 27-20.
Four starts into his burgeoning NFL career, Herbert has nine touchdowns and 1,195 yards through the air. But there’s one very unimpressive stat that lingers as he’s 0-4 as a starter. Thus, as much as the praise from Brees and Payton was a feather in the cap, that first win remains unrealized.
“It’s a huge compliment, those are two people that I look up to a lot,” Herbert said. “To hear that from them means a lot, but I’d love to get the win. And unfortunately it didn’t happen today and I know that, kinda like I said earlier, we’re gonna stick through this and we’re keep getting better.”
Herbert’s offered up plenty of reason for praise and plenty of potential for the seasons ahead. Unfortunately, the reality of the present is he’s still looking for his first win and the Chargers are 1-4. And on this night, compliments from the victors will have to do.
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