The connection is growing more and more as the season progresses. It seems like rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and receiver Keenan Allen are building on something special. On Sunday against the New York Jets, it wasn't even fair.
The Bolts game plan seemed easy to understand, get the ball to Allen.
"We just got it going," said Allen. "Coach kept calling the number Herbie kept throwing the ball."
Honestly, though, it seemed like he was open on every play. He finished the game with 16 receptions for 145 yards. The 16 receptions are a franchise record.
"He's as good as it gets," said Herbert.
On the second drive of the game, Allen made probably his only mistake this season. The Bolts had the ball on the Jets' 15-yard line. Herbert hit him with a 14-yard pass, but safety Marcus Maye punched it out, and the visiting team recovered it.
"I think just trying to do too much," explained Allen. "I wanted to get in the endzone. I was going to reach for it. I was going to jump, and then the guy hit me low. The other guy punched it out. So, great play by them, I got to be more careful."
That didn't stop Herbert from going to the veteran receiver.
Herbert drove the offense down the field on two catches by Allen for 19 yards to start the second half. The Jets' offense had just scored a touchdown, so Herbert answered by throwing a rocket to Allen in the end zone for 13-yards.
This is how Herbert described it, throwing the heater to Allen in a tight window.
"I think it's needed sometimes," explained Herbert. "The guy had his back turned to Keenan and kinda just rolled out. I knew Keenan was going to look for me, had his eyes up, and made a good play kind of shaken off him and catching the ball."
This is how Allen describes it.
"He threw it on a rope, and it was a dime," said Allen. "It was hot."
Two different roads were taken to get to this moment. Herbert was the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft. He was considered the future of the franchise. He knew about number 13 coming in.
"As soon as I got here, I knew how special he was able to watch the film and just knowing who he was before I got here," explained Herbert about his receiver. "I knew that anytime you got a guy like that, on the football field, you're going to try and get him the ball because something special's going to happen."
Allen was drafted in the third round in 2013. He was considered a steal in the draft. In his first game, he got no snaps. He came in against the Philadelphia Eagles in week two and had two catches for 34 yards. He showed what he could do. He now has 600 career receptions in 96 career games, which ties the fastest a player has done in NFL history (Antonio Brown is the other). He was reminded of that game in Philly earlier this week.
"It kind of hit me a little when Coach Wiz (Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers former offensive coordinator) texted me this past week and congratulated me on this success," explained Allen. "He told me, 'hey, you just been the nail on the hammer ever since ever since you got in, in Philly."
These two have come a long way.
When Herbert first took over in week two against the Kansas City Chiefs, he would overthrow Allen or not place the ball where he needed it. That seems like forever ago.
"We've grown so much from then (week two against the Chiefs)," said Herbert. "Even in the huddle, I know I go to them and say anything finally been lined up in a certain position, we can get that done. Same thing for them. They can come to me for anything, and I think we've gotten really comfortable with each other. I think it's only going to get better from here."
It is not an easy transition from one quarterback to the next. Especially when you have had the quarterback since your rookie year. Allen had Philip Rivers as his quarterback for his first seven seasons. The transition from Rivers to Herbert would be difficult for most receivers because of their different style. Herbert is athletic and has a huge arm, where Rivers is not athletic and is a gunslinger. For Allen, it seems like an easy transition.
"It's been special," explained Allen. "He's a special player. He's been making some special plays. Throwing it. Running it. Throwing it out of bounds when he needs to. Throwing to the check down when he needs to. He's evolving into a great player."
Both player's chemistry will continue to grow. This season and for years to come. Allen signed a five-year extension in the offseason, and Herbert is a rookie quarterback. They will continue to grow. For now, they will take the 34-28 victory over the winless New York Jets.
"Winning games in the NFL is tough to come by," explained Herbert. "So, we'll take any win that we can get because week in and week out, you got teams beating each other. Any win we can grab is huge for us."