It has been 16 weeks since the Chargers last faced the Kansas City Chiefs. A lot has changed since then. The Chiefs are getting ready to defend their title in the playoffs while the Chargers are waiting to make decisions going into next season, but that last meeting had a lot of fireworks.
The Chiefs kicked off to the Chargers, and it was presumed that Tyrod Taylor would walk onto the field and get in the huddle, but it wasn't him. Sixth overall pick Justin Herbert was coming into the game. Was it a wildcat? Was it mind games from Anthony Lynn?
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid didn't know what to think when he saw Herbert.
"I didn't know," said Reid. "But I'll tell you what he did a great job when he was out there."
Herbert drove his Chargers up the field on the opening drive and scored his first NFL touchdown running the ball into the end zone. Before halftime, he faced third, and goal looked the safety off and hit Jalen Guyton for his first career passing touchdown.
Herbert did all he could to pull off the upset, but the Chiefs were too good of a football team.
That game must feel like a lifetime ago for the rookie quarterback.
"I think it's kind of the opposite," said Herbert. "I think you blink, and you realize that you're in week 17. It feels like it was just yesterday that, you know, we played the Kansas City Chiefs. I think it's just gone by so fast as the seasons gone by so fast that it really seemed like yesterday."
The Chiefs defense was surprised, but they were able to make some plays. They had two big sacks from Mike Danna and Taco Charlton, also adding in an interception by L'Jarius Sneed. Chiefs were also able to get constant pressure on the rookie quarterback.
"They've got a really good defense, and they bring a lot of pressure," said Herbert. "They've done a good job of kind of disguising those, and along the lines of that, so they've done a really good job over the past couple of months."
Since that game, Herbert has grown as a quarterback.
He has had great performances against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Las Vegas (twice), and many others. He has thrown 27 touchdowns since then while also learning one of the most critical lessons in the NFL, which is how to win one-score games.
"He doesn't handle himself like a rookie," said Reid. "He is a smart kid and a good leader. You look at the product, and then his body language when he's out there and the command that he has. It's like he's a veteran."
The Chargers rookie quarterback had been on Reid's radar before the NFL draft.
"I sure liked him when he was at Oregon and that he's a good football player," said Reid. "I think he's great for this league. We've got this influx of new young quarterbacks that I think are tremendous. I think he's one of them."
This team hit a rough spot between the Chiefs game to the Patriots game in early December. They had a stretch where the team went 2-9. They were blowing late-game leads. They had a franchise-worst 45-0 loss against New England.
They didn't sink. They have gone on a three-game win streak and have won them all on their final offensive drive.
"Guys are excited to get back out there," explained Herbert. "A few weeks ago, we had a tough loss of the Patriots. I knew in that locker room, no one was going to give up. It could have gone 1000 different ways, but guys stuck together, battled through, and put three together. So, that's big-time for us."
The win streak has also shown off Herbert's cooking skills. The day after the game, Herbert, along with his roommate's fullback Gabe Nabers and guard Nate Gilliam, will cook a "victory brisket." Which, after starting the season 2-9 must taste sweeter.
"It gets better each week," said Herbert. "So, a lot better."