The Chargers will face their fourth AFC East opponent in a row on Sunday in the New England Patriots. This isn't the first time Bolts rookie quarterback Justin Herbert will be face to face with the Patriots. He has faced them before.
During the NFL Combine, the Patriots offensive staff, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels met with Herbert. The rookie quarterback gave the media on Wednesday the same answer he gave to NBC's Peter King. That he loved the way the Patriots ran their offense.
"All the success they've had over the years," said Herbert. "They've been good year in and year out. It's a great combination between the coaches and the players, and just the overall program, really. So, it's been a lot of fun to watch them. It's a great opportunity to play against them."
What is not to love?
The Patriots have won six Super Bowls under head coach Bill Belichick. The offensive coordinator position has switched at times, and Belichick is defensive-minded, but it has worked.
Herbert grew up in Eugene, Oregon. There is no NFL team there. He remembers watching NFL Redzone and a lot of the big games growing up. Since Eugene wasn't tied to an NFL team, they showed a lot of the premier matchups. That includes Patriots, which is why Herbert loved watching their offense.
"Because they were so successful and played in so many big games, they were just always on TV," explained Herbert. "So, watching them and watching the things that Tom Brady was able to do in that offense was a lot of fun."
Brady was one of Herbert's favorite quarterback's growing up. He faced the veteran quarterback week four but not in the traditional red, white, and blue jersey or with a patriot on his helmet or in Foxborough. It was in a red, black, and orange jersey, also with a pirate flag on the helmet and in Tampa Bay.
Both quarterbacks got into a shootout.
Even though Brady is not the quarterback, Herbert still respects what they can do even with a new quarterback.
"I think it's really smart," Herbert said. "I think they do a great job of getting the ball to the right guys letting them go make plays. And they're really good at scheming up. So, it's just one of those offenses of football words. They've got an answer for everything. That's just what I love about football."
That is right, the jersey that was 12 had the two taken off and left a one. The "GOAT" went to Tampa while Superman came into town. Cam Newton is a player whom Herbert remembers very well.
"I've always watched a bunch of Cam Newton, especially when they played against Oregon in the national championship, I think 2010," explained Herbert. "It was a tough game for me to watch growing up a duck fan and having them lose."
Newton's Auburn Tigers ran wild on college football that season. They went 14-0 and faced Herbert's Ducks. He was only 11 or 12 at the time but remembers that game.
"I think Auburn kicked a game-winning field goal to win it, and I was pretty devastated back at the time," said Herbert.
Newton has a lot of rookie records. On November 8th, Herbert broke Newton's most passing yards by a rookie in his first seven games. Some more could come down by the time the season ends, but the rookie quarterback has enjoyed watching Superman play football.
"Over the course of years, he's been to the Super Bowl, MVP, and he's had a great career," said Herbert. "I think it'll be another great opportunity to learn from him on the field and be able to watch him play."
There were rumors before the draft that the Patriots really liked Herbert and wanted him. Rumors are rumors.
On Monday, though, Belichick spoke to the media and raved about the rookie quarterback.
"He is really solid," explained Belichick. "Has no weaknesses. Smart kid. Handles things well. Game-plan. Line of scrimmage. Fast, athletic can extend plays, and hard to tackle. Takes hits and throws the ball and comes back and does it again. I've been impressed with watching him play this year. He seems to get a little better each week as he gains more experience and more confidence, and more understanding of defenses.
"He is obviously young and got a long way to go. You can certainly see the improvement and the talent. The Chargers are working with a good player here."
He is right. The young quarterback is only going to get better and continue to grow. He has thrown for over 3,000 yards and thrown 23 touchdowns. He is close to breaking Andrew Luck's all-time rookie touchdowns record.
"I really appreciate that," said a grateful Herbert. "That's really high praise. I think that there are plenty of things that I need to work on. So, going into this week, there's always stuff that I can work on and get better at and improve at. But it means a lot to me that he said that."
Now the Chargers sit at 3-8. It hasn't been a good season. Herbert may be a rookie quarterback, but this is familiar territory to him. His freshman year at Oregon was very similar.
"I've been through it before," explained Herbert. "Going 4-8 is never easy. It's never fun for anyone, but you have to stick through, and you have to stay with your guys and take control of that locker room and steer into the right direction. That's what we did in Oregon, and we have stuff right now, but I know that we've got the right guys here and the coaches, and I know that it's not going to be like this for long."
Herbert went full good guy Harvey Dent because in "The Dark Knight," he said, "The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming." Herbert believes these dark days will soon be a thing of the past.