The throw was one of his most memorable Sunday even though the ball traveled about one yard and straight into the Lambeau Field turf.
Justin Herbert’s flustered spike in reaction to a delay-of-game penalty marked an odd but notable career first.
“I’ve definitely seen him lose it in practice but never in a game,” said Chargers edge rusher Justin Hollins, who also played with Herbert at Oregon. “It’s nice to see the emotion, though. You know with Herb he always means well.”
The moment combusted with 7:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Chargers trailing the Packers 16-13. They had first-and-10 at the Green Bay 22-yard line, and Herbert — lined up in the shotgun — was unable to get center Will Clapp to react in time.
He repeatedly signaled and smacked his hands together as the stadium filled with noise and the play clock drained to zero.
Clapp then snapped the ball and Herbert fired it into the ground before screaming in the direction of his veteran center.
On Fox’s telecast, play-by-play man Kevin Kugler described Herbert’s actions as “an emphatic, frustrated spike.”
For a guy who already has thrown for 16,698 yards and 113 touchdowns for this franchise, Herbert never before has looked more like Philip Rivers.
Coach Brandon Staley called it “a great thing,” Herbert showing the fiery leadership often displayed by NFL quarterbacks, none more so than Rivers during his 16 years with the Chargers.
“It’s just a competitor out there competing,” Staley said. “He and Will are tight. There’s a lot that goes on out there in the game. There’s no one that cares more than Justin. I love seeing that.”
Typically in charge of his emotions on the field, Herbert gained notoriety last season for a few passionate expressions following positive plays. Sunday was his first foray into the negative.
On Wednesday, Herbert said he apologized to Clapp and the rest of the offensive line for “that outburst of frustration.” Then he took responsibility for the entire incident.
“I have to do a better job of getting the call in earlier, go through our reads,” he said. “Whether I am killing the play or whether I’m keeping it, we just have to have a faster pace of play there.”
Said Hollins: “That’s just Herb. He’s a great guy — on the field, off the field. Cool, calm guy.”
The penalty sent the offense backward five yards but didn’t kill the drive. Two snaps later, Herbert scrambled up the middle and refused to slide, instead plowing forward for a first down.
Three plays after that — on third-and-nine — he zipped a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, fitting the ball between defenders and giving the Chargers their final lead of the day.
Now in his fourth season, Herbert has continued to grow as a leader, becoming more vocal and taking the sort of ownership that comes with an extension as lucrative — worth up to $262.5 million — as the one he signed before the start of training camp.
“Justin has been a quarterback his whole life, so Justin knows how to lead a football team,” Staley said. “Wherever he’s been, he’s been extremely successful doing it. I think what Justin has is he has the full respect of his teammates because of who he is and how hard he works.
“When there is a moment that happens like that, everybody knows that it’s coming from a good place. … I think it’s energizing for everybody on the sideline because he doesn’t do it often.”
In what is unfolding to be a disappointing and difficult season, Herbert’s status as the Chargers’ franchise quarterback remains as solid as ever.
He has produced a few of his most impressive performances yet while playing through a fractured middle finger on his nonthrowing hand.
Herbert said he believes everyone on the Chargers’ offense is comfortable enough with each other to express their opinions.
“I did it for the best of the team,” he said. “I’d love to have that back and be able to control that a little bit better, but I think that it’s important to speak up, especially when something is on your mind like that.”
The Chargers placed edge rusher Joey Bosa on injured reserve because of his right-foot sprain suffered against the Packers. He’ll miss at least the next four games but hasn’t been ruled out for the rest of the season. … They signed edge rusher Andrew Farmer II to the active roster and also signed fullback Zander Horvath to the practice squad.