Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is having a very impressive first NFL season, but he will face one of his toughest challenges as a rookie in Sunday's Week 13 matchup against the New England Patriots.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has enjoyed tremendous success versus rookie quarterbacks in his 20-year career leading New England.
He's 20-5 against these QBs. Here's the list of rookie quarterbacks who've beaten a Belichick-led Patriots defense:
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Week 7 in 2004 Mark Sanchez, Jets: Week 2 in 2009 Colt McCoy, Browns: Week 9 in 2010 Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Week 6 in 2012 Geno Smith, Jets: Week 7 in 2013
Herbert is well aware that he is about to play a Patriots defense with plenty of talent and experience.
"They're really fun to watch on film. They are extremely well coached. Any time you get a combination of incredible players and coaching like that it creates a tough defense," Herbert told reporters this week.
"They're about as good as it gets. It's a great challenge and great opportunity for us to go up against one of the best defenses in the world. We'll watch as much film as we can and try to put together a good protection plan for the run and pass game so it gives ourselves a shot on Sunday."
The Patriots pass defense has been hit-or-miss in 2020. This unit has allowed the most yards per pass attempt (8.3) and the fourth-highest completion percentage (69.0).
It also has looked pretty good at times, including a Week 12 win during which the Patriots held a high-scoring Arizona Cardinals offense to a season-low 4.3 yards per play. The Pats' D also did a nice job containing dual-threat Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who tallied just 201 total yards and zero touchdowns with one interception.
New England will need a similarly impressive performance against Herbert. The Chargers rookie has thrown for 300-plus yards in six of his 10 games played, and he's thrown 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions overall.
The Patriots will be the more desperate team Sunday at SoFi Stadium. They badly need a win to remain in the AFC playoff race. But despite the Chargers' disappointing 3-8 record, this matchup won't be easy. Herbert is talented enough to beat the Patriots defense and end New England's hopes of making a playoff run.