How Chargers QB Justin Herbert is navigating second-year ups and downs

Justin Herbert was feeling good after completing 84.2 percent of his passes against the Eagles, helping the Chargers break a two-game losing streak. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- He's been the Los Angeles Chargers' starting quarterback for more than a year now. Halfway through his second season, Justin Herbert has been through the usual ups and downs. Right now, he's is on an upswing after completing 84.2% of his passes with no interceptions in a victory at the Philadelphia Eagles and has his team tied for the lead in the AFC West with a 5-3 record.

So what has Herbert learned through all this?

Turning a negative into a teaching moment is something he has been tenacious about ever since started playing football, which he says he loves with a passion. It's why he had a 4.01 GPA in college at Oregon, where he won the equivalent of the Academic Heisman. He's smart and he cares.

The two losses prior to the win over the Eagles -- Week 8 at home to the New England Patriots and at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 before the bye -- were devastating, as Herbert had two consecutive games with a passer rating below 70 for the first time in his career. You could see the frustration on his face. But here's what he said just a few days later:

"As tough as it may be, there was a lot of good film to watch," Herbert said. "You have to get better and, thankfully, it's a long season. We're not going to let two games get us down. It's all about coming back and handling adversity. I think that guys have done a great job of handling that this week and showing with their practice and giving their best effort. It might not go our way, but that's what's going to happen.

"That's NFL football. I think we've done a great job of responding to that, so I'm really excited to see what we can do."

And what did they do? Beat the Eagles in front of a hostile crowd of close to 68,000 by using clock management and accurate strikes to a bevy of top-notch receivers. In the end, he completed 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and two touchdown passes and scored another touchdown with his feet, an 8-yard run to make the score 24-17 in the fourth quarter.

He was so excited, the normally stoic quarterback raised his arms in the air as his teammates jumped all over him.

"I believe it was Cover 0, took a five-step drop and kind of saw the opening ... just tried to get as many yards as I could," Herbert said.

His feet didn't leave the ground on that celebration, which is typical for the grounded QB.

After the Eagles tied the game back up, Herbert proceeded to guide his team on a 15-play, 64-yard drive that took 6:05. Herbert and company ran all but two seconds off the clock, setting up kicker Dustin Hopkins' game-winning 29-yard field goal.

The drive included two fourth-down conversions. He credited Chargers coach Brandon Staley's decision-making to go for both, the second of which was a quarterback sneak at the Philadelphia 28 that got Hopkins closer for the winning kick.

"I liked the run design on that particular short-yardage play," Staley said. "We worked on it all week and I was just really confident in our group. ... I wanted to finish that game with the ball."

Herbert also credited receivers Keenan Allen and Jalen Guyton, along with running backs Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, who all made plays in that final drive. And who could forget the 49-yard cross-field strike to Mike Williams early in the third quarter, which set up a touchdown to break a 10-all tie.

"A strength of Justin's is his arm and accuracy in the deep part of the field," Staley said. "A strength of Mike Williams is his ability to judge and track it in the deep part of the field ... Even if he’s not wide open, but if it's a one-on-one down the field, we feel like that is an advantage situation."

Something else Herbert has learned is to be confident throwing on the run. Staley has faith in him using that skill for short and intermediate passes as well as deep throws. And Herbert has the ability to do so while rolling to either side.

A reporter asked this question of Staley this week: Is it an unfair burden to expect Herbert to throw for 350 yards each game?

"I don't think it's an unfair burden because he is capable of it," Staley said of Herbert, who has thrown for 300-plus yards in a game four times this season and 12 times in his career. "He's set a remarkable standard because he has accomplished a lot and he is capable of a lot ... he hasn't just done it a couple of times, he's done it a bunch so far in his young career. He has certainly set a high standard for himself."

And there are nine games left and a ton of opportunity to grab, starting Sunday at SoFi Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). One thing we know about Herbert is if he makes a mistake or has a bad game, he comes back stronger and more persistent.

And it shows. He's learned it.