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Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert trade absurd throws during the Chiefs’ win over the Chargers

Watch some of the best from Mahomes and Herbert from ‘Sunday Night Football’

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Earlier this season, we made the case that Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes were football-throwing aliens put on Earth to dazzle and amuse us all.

That argument might have received some pushback from readers, who thought it was a little too much, and perhaps over-the-top.

But after watching these two during ‘Sunday Night Football,’ perhaps that case is even stronger.

Herbert and Mahomes put on a show Sunday night, with each seemingly trying to one-up-the other in a battle of who can throw the football the best, and dazzle us the most. The first big throw came from Herbert, as he connected with Josh Palmer on a deep shot along the left side of the field to open the scoring. But as you watch this play, consider the design of the route concept. Herbert is rolling out to his right, and Palmer is running a corner route working towards the left sideline:

As you can see from the “dots” from Next Gen Stats, this is a twist on the “burner” concept, in Kyle Shanahan’s terminology. This looks like a standard post/over combination, that teams run on every single NFL Sunday, but instead of Palmer running the deep post route, he actually runs a corner route, working away from Herbert’s roll. The idea of the concept is that the post-safety in single-high coverage will commit to what he expects will be a post route, giving the receiver the leverage advantage as he breaks back towards the sideline.

However, the Chiefs are in two-deep on this play, but it does not matter:

Here is the “burner” design from Shanahan:

As noted by Next Gen Stats, this play had a completion probability of just 29.8%, and it was the second-longest completion against Cover 2 so far this season.

An impressive throw to be sure, but soon it was time for Mahomes’ first entry.

And it was a doozy:

This throw is an absolute cannon shot, a line drive ripped some 30+ yards up the seam to Jody Fortson for a 40-yard gain. It is hard to tell from this angle, but it seems like this ball from Mahomes gets maybe 10 or 15 feet off the ground at the most.

Just an absurd throw.

Also notable about this play, beyond the fact that Mahomes throws a frozen rope into a shoebox? It comes out of 13 offensive personnel. The Chiefs are in 13 offensive personnel for the play, with tight ends Fortson, Travis Kelce and Noah Grey in the game.

Recently, we outlined how the Chiefs were starting to create explosive plays in the vertical passing game using this package, and this play is the most recent example. Fortson comes in motion and runs vertically up the right side, while Kelce runs a deep corner route to that side of the field. Wide receiver Justin Watson, the only WR on the field for this play, runs a deep post route.

But Mahomes targets Fortson who gets a step on the coverage, which is all the quarterback needs. Watch this throw from a replay angle:

Honestly, I’m not sure Mahomes could have put this in a better spot if he handed it to him.

Now believe it or not, according to Next Gen Stats the throw from Herbert was tougher, in terms of completion probability:

Herbert and the Chargers took a 20-13 lead into the halftime break, but there were still some throws left to be made in the second half.

The third quarter — along with the start of the fourth — were all about the Chiefs. Kansas City put a field goal on the board to cut the Chargers’ lead to 20-16. Then the Chiefs put together a long drive, after converting a 3rd and 17 on their own 7-yard line, that they capped off with a touchdown pass from Mahomes to Kelce.

And while the touchdown pass to Kelce was nowhere near as difficult as his first-half throw to Forston, there was some skill needed to make the connection. On this replay angle, you can see how Mahomes takes a little off the pass, to make sure it is in a spot where only Kelce can make the reception:

From there, Kelce does the rest, shining after the catch has he has done so many times before.

On the Chargers’ following possession, Herbert pulled off a little short-range magic of his own. With pressure bearing down on him, the quarterback resorts to a quick chest pass, finding Austin Ekeler to avoid the sack, and pick up positive yardage:

Here’s another look at the flip from Herbert:

After the teams traded turnovers, the Chargers took over possession on their own 36-yard line. They would face a 3rd and 18 after a sack of Herbert, where it was time for the next incredible throw in the game.

This time from the Chargers passer:

Herbert fires a rocket up the right sideline, that Keenan Allen extends for and manages to secure, giving the Chargers a huge gain at a critical moment in the contest.

They would capitalize with another touchdown from Palmer ... and on another impressive throw from Herbert:

With pressure coming off both edges, Herbert rips a throw off his back foot that drills Palmer in the chest, giving the Chargers the lead.

But there was certainly a sense of impending doom for Chargers fans, in the form of the fear that Los Angeles left too much time on the clock for Mahomes and company.

They were exactly right.

Mahomes and the Chiefs offense drove right down the field, and would score the go-ahead touchdown with under 30 seconds left in the game, coming on a throw from Mahomes to who else, but Kelce:

Herbert and the Chargers would have one last-gasp attempt at tying the game, but a desperation heave from the quarterback would be tipped and intercepted by linebacker Nick Bolton, ending the threat and giving the Chiefs the victory.

Still, the night was filled with impressive quarterback play from both Mahomes and Herbert, who could be developing one of the sport’s new quarterback rivalries. They made plays early, and late, and to all levels of the field. Impressive throws that only a few other people on the planet can make.

You might say ... alien-like throws.