Patrick Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert: Head-to-head record, stats for 2021 superstar QB duel

A pair of wild-west gunslingers meet for Round 4 of their duel on Thursday night.

The AFC West is still up for grabs, and the Week 15 “Thursday Night Football” matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers could prove a big tipping point for either team.

The Chiefs enter red-hot on a five-game winning streak, while the Fightin’ Herberts on a short, two-game winning streak themselves.

There’s more than just playoff positioning on the line entering Thursday; Bragging rights for fans hang in the balance, too. With Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert squaring off for the third time in their careers, the Week 15 matchup provides a rubber match for the pair since the start of 2021.

Here’s how the two match up:

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Patrick Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert record

With Herbert facing the Chiefs for the fourth time on Thursday night, the sophomore passer and the Chargers currently hold a 2-1 series lead over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs since the beginning of 2020.

That comes with a small caveat: Mahomes didn’t play in Week 17 in 2020, a game which the Chargers won 38-21. So, in games started by both Herbert and Mahomes, the record is really 1-1, with the rubber match coming Thursday.

While the two don’t play against one another on the field, here’s how their numbers stacked up in previous matchups:

Year Final score Mahomes stats Herbert stats
2020, Week 2 23-20, KC 27-47, 302 yards, two TDs, 54 rushing yards 23-33, 311 yards, one TD, one INT, 18 rushing yards, one TD
2020, Week 17 38-21 LAC N/A 22-31, 302 yards, three TDs, nine rush yards, one TD
2021, Week 3 30-24, LAC 27-44, 260 yards, three TDs, two INTs, 45 rushing yards 26-38, 281 yards, four TDs, 16 rushing yards

Patrick Mahomes vs. Justin Herbert stats

Justin Herbert was thrust into action following an unfortunate needle mishap with incumbent start Tyrod Taylor prior to Week 2 2020. Unlike other first-rounders, Herbert was tasked to sit until he was ready, which obviously didn’t come to pass. Since then, Herbert has been Los Angeles’ de factor No. 1 starter and won AFC Rookie of the Year in 2020.

Mahomes is in Year 5 of his career after sitting his first year, in 2017. Since then, Mahomes has visited the Super Bowl twice, won a league MVP and has a ring to show for it. 

Here’s how their numbers match up heading into Thursday night’s Round 4:

Mahomes Stat Herbert
59 Games 28
47-12 Record 14-14
17,794 Passing yards 8,158
141 Passing TDs 61
36 INTs 21
1,078 Rushing yards 502
8 Rushing TDs 7
149 Total TDs 68

Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes: Who’s faster?

While Mahomes isn’t necessarily known as a run-first quarterback, he’s also not exactly a slouch running the ball.

While he doesn’t have the blazing speed that Lamar Jackson has, he posted a 4.8 second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine in 2017, not exactly proving that he’s immobile.

The same can be said about Herbert, though he does hold the pure speed measure over Mahomes: At the 2020 NFL Draft, Herbert ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, a number that’s doubly as impressive when you consider his pure size (6-6, 236 lbs). 

Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes: Who’s better?

Whether it’s Herbert or Mahomes, AFC West fans should be happy they have passers who will lead their teams for the next decade or longer.

Mahomes has had something of a down year by Mahomes standards, but to boil it down to a simple number would paint the picture pretty well: In 2021, Mahomes has a 73.9 PFF grade, a number that’s down from each of his prior three seasons in the NFL (91.8, 90.2 and 92.9 in 2020, 2019 and 2018).

Herbert, in his second season, is still on the ascent: With an 86.6 overall PFF grade, the Chargers passer is the fourth-ranked quarterback in the NFL in 2021. He’s having a better overall season than Mahomes in Year 2, but Mahomes, in Year 5, still has the track record over Herbert. 

Other numbers indicate how close these two are on a stat-for-stat basis in 2021 (all values courtesy PFF): 

Mahomes Stat Herbert
3.0 percent Big-time throw percentage 3.3 percent
78.8 percent Adjusted completion 77.4 percent
7.8 ADOT 7.6
87.4 Grade (Deep) 95.3
74.6 Grade (Medium) 69.7
68.8 Grade (Short) 80.2
71.1 Grade (Passing) 81.7
94.9 Passer rating 100.3

What Herbert has won over Mahomes this season, more than anything else, is the turnover battle: Mahomes has thrown 12 interceptions in 2021, matching his career high, and it’s just one more than Herbert. There’s more to it: While Mahomes’ 2.6 percent turnover-worthy play mark isn’t terrible (and just about in line with his career 2.8 average), Herbert’s 1.7 TWP percentage mark is the lowest in the NFL, tied with Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.

That all basically means, while Mahomes has thrown more INTs this season, the amount of plays that he’s thrown a pass that should have been turned over, as opposed to Herbert, who has thrown one less INT, but has fewer plays overall in which the ball should have been picked off.

All of this is a pretty long way of saying something really, really simple: These guys are good.

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