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Eagles-Chargers analysis: Close game, but the defense falters in the end, as L.A. wins it on a field goal

The Eagles couldn't stop the Chargers in the end, as the defense let quarterback Justin Herbert do what he wanted.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs with he football past Eagles safety Rodney McLeod (left) and  cornerback Avonte Maddox in the third quarter on Sunday, November 7, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen runs with he football past Eagles safety Rodney McLeod (left) and cornerback Avonte Maddox in the third quarter on Sunday, November 7, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

At some point this season, the Eagles will win a home game. Or will they? It was a perfect question to ask after the team squandered yet another home contest Sunday, this time losing to the Chargers, 27-24, at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles dropped to 3-6, including 0-4 at home.

Defense breaks down in second half

The Eagles stopped the Chargers twice on fourth down in the first half, but the home team couldn’t manage another stop when it mattered most. Late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers faced fourth-and-1 from the Eagles’ 39. Quarterback Justin Herbert handed it off to tailback Austin Ekeler, who picked up the necessary yardage to extend what ended up being the game’s final drive.

Four plays later, Herbert was the hero on another fourth-down conversion, this time sneaking it past the marker and effectively killing the clock. Chargers kicker Dustin Hopkins closed it out with a chip shot from 29 yards.

The defense didn’t appear to blitz much during the game’s final drive. Herbert had too much time to operate in the pocket, and Jalen Hurts was never afforded an opportunity at a comeback. Hurts had his issues early, but this defeat falls on the defense, which couldn’t get stops in crunch time.

Herbert threw for 356 yards, completing 32 of 38 passes, including two TDs. His completion percentage, 84%, marked a new career best in a single game.

“Whatever happens on that field my name is on, offensively, defensively,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I’m not the offensive coordinator, I’m the head coach. It’s all of us together. It’s first myself, getting the right calls and putting the players in position, then Jonathan Gannon, then the players executing.

“When a guy comes away and he’s 84%, you’re going to say, ‘We didn’t do our job.’ Obviously not good enough, starting with myself and the pass defense.”

QB Breakdown

For the second straight week, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni did a fine job at relieving some of the pressure stacked on Hurts’ shoulders. The offense established the run early, which meant Hurts didn’t need to play hero ball.

Hurts’ accuracy issues, however, are becoming a problem. The second-year quarterback had multiple misthrows that cost the team points. Hurts missed a wide-open Dallas Goedert during the opening drive. Had Hurts hit Goedert in stride, the tight end might have had a walk-in touchdown. Hurts also missed rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith wide left in the back of the end zone, as the Eagles settled for three points before halftime.

Hurts rebounded from his miscues in the fourth quarter, when he directed a 10-play, 78-yard drive that was capped by his 28-yard touchdown completion to Smith. Overall, Hurts completed 11 of 17 passes for 162 yards. He also rushed 10 times for 62 yards.

“He was a stud,” Sirianni said of Hurts in the fourth quarter. “He was just really unfazed by the scenario and showed a lot of poise. We definitely have to build on this.”

Said Hurts: “It wasn’t enough to win. If I take away something from this, coming out from the first quarter, we need to take advantage of every opportunity and maintain that throughout the course of the game. It’s all about winning.”

Pounding the rock

After a puzzling first six weeks of the season – in which Sirianni showed a stubborn refusal to establish the run – the first-year coach has rewritten his identity in consecutive games. The Eagles gashed the Chargers for 176 yards on 39 rushes. A large chunk of those rushes occurred in multi-tight end personnel, featuring Goedert, Jack Stoll, and Tyree Jackson.

“When you’re running the ball like that, there are different answers that defense has to come with because as a defense, you never want to get the ball pushed down your throat,” Sirianni said. “We just have to identify what they’re doing and then attack from there.”

It was clear Sirianni needed to do a better job at balancing the run-pass ratio, but it remains to be seen if this specific formula is sustainable. Regardless, Sirianni’s offense is evolving and it’s been a pleasant sight compared to the original product.

Health report

During the Chargers’ opening drive, starting slot cornerback Avonte Maddox suffered a knee injury after he tackled Ekeler. Maddox left the game and had his right leg evaluated from inside the locker room. He later worked out on a stationary bike on the sideline before eventually returning to the game. Maddox, who is playing in the final year of his rookie deal, has been one of the few consistent bright spots for this team.

Fellow cornerback Darius Slay suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and didn’t return. Slay was replaced by rookie Zech McPhearson. Andre Chachere substituted in for Maddox.