PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles were outgunned in a 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and remained winless at Lincoln Financial Field.
The difference was Chargers’ second-year star quarterback Justin Herbert, who was spectacular en route to completing 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns.
“Of course, again, when a guy comes away and he’s 84 percent you’re going to say, ‘We didn’t do our job,’ right?” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “We just got to be better. Again, I have to go look at the tape and all the calls. Obviously not good enough starting with myself and by the defense there with the pass defense.”
However, in many ways keeping things as close as they were was a testament to the game plan which leaned on what succeeded in Detroit last week, a heavy emphasis on the run game which set up play-action throws for Jalen Hurts.
The setback dropped Philadelphia to 3-6 on the season and 0-4 at home.
First-half fourth-down defense – The Chargers came in as one of the best teams in the NFL on fourth downs and were snuffed twice in the early going with one coming on the first Chargers dive that went 98 of a potential 99 yards. L.A. coach Brandon Staley will be lauded for his aggressiveness but leaving points on the field in a close game will tend to haunt you.
L.A. did convert two big fourth downs in the second half to even the docket and help put the Chargers over the top, however.
Run defense – The T.J. Edwards-fueled run defense was on point all night with the Chargers running for just 89 yards on 27 carries, just 3.3 a pop. In the first half, it was even better, 31 yards on 11 carries for under 3.0 YPC.
Jalen Hurts running the ball – The Eagles’ second-year QB couldn’t keep up with a gunslinger like Herbert but he did convert big third downs that kept Philadelphia in the game until the final moments.
On the drive that tied the game at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, Hurts converted consecutive 3rd-and-4 with scrambles, the kind of emphatic plays that had Sirianni calling Hurts a stud after the game.
“He was a stud. He was a big-time stud,” Sirianni said of his QB. “I mean, really I got a lot of respect Brandon Staley. They knew we were moving the ball really well on offense, and he didn’t leave anything – I’m pretty confident that he didn’t leave anything on his call sheet.”
Jordan Howard – The veteran is out of practice squad elevations after running for 71 yards on 17 carries and recording his third TD on the ground in two weeks. A 53-man roster spot is now waiting for Howard.
The pass rush – As far as I can tell there is no truth to the rumor that Herbert will be building a new home at Lincoln Financial Field but he will certainly never find a more comfortable spot.
The Eagles hit Herbert once all night and Steve Nelson was penalized for that. The Philadelphia pass rush used to be the difference-maker when the Eagles were playing at home under Jim Schwartz, something Jason Kelce noted earlier this week.
In this scheme, what used to be the engine of this defense needs an oil change even while acknowledging Herbert getting the ball out quickly.
Jalen Hurts’ consistency passing the ball – Hurts made some good throws to DeVonta Smith in the play-action game but he also missed two potential touchdowns due to poor footwork. On the first drive of the game, Hurts overshot Dallas Goedert when he was hurried a bit and later his throw to a streaking Smith in the end zone was off the mark as he tried to throw while moving laterally.
Zech McPhearson and Andre Chachere – It’s tough to laud defensive players when you allow 445 yards and a completion percentage of over 80.0 but both McPhearson and Chachere battled in tough conditions when forced into the game due to injuries. Chachere, a safety by trade, has to play in the slot when Avonte Maddox left for a bit in the first half with a knee injury and McPhearson wasn’t overwhelmed when Slay tapped out with a hamstring injury in the second half.
The path to victory – The margin of error is too slim when you play this brand of football in the modern NFL. In many ways, it’s a testament to how sharp the Eagles were when you factor in losing by a field goal to a QB putting up numbers like Herbert.
–John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.