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Los Angeles Chargers-Philadelphia Eagles Takeaways

Week 9 of the NFL season has come to a close, and this week completely blew up most NFL fans’ expectations. The Dallas Cowboys got embarrassed by the Denver Broncos, not scoring a single point on their opening eight drives. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills faced an embarrassing 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even the New York Giants got in on the action, upsetting the AFC West leaders, the Las Vegas Raiders, 23-16.

The Los Angeles Chargers traveled to Philadelphia to play against the Eagles on Sunday. The Chargers managed to pull away with a win on the road, thanks to an unexpected finish. But how did the game go? What went well, and what needs work? These are the Chargers-Eagles takeaways.

Game Summary

First Half

The game started off pretty slow, with the first three drives ending without a score. The Chargers came close to scoring on their first drive, but they unfortunately turned it over on downs on the Eagles’ 1-yard line. Fans might be upset about the Chargers not taking the safe route and simply going for a field goal. While that is a valid criticism, it may be preferable to keep that aggression that had gotten the Chargers to 4 wins already. On the Chargers’ second drive, they were able to pull off a touchdown with a 2-yard pass from Justin Herbert to Stephen Anderson. The Eagles responded with a touchdown of their own to cap off a 75-yard drive. After a failed Chargers drive and an Eagles field goal, the game went into halftime with the Eagles leading 10-7.

Second Half

The Chargers opened the second half with the ball. Thanks to some stellar play by Justin Herbert, the Chargers were able to drive down the field and score a field goal. With the game now tied at 10, the Eagles needed to respond with a touchdown to avoid losing the lead. However, the Eagles offense got completely stuffed, punting after only 3 offensive plays. The Chargers got the ball back after a punt and quickly drove down the field after a 49-yard completion to Mike Williams. That completion set up an easy 8-yard pass from Herbert to Donald Parham for the touchdown. The Eagles responded by driving 85 yards down the field and scoring on a Kenneth Gainwell 1-yard run.

The Chargers and Eagles traded a touchdown apiece after that, bringing the score to 24-24. Neither team was willing to give up on this game. The Chargers got the ball back with 6:07 left on the game clock, and they used every second of it (literally). The Chargers spent 15 plays driving 64 yards down the field. In the end, the Chargers relied on new kicker Dustin Hopkins to earn his stripes and ice the game for the Bolts. With 5 seconds left on the clock, the Chargers opted to go for the 29-yard field goal. Hopkins proved he could get it done in crunchtime, nailing the chip shot to take the lead with 2 seconds left on the clock.

The Eagles had one last chance at winning the game. Hopkins opted for a squib kick on the final kickoff, which helps prevent kickoff return touchdowns. Thankfully, the Chargers were able to take advantage of this, shutting down the return attempt and securing the 27-24 win.

What Went Well

Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert pumping his fist


Justin Herbert was the main catalyst for the Chargers’ win against the Eagles. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

After a rough couple of games, Justin Herbert seemed to shine like his old, young self again. Herbert had yet another great game, finishing the day with 32 completions (38 attempts), 356 yards, and 2 touchdowns. With a passer rating of 123.2, Herbert was among the best offensive players in the league in Week 9, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week. Without Herbert, this Chargers team would likely be no better than 2-6. Only in his second year, Herbert has dazzled both supporters and critics, and even his most staunch critics cannot keep him out of their Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL.

Special Teams…For Once

Special teams have long haunted Chargers fans. In 2010, the Chargers, led by their terrifying trio of Philip Rivers, Ladanian Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates, boasted the league’s best offense by yards per game and second in points per game. Their defense was no slouch either, allowing the least amount of yards per game. And yet, this ridiculously talented team finished 9-7 and didn’t even make the playoffs. Why? Because they had, by far, the league’s worst special teams unit. Their return specialists and kickers (yes, plural) were playing at barely passable levels for NFL players.

But how does that relate to the current day? Well, these issues have been a constant in Chargers fans; minds since then. No matter how good the team was, the special teams would be a perennial concern. And yet, it wasn’t on Sunday. Sure, new kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point, which is nothing new to Chargers fans. But he also made two field goals, one of them being the game-winner. Andre Roberts also had a solid performance in his inaugural game with the Chargers. On 4 kickoff returns, Roberts had 96 yards, for an average of 24 yards per return. Both of these new additions had promising opening games.

What Did Not

The Run Defense…Again

What else is new? It seems like opposing teams have no qualms with going heavy on the run against the Chargers now. That makes sense, as the Chargers pass defense is among the best in the league, allowing only 197 passing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.

It was clear from the get-go that the Eagles would lean heavily on the run against the Chargers. There was one point in the third quarter where the Eagles ran the ball on 13 of 14 plays. And the worst part is that it was actually working. The Eagles racked up 176 total rushing yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. As stated time and time again, the Chargers NEED to improve on their run defense, especially considering many of the AFC playoff teams rely on their running games.

The Run Offense

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Austin Ekeler is a fantastic running back for the Chargers. His receiving back playstyle is a huge complement to the Chargers’ pass-heavy offense. However, he rarely does make an impact on the ground. Ekeler averages around 13 attempts per game for around 60 yards on the ground. Those numbers are by no means good for a running back, but his presence in the pass offense makes up for it.

The Chargers’ offensive line has played serviceably in the run game, so why can Ekeler not produce on the ground as well as he can in the pass game? Ekeler’s skill to break tackles in open space are matched by very few active running backs, but perhaps it doesn’t translate as well running between the tackles? Regardless, having a solid running game to back up the passing game against strong pass defenses would be ideal to prevent stagnation in the offense.

Takeaways

The Chargers managed the win against the Eagles, but it wasn’t a win fans can be very happy about. The Eagles are not a bad team, but they are not a team the Chargers should have struggled so much to beat. It was expected that the Eagles would rely heavily on the run game to beat the Chargers’ defense, but coach Brandon Staley should have anticipated this. This win for the Chargers is the definition of an “ugly win.”

This Sunday, the Chargers will face off against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are in a similar situation to the Eagles, in which they are not a bad team, but they are missing key pieces that would make them “good.” However, the Vikings have Dalvin Cook. Cook is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and he should prove to be yet another massive concern for the Chargers. These have been the Chargers-Eagles takeaways.




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