Justin Herbert and Chargers struggle in crunch time of 27-24 loss to Patriots

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert scrambles under pressure during first quarter.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert scrambles under pressure during first quarter against the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Former Chargers defensive back Adrian Phillips scores a touchdown off a fourth-quarter interception to help spur the Patriots to a comeback victory.

Chargers offense can’t find rhythm again in a 27-24 loss to Patriots

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen shows frustration after failing to catch a pass.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) shows frustration after failing to catch a pass from Justin Herbert against the Patriots on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers opened the season 4-1, had an MVP candidate at quarterback and a coach gaining renown for everything from his aggressive decisions and his insightfully fresh news conferences.

Then something happened. The NFL happened.

On Sunday, the Chargers looked out of rhythm for a second consecutive game in a 27-24 loss to New England at SoFi Stadium.

Justin Herbert again struggled as the offense failed to find any consistency after beginning with a 75-yard march for a touchdown.

A late score boosted their statistics and trimmed the difference but couldn’t hide how sluggish the Chargers were offensively for most of the afternoon.

Before their off week, they lost at Baltimore 34-6 with a performance that was even flatter.

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Former Chargers tight end Hunter Henry recovers onside kick to seal Patriots’ win

New England Patriots safety Adrian Phillips celebrates after scoring off an interception return.
New England Patriots safety Adrian Phillips celebrates after scoring off an interception return in the fourth quarter Sunday.
(John McCoy / Associated Press)

FINAL: Patriots 27, Chargers 24

The Chargers’ final chance ended Sunday when they failed to recover an onside kick in the closing seconds.

The kick instead was recovered by New England tight end Hunter Henry, a former Charger.

Another former Charger, Adrian Phillips had two interceptions, including a pick-six for the Patriots, who held on for a 27-24 win.

Justin Herbert’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Palmer made it a three-point game with 40 seconds remaining.

The Chargers have lost two in a row after opening the season 4-1. They travel to Philadelphia next weekend.


Another field goal extends the Patriots’ lead over Chargers

Nick Folk’s fourth field goal of the day extended New England’s lead over the Chargers to 27-17 with 2:19 remaining.

The Chargers’ offense has only 12 first downs and is three of 11 on third down. Justin Herbert is having, statistically at least, his poorest NFL game. He’s 12 of 26 for 143 yards and a quarterback rating of 44.2.


Adrian Phillips scores off interception to give Patriots the lead

Chargers safety Nasir Adderley (24) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Patriots 24, Chargers 17 — 10:11 of fourth quarter

Former Chargers safety Adrian Phillips returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown to put New England on top with 10:11 remaining in regulation.

The Patriots added to two-point conversion to make it 24-17.

Herbert’s pass was intended for Jared Cook, but the tight end turned one way and the ball went the other. Phillips made a diving catch before getting up and running into the end zone.

Herbert and the Chargers’ offense is struggling for the second consecutive game. He’s 11 for 23 for 129 yards, with two interceptions.

The Chargers have only 12 first downs and 283 total yards.


Chargers retake lead over Patriots on Dustin Hopkins field goal

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert runs with the ball against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers retook the lead — 17-16 — on a Dustin Hopkins’ 48-yard field goal 39 seconds before the end of the third quarter.

The field goal was the first for Hopkins with the Chargers, who signed the veteran kicker Tuesday.

The points were set up by a 28-yard run by Austin Ekeler.


Nick Folk’s third field goal gives Patriots the lead over Chargers

Nick Folk’s third field goal of the day gave New England its first lead at 16-14 with 3:39 to go in the third quarter.

Folk’s third field goal was from 48 yards.

The Chargers’ offense has struggled to sustain anything after an impressive 75-yard opening drive.

They are two of seven on third down and have only nine first downs for the game.

Cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is being evaluated for a concussion. The Chargers are down their two starting corners. Tevaughn Campbell and Ryan Smith have replaced Samuel and Michael Davis (hamstring).


Patriots add another field goal just before halftime

New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry catches a long pass in the second quarter against the Chargers.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Chargers 14, Patriots 13 — halftime

Another Nick Folk field goal — this one from 48 yards — brought New England to within 14-13 at halftime.

The points were set up by an interception when Austin Ekeler had a Justin Herbert pass slip through his hands and into the arms of former Chargers safety Adrian Phillips.

Herbert is eight for 15 for 92 yards, with one touchdown and the one interception. Keenan Allen has four receptions for 56 yards. Justin Jackson leads the Chargers with 79 yards rushing. He gained 75 of those yards on one play.

The Patriots will receive the second-half kickoff.


Chargers hold Patriots to field goal late in second quarter

Chargers outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) and teammates line up during the first half.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Chargers 14, Patriots 10 — 3:33 of second quarter

New England moved to with 14-10 on a 24-yard field goal by Nick Folk with 3:29 left before halftime.

The Chargers defense tighten up after the Patriots moved into their 10-yard line. Mac Jones threw consecutive incompletions to end the drive.

The Chargers lost cornerback Michael Davis because of a hamstring injury midway through the second quarter. He was replaced by Tevaughn Campbell. The Chargers announced that Davis is questionable to return.


Justin Herbert connects with Keenan Allen to give Chargers the lead

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen celebrates after making a touchdown catch.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen celebrates after making a touchdown catch against the Patriots in the second quarter.
(John McCoy / Associated Press)

Chargers 14, Patriots 7 — 12:35 of second quarter

Justin Herbert passed five yards to Keenan Allen to put the Chargers up 14-7 at the 12:36 mark of the second quarter.

The touchdown was set up by a 75-yard run by Justin Jackson, who entered the game with 22 yards on 10 carries.

The Chargers rushed for only 26 yards in their previous game against Baltimore.

The run by Jackson was the second-longest in franchise history among runs that didn’t end in touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson had a 76-yard non-scoring rush in 2002.


Patriots respond with a quick TD on their first possession

Patriots 7, Chargers 7 — 6:26 of first quarter

New England answered back with a touchdown of its own when Damien Harris ran in from one yard, making it 7-7 with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter.

Mac Jones passed 44 yards to former USC Trojan Nelson Agholor to turbo-charge the drive.

Cornerback Michael Davis was called for holding when he tackled tight end Hunter Henry on a route to covert a third-and-11 and set up first-and-goal for the Patriots.


Austin Ekeler scores quick TD to give Chargers early lead

Chargers 7, Patriots 0 — 10:54 first quarter

On their first possession after their off week, the Chargers rolled through New England’s defense for an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.

Austin Ekeler scored on a five-yard run with the help of his offensive line, which shoved the running back and a pile of humanity across the goal line.

Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen had a 41-yard completion for the longest play of the series.

The Chargers also converted a fourth-and-one from the Patriots’ seven-yard line immediately before scoring.

It’s 7-0 four minutes to the game.


Austin Ekeler (hip) will play for Chargers against Patriots

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler looks on before a game.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler
(Terrance Williams / Associated Press)

Austin Ekeler (hip) is active for the game against New England. The Chargers’ No. 1 running back missed practice Thursday and Friday because of a sore hip.

Linebacker Drue Tranquill also is back after missing time with a chest muscle injury.

The Chargers’ inactives are fullback Gabe Nabers, quarterback Easton Stick, safety Mark Webb Jr., running back Joshua Kelley and offensive tackle Trey Pipkins III.

Rookie TE Tre’ McKitty, a third-round pick, is active for the first time.

Defensive tackle Justin Jones returns after coming off the injured reserve list Saturday. Jones had been out because of a calf problem suffered in the season opener.

Reserve defensive tackle Forrest Merrill was waived to make room for Jones. The Chargers figure to re-sign Merrill to their practice squad if he clears waivers.


After blowout loss to Ravens, what could be worse for Chargers? Patriots a reminder

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws against the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 4.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Coming off his poorest game of the season, Justin Herbert next faces the defense that led to his poorest game of last season.

New England visits SoFi Stadium on Sunday to catch Herbert and the Chargers attempting to bounce back from a 34-6 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 17.

“When you have a day like that, you don’t think anyone really did anything great,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. Later, he added, “Those days happen sometimes in the NFL.”

Indeed. One of those days happened to the 2020 Chargers, as well, when they fell to the Patriots 45-0 in December at home.

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Tevaughn Campbell has found his corner in Chargers’ defense

Tevaughn Campbell has been very effective as a cornerback for the Chargers this season.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

He has emerged as an unlikely contributor on defense, a player once deemed not good enough for the CFL now sharing time with the Chargers’ $25-million cornerback.

But unlikely is nothing new to Tevaughn Campbell, a regular history-making pigskin pioneer.

“This wasn’t something that was in my mind growing up,” he said. “Where I’m from people don’t go to the NFL.”

Campbell was born and raised in Toronto. Although the league has had plenty of Canadians, he is believed to be only the second to play cornerback since at least the 1960s.

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Chargers vs. Patriots matchups: Justin Herbert, offense try to rebound

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert tries to evade Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert tries to evade Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott during the Chargers’ win on Oct. 10.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Breaking down how the Chargers (4-2) and the New England Patriots (3-4) match up heading into their game at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be carried on CBS (Channel 2).

When Chargers have the ball: After opening with four victories in five games, the Chargers took a punch to the chin in a 34-6 loss at Baltimore. Justin Herbert and the offense struggled throughout, converting only three times on 16 third and fourth downs. The Chargers were able to ponder their misfortune even longer than normal since they were off during Week 7. “It’s my job as a play caller to find those calls that get us in rhythm,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “There were some things we could have done to help get that engine started a little earlier.” While Herbert passed for only 195 yards — the second-lowest total of his career — the Chargers’ running game was barely detectable. Austin Ekeler (who missed practices on Thursday and Friday because of a hip issue) and Joshua Kelley rushed a combined 10 times for 14 yards. The Chargers don’t need a big ground game, not with Herbert, but they do need to run the ball enough for it to be a legitimate threat. Mike Williams leads the Chargers in yards receiving (498) and touchdowns (six) but was limited by a knee injury against the Ravens. He pronounced himself healthy again last week. New England ranks in the upper half in the NFL in nearly every significant defensive category. But the Patriots’ three victories have come against the New York Jets (twice) and Houston Texans, a pair of one-win teams.

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Betting lines and odds for Chargers vs. Patriots

New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5, O/U 49)

Youmans: In an obvious coaching mismatch last year, Bill Belichick went to Los Angeles and crushed the Anthony Lynn-led Chargers 45-0. The Patriots were one-point underdogs in that matchup, which turned into the worst outing of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert’s brief career.

Each team looks much different now, and the Chargers are definitely better with Brandon Staley in charge. Belichick still has a significant coaching edge, however, and his quarterback situation is much improved. Mac Jones has completed 70.4% of his passes and just led the offense to a 54-point performance against the Jets.

The Chargers are not the hapless Jets, of course, but the Chargers do have the league’s worst run defense by giving up 162.5 yards per game. New England’s rushing attack is gaining steam behind Damien Harris, so the Patriots are capable of controlling the game by exploiting their advantage on the ground.

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