Chargers, Austin Ekeler finally had the Eagles’ defense run down by fourth quarter
In attempting to advance their running game Sunday, the Chargers actually went backward in the third quarter.
They finished with minus-one yard in four rushes against Philadelphia. At that point, the Chargers had gained only 30 yards in 15 attempts.
“It was a bloody kind of rushing game,” coach Brandon Staley said Monday. “But that commitment really served us well throughout.”
In the fourth quarter — a quarter the Chargers would win to secure a 27-24 last-second victory — they ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards. Austin Ekeler had gains of 10, 14 and 16 yards in the final 15 deciding minutes.
Near the halfway point of the season, the Chargers are 10th in the NFL in total yards but only 22nd in rushing yards. Even so, the ability to claim real estate on the ground in the fourth quarter is vital.
The Chargers’ offense is at its best when it rests in the hands of quarterback Justin Herbert. But the feet of players such as Ekeler also must have a significant role.
Dustin Hopkins hasn’t been with the Chargers long, and he missed an extra point against the Eagles, but he came through with the winning field goal in a 27-24 victory.
“There’ll be some people that maybe look down on some of those two- or three-yard runs and say, ‘OK, you’re not getting the same production. Why wouldn’t you just let Justin throw it?’ ” Staley said. “It’s a valid question, such a valid question and a talking point.
“But I feel like what it forces defenses to do is to defend more. I felt like our O-line forced that defense to defend more plays. I think that’s what ultimately allowed us to have such a big day offensively.”
The Chargers finished with 445 total yards, their second-greatest output of the season. They averaged 6.8 yards per play and held a seven-minute edge in time of possession. Their only two drives that didn’t end in points came when they turned the ball over on downs deep in Philadelphia territory.
“If we can finish some of those drives in the first half,” Staley said, “I think we’re saying, ‘Man, that was a pretty special performance.’ ”
The ending still was special, Dustin Hopkins kicking a 29-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.
Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 27-24 victory over Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday — scoring and statistics.
That moment was set up by a final drive during which the Chargers ran the ball seven times out of 15 plays, twice converting fourth downs on the ground and consuming more than six minutes.
Ekeler had his 16-yard run immediately before Hopkins trotted out for the game winner, easing the burden on the veteran kicker.
“That’s just the type of player he is, the type of competitor he is,” Staley said of Ekeler. “He was a good embodiment of a complete performance for us offensively.”
Staley also praised his line for its toughness and the entire offense for its grinding mentality.
“I think the way we ran the football on that last drive is a great example of that mindset that we’re talking about,” he said. “Running the football and protecting the quarterback is such a team job.”
As for the offensive line specifically, Staley said, “Those guys just really paved the way for a complete performance from our football team.”
Early odds and lines for Week 10 of the NFL season indicate there could be several interesting matchups that could mean big pay days for bettors.
Sunday marked the second time this season that the Chargers won a game on the East Coast by draining the clock with an extended final drive. They topped Washington in their season opener 20-16 by eating the final 6:43.
In Philadelphia, they left the Eagles with enough time to only attempt a desperate, multiple-lateral kickoff return that failed miserably.
The Chargers apparently have lost defensive back Ryan Smith for the season because of a knee injury. Staley said the initial diagnosis is a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Signed in the offseason because of his prowess on special teams, Smith missed the first four games of the season as he dealt with a core muscle issue. He also spent time on the COVID-19 reserve list this summer. Smith played a season-high 41 snaps on defense Sunday because of injuries to starting cornerbacks Michael Davis (hamstring) and Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion protocol). ... The availability of Davis and Samuel for Sunday, when the Chargers play Minnesota at SoFi Stadium, remains unclear. ... Staley said he is hopeful Kenneth Murray Jr. can return against the Vikings. The linebacker remains on the injured reserve list because of an ankle problem. He rejoined practice last week.
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