Slumping Chargers head to Philadelphia needing a victory

Just three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Chargers were 4-1, in first place in the AFC West division, and

looking like a playoff football team. They were rolling with one of the top passing attacks in the NFL.

Three weeks later, the Chargers are struggling to score points and move the football. On Sunday at SoFi

Stadium, the New England Patriots handed the Chargers their second consecutive loss, 27-24.

The loss dropped the Chargers to 4-3 for the season, one full game behind the Las Vegas Raiders for

first place in the AFC West. They are just a half a game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver

Broncos, both of whom are at 4-4 for the season. The Chargers travel to Philadelphia this week to take

on the Eagles and will need a victory or they could find themselves in last place in the AFC West.

The Chargers offense has struggled in pass protection the past two games and may need to start

making adjustments on offense. Quarterback Justin Herbert has not been in rhythm the past few games

as teams are finding ways to get pressure on him. According to Pro Football Focus, Herbert was

pressured 17 times in the loss to the Patriots. The Patriots sacked Herbert three times, hit him six times

and intercepted him twice.

The offense has become predictable. The Chargers are fourth in the NFL in pass-run ratio. They pass

the ball 65.09% of the time. They need to run the ball more and move Herbert out of the pocket more.

Right tackle Storm Norton has struggled all season and is currently ranked No. 76 out of 79 tackles rated

by Pro Football Focus.

Head coach Brandon Staley spoke after the game last Sunday against New England. "We had some

protection issues with those guys getting sped up. We were doing everything we can to help those guys,

but what we have to do is stay out of known passing downs, do a better job of staying out of those

designer looks where they are setting their third-down defense up to engineer their stuff against your

protection scheme."

Staley added, "That's what we have to do a better job of on early downs, getting in rhythm, staying

on schedule, getting the explosive plays, mix in the run and the pass, move in the pocket. If we can do

that, we can be a dangerous offensive football team. They have a good defense. Third down is a place

you don't want to be in the NFL. You don't want to live like that. We just have to do a better job in the

passing game. We are capable of more and we'll be better moving forward."

The Chargers had two offensive drives for touchdowns in the first half and both used big plays to

setup the touchdowns. The first drive on the opening kickoff of the game was an eight play, 75-yard

drive that culminated in a five-yard touchdown run from running back Austin Ekeler. The big play on the

drive was a 41-yard pass completion to Keenan Allen. That drive gave the Chargers a quick 7-0 lead.

The second offensive drive was a five play, 86-yard drive, with the drive culminating in a five-yard

touchdown pass from Herbert to Allen. The key play of this drive was a 75-yard run from running back

Justin Jackson. This score gave the Chargers a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. From that point on,

the Patriots defense controlled the Chargers offense, limiting the Chargers to just three points until the

last forty seconds of the game, when the game was already basically decided.

Herbert struggled on the day, completing 18 of 35 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, with

the two interceptions. The Chargers were leading 17-16 in the fourth quarter when Herbert threw his

second interception, due to a miscommunication with tight end Jared Cook, who was running his route

and did not look back for the ball. The pass was picked off by former Charger Adrian Phillips, who made

a diving catch and ran twenty-six yards for the score. The two-point conversion was good, and the

Chargers were down 24-17. The Patriots added a field goal to make it 27-17 and the Chargers scored

their late touchdown for the final score of 27-24.

Herbert put the blame on himself. "I have to be smarter about that. I have to move on to the next

read, but that's one of those plays that you need to just watch and get better from," Herbert said.

Phillips had both interceptions off Herbert and got a little bit of revenge on the Chargers, who he spent

his first six seasons with, but was not retained by the team.

The Chargers made some changes on special teams during the bye week and there was an

improvement in the field goal kicking. Veteran Dustin Hopkins was good on all three extra point

attempts and nailed a 48-yard field goal late in the third quarter to give the Chargers a 17-16 lead going

into the fourth quarter.

But the Chargers continued to give the opposition good field position, allowing punt returner Gunner

Olszewski 80 yards on four punt returns. The Chargers also struggled with field position, with an average

starting position of the 20-yard line. Staley was not pleased with the coverage units.

"I saw them beat us decidedly in that phase," said Staley. "Gunner [Olszewski] had 20 yards per

return. We lost the vertical field position in that area. That second quarter was a good illustration of that

because we stopped them on fourth down, then we had to punt it. A short field, and we hold them. But

it's a field goal. We did not cover well enough today."

The win by the Patriots was their seventh consecutive victory over the Chargers. In all seven victories,

the head coach for the Patriots has been Bill Belichick. The last time the Chargers beat the Patriots was

in October of 2005. The Patriots are 20-3 versus the Chargers since 1973. Staley gave the credit for the

victory to the Patriots.

"We are playing to win," said Staley. "Our game plan was engineered for exactly the looks that we

were seeing from them. It's a really good defensive team over there. They are dealing with some

injuries, but they're extremely well-coached. There's a lot of veteran players over there. I give full credit

to New England. I thought they played really well today. We have to execute better. From an execution

standpoint, the drops and protection issues really held us back."

The Chargers need to find a way to get a win soon. The Eagles are 3-5 on the season, so the game in

Philadelphia should offer an opportunity, but the Eagles are coming off a 44-6 road win over the Detroit

Lions and are feeling good about themselves, at least this week.

The Eagles use a run-pass option offense (RPO), which relies in the decision-making of quarterback Jalen

Hurts. The Eagles will want to run the ball against the Chargers, who are last in rushing defense in the

NFL. The game is scheduled to begin at 1:05 PM Pacific time and will be televised on CBS.


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