At some point in the not-so-distant future, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to look back at games like the one they had on Sunday and they're going to have a different point of view. Then, they're going to know how to come out on the right side of close games like the 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The little plays that went the Chargers' way on Sunday? The Eagles will take heed of these tough moments and learn from them because that's how it works in the NFL: You live and you learn and if you keep fighting and keep improving, close losses turn into close wins in a short period of time.
"We are really close. We all need to continue to focus up, keep grinding, keep trusting the process, and just execute better out there," said safety Marcus Epps, echoing the message from Head Coach Nick Sirianni to the players after the game.
It was really close on Sunday. And the Eagles kept grinding, led by a gutty and spectacular performance from quarterback Jalen Hurts and an offense that matched touchdowns with the Chargers, who brought with them one of the best offenses in the NFL paced by rising young quarterback Justin Herbert, who was everything the Eagles expected him to be against an Eagles defense that made two sensational fourth-down stops – one at the goal line in the first quarter and another in the second quarter in Philadelphia territory – but ultimately couldn't overcome Herbert with a secondary that lost nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox in the first half and then lost cornerback Darius Slay late in the third quarter for the remainder of the game.
Los Angeles won the game after the Eagles tied the game at 24-24 on a Jalen Hurts 28-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith that capped a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter with 6:07 remaining. Herbert then led a 15-play, 64-yard drive to set up Dustin Hopkins' 29-yard field goal with two seconds remaining on the clock to provide the winning points.
"I definitely feel like we had some chances, especially on fourth-and-1, to come up big, but we didn't get the job done," defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said.
There was a lot to unpack from this one, so let's get it started assessing a defeat the dropped the Eagles to 3-6 with a road game at Denver ahead on Sunday …
1. Hurts was terrific as he completed 11 of 17 passes for 162 yards and the touchdown to Smith. Additionally, Hurts made Los Angeles pay when it lost containment of him outside the pocket as he ran 10 times for 62 yards and on six of those runs Hurts picked up first downs. He was tireless, relentless, and constantly a threat to the Chargers. He wished he could have back a first-possession throw to a wide-open Dallas Goedert that was just a tick out of Goedert's range and one in the back of the end zone to Smith at the end of the first half that didn't connect, but those things happen to quarterbacks in their 13th NFL start.
"From the offseason where we're doing 5 AM workouts to throwing the ball around, developing chemistry," running back Boston Scott said. "I've always talked about – and sometimes I forget how young the dude is just because of how he has taken control of the team, taken control of the offense. Tremendous amount of respect for him. He's an eraser and what I mean by that is that when things aren't right, he makes them right. So utmost respect for that guy and what he's been able to do week in and week out. He's a warrior. He's a winner."
2. The Eagles entered the game knowing they were playing a team that ranked last in the NFL in run defense, and the Eagles punched the Chargers in the mouth on the ground with a physical, punishing attack that accounted for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 39 rushes. Philadelphia ran the ball – some Hurts runs included – on 24 of its final 27 offensive plays in the first half. And when the Eagles needed to gain some yards to catch up to the Chargers in the second half, Hurts got the passing game going knowing the Chargers had some injuries in the secondary. It was a balanced attack and it was disciplined and potent, but it just wasn't enough to win the game.
3. Smith had another big outing, catching five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. He and Hurts are very much on the same page and building something special.
"As an offense, that's what you practice for, day in and day out," said Smith, who now has 38 receptions for 537 yards and two touchdowns. "Just be with each other to get better. The more that you do it, the more you attack it every day, the offense gets better and the team gets better."
4. Two fourth-down stops fired up the defense and ended Chargers' drives. The first happened on a 98-yard drive Los Angeles put together on its first possession when it went from its own 1-yard line to the Eagles' 1-yard line, but Slay and defensive back Andre Chachere combined to stop wide receiver Keenan Allen (12 receptions, 104 yards) on a fourth-and-goal snap from the Eagles' 2-yard line. In the second quarter, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton stuffed running back Josh Kelley on a fourth-and-2 run from the Philadelphia 27-yard line.
5. Los Angeles limited the Eagles' pass rush by chipping the pass rushers with running backs on the way out into their pass routes and Herbert got the ball out exceedingly quickly and accurately. They used some tempo to keep the Eagles off balance. And it certainly didn't help that the Eagles were without Slay for the critical fourth quarter.
"Herbert does do a good job getting the ball out and Allen had some good things where he can work the middle of the field. Kind of seen that with him over the years with Keenan being able to work the middle of the field," Sirianni said. "So, when they're able to get the ball out quick we have to be able to tighten up with the coverage to be able to get Herbert to hold the ball a little bit. They did a nice job on a couple boots. I think they took advantage of a couple things with our defensive ends pinching down where they did a couple nice things with boots and getting Herbert on the move."
6. Finally, more on Hurts from his head coach. The numbers maybe don't jump off the page at you, but his performance did. Just ask Sirianni.
"He was a big-time stud. I mean, really I got a lot of respect for (Chargers Head Coach) 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. He started coming with different things. I think they had a blitz zero on him the last play. Jalen ended up, we all saw that, ended up getting to a play and Jalen ended up doing great communication to tell everybody what the play was and just fired a strike to DeVonta. But I think what was really, really impressive – obviously that throw was really unbelievable in the face of some pressure and in the face of – I know the offensive line did a heck of a job protecting against that blitz zero, but that's advanced football right there to be able to see what was going on and to be able to get the communication at the line of scrimmage and everybody be on the same page for a 28-yard score I believe it was, and then just a couple of drives he made.
"He just was really unfazed by the scenario and just showed a lot of poise. Down seven everything in his eyes said put it on me and let's go, let's keep running the ball, let's keep play-action it, make sure we are converting on third down. And he made some unbelievable plays on third down. That play where he jumped over top and did the flip, I think if we had won that game that would be a play they showed over Philly for a long time. He just was really composed in a tight situation. That's what you want out of your quarterbacks. That's what I've seen out of good quarterbacks in my past.
"So, we definitely have to build on this. There is no secret. Jalen has had good practices the last two weeks, played two good games in a row, so we just have to go back and have another week like we did last week, offensively, to put ourselves in position to win next week."