Philadelphia Eagles run the ball well, but can't stop Chargers' QB Justin Herbert when it mattered most

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PHILADELPHIA — In the end, the Eagles plan to run the ball against the NFL's worst rushing defense worked well, but not well enough.

That's because Eagles couldn't stop Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who became the fifth quarterback to complete at least 80% of his passes against the Eagles this season.

And that was not enough as the Chargers' Dustin Hopkins hit a 30-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to send the Eagles to a 27-24 loss on Sunday.

Herbert completed 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 84.2% of his passes.

Still, the Eagles were in the game until the end behind a running attack that racked up 176 yards on 39 carries. And quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 11 of 17 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.

That included a 28-yard touchdown pass to rookie DeVonta Smith with 6:07 left to tie the game.

Smith finished with five catches for 116 yards.

But the Eagles never had another shot as the Chargers drove down the field, using the remaining time before Hopkins' field goal.

Their best chance came with the Chargers electing to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles' 28 with 1:45 left. Herbert kept the ball on a quarterback sneak and picked up the first down.

A 16-yard run by Austin Ekeler brought the ball down to the 12. Herbert then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 5 seconds left so Hopkins could kick the game-winning field goal.

The Eagles (3-6) dropped to 0-4 at home. Still, the Eagles' game plan worked to a certain extent, especially in the first half when they took a 10-7 lead.

But the Eagles missed a chance to turn that field goal into a touchdown to end the first half when Hurts couldn't connect with Smith in the back corner of the end zone after Smith had a step on his defender.

The third-down incompletion set up Jake Elliott's 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.

The Eagles racked up 115 yards rushing in the first half. Jordan Howard led the Eagles with 58 yards on 12 carries and finished with 71 yards on 17 carries. Hurts had 62 yards on 10 carries.

In all, the Eagles ran the ball 25 times in the first half and tried just nine passes.

The Eagles were able to take a lead at halftime because they twice stopped the Chargers on fourth down as Los Angeles twice passed up field goal tries.

The first time came on the Chargers' opening possession when L.A. began at its 1-yard line and drove to the Eagles' 2-yard line where the Chargers faced a fourth-and-goal.

But reserve cornerback Andre Chachere hit Keenan Allen just as he caught the ball, stopping him at the 1, where the Eagles took over.

The second time, the Chargers faced a 4th-and-2 from the Eagles' 27 midway through the second quarter. Joshua Kelly was stopped a yard short by linebacker T.J. Edwards.

But Herbert kept throwing and the Chargers took a 16-10 lead with two straight scoring drives, getting a field goal and a TD before the Eagles came back to take a 17-16 lead on Kenny Gainwell's 1-yard TD run with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

The Eagles still couldn't stop Herbert. And ultimately, that did in the Eagles.

Darius Slay injured

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay left the game late in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. He didn't return. Rookie Zech McPhearson, who had played just two defensive snaps this season, replaced him.

Slay was having a tough time with Chargers' receiver Mike Williams before leaving.

Chargers QB on target

Herbert became the fifth quarterback to complete at least 80% of his passes against the Eagles going 32 of 38 for 356 yards, completing 84.2%.

His best throw was a 49-yard completion across the field to Mike Williams, who made a nice leaping catch with Slay providing tight coverage. Herbert finished that drive with an 8-yard TD pass to Donald Parham Jr.

The four QBs who had previously completed at least 80% of their passes were Dallas' Dak Prescott, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, Tampa Bay's Tom Brady and Las Vegas' Derek Carr.

All of those teams scored at least 33 points against the Eagles.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert completed 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and 2 TDs against the Eagles.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert completed 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and 2 TDs against the Eagles.

Jordan Howard becoming TD machine

Jordan Howard spent the first seven games on the practice squad. But in six quarters as one of the fill-ins for Miles Sanders, who's on injured reserve, Howard has scored three touchdowns.

He added his third early in the second quarter on a 4-yard run up the middle. Howard tied Boston Scott for rushing TDs by running backs. Jalen Hurts has five rushing TDs.

Howard rushed 12 times for 57 yards last week against Detroit with 2 TDs. He rushed 12 times for 58 yards in the first half.

Avonte Maddox hurts knee, replacement makes huge play

The Chargers began their first possession on their 1-yard line. They methodically drove down the field and faced a fourth-and-goal from the Eagles' 2-yard line.

At that point, nickel cornerback Chachere was on the field in place of Avonte Maddox, who left with a knee injury. Chachere made a huge play as Justin Herbert completed a short pass to Allen. Chachere stopped Allen a yard short of the goal line.

Because of Chachere's hit, the Chargers ended up driving 98 yards but came away without any points.

The Eagles took over at their 1, but couldn't go anywhere, giving the Chargers' field position at the Eagles' 38. This time, the Chargers scored for an early 7-0 lead.

Maddox returned in the second quarter.

2 receivers making season debut

Two Eagles receivers made their season debut on Sunday in wide receiver John Hightower and tight end Tyree Jackson.

Hightower was the Eagles' fifth-round pick in 2020, and he played in 13 games last season with 10 catches for 167 yards last season. Two of those receptions went for 50-plus yards.

But Hightower was waived before the season started and re-signed to the practice squad. He has remained there until Saturday.

Hightower was elevated to the 53-man roster because J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is out with an ankle injury. Jalen Reagor started after being limited most of the week in practice with an ankle injury.

So the Eagles needed depth, and Hightower's strength is his speed.

"He’s got great speed, he’s got good ability off the line of scrimmage," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. "He's got some unique talents and we're sure glad we have him."

Jackson, who was a quarterback in college at the University of Buffalo as recently as last season, was converted to tight end. Jackson was well on his way to making the team in training camp when he suffered a broken bone in his back in August.

He was activated off injured reserve on Saturday.

The Eagles' inactives, in addition to Arcega-Whiteside, were QB Reid Sinnett, CB Josiah Scott, DB Kary Vincent Jr., CB Tay Gowan, CB Mac McCain and C/G Jack Anderson.

The Chargers, meanwhile, didn't have their two starting cornerbacks in Michael Davis and Asante Samuel Jr.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles can't stop Chargers' Justin Herbert when it mattered most