They used up most of the clock that was left, forced Philadelphia to run out of its three timeouts, and when it mattered most, ended things in the coldest way.
By kicking the Eagles – literally – when they were down.
Dustin Hopkins posted a 29-yard field goal in the dying seconds on Sunday to cap off a dominating and gripping practice in a 27-24 Chargers win that calmed a once-chaotic Lincoln Financial Field.
With that exclamation mark, the Chargers ended a two-game losing streak and are atop AFC West at 5-3.
They won in Philadelphia with a 15-play streak that covered 64 yards and consumed every second except two of their remaining 6:07 finals when they took possession.
All the Philadelphia offense could do was squirm on the sidelines as the visitors took advantage of whatever opportunity was left in the game.
“It’s demoralizing for a team,” said Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen. “It’s like we’ve just taken over. That’s pretty much what it was. … This is when the matches are won.
The offense took hold – on the heels of back-to-back disjointed performances in losses to Baltimore and New England. Do you remember the struggles of Justin Herbert? Forget the struggles of Justin Herbert.
The second-year quarterback finished 32 of 38 for 356 yards and two touchdowns without interceptions. The 84.2% accuracy is the best of Herbert’s 23 career starts.
He also rushed for a touchdown as the Chargers’ once-blistering offense stymied his back-to-back slow efforts to score five of seven full possessions against the Eagles.
This cohesive production was emphasized and daring with the final reader. Herbert went five of seven – hitting a different receiver on each connection – for 39 yards. One of these incompleteness was intentionally started to stop the clock.
The Chargers also rushed the ball seven times for 32 yards and converted a pair of fourths and one. Austin Ekeler split the defense for a 16-yard run to bring Hopkins closer.
Coach Brandon Staley called Sunday’s events a “state of mind victory” and repeatedly praised his offensive line. Herbert, who was not sacked, was officially hit once, just a week after the Patriots pressured him 17 times.
“Our offensive line played a very, very good football game,” said Staley. “It was a scrimmage line of play and our offensive line competed at a very, very high level.”
The Chargers have also taken Herbert out of the pocket at times successfully. He was quick to let go of the ball. He and his receivers were in sync again after looking a little out of step for a while.
Herbert even connected deeply with Mike Williams again, the pair connected for a 49-yard gain in the third quarter to set up a touchdown that broke one of three ties in the game.
Williams ran to the back of the Eagles high school and passed three-time Pro Bow cornerback Darius Slay to secure Herbert’s Rainbow.
“You can’t underestimate how good a pitch it is,” Staley said, “because a lethal player doesn’t make it look that easy.”
As for Williams’ contribution to the game, Staley said, “Mike just got a really big gift when the ball is in the air in the deep end of the pitch to follow him.”
The Chargers offense has rediscovered its groove so much that punter Ty Long has never needed to do anything other than hold the kicks. The two times the Chargers failed to score on full possessions, they returned the ball on downs.
Herbert’s two touchdown passes were reserved for tight ends Stephen Anderson and Donald Parham. Anderson hadn’t scored for the Chargers until Sunday. Parham used his 6-foot-8 frame to force his way into the end zone.
“This guy has some of that basketball magic that people miss,” Staley said.
The head coach cited offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s play appeal and the Chargers ‘ability to throw Eagles’ defenders off balance, especially in last practice.
He said Herbert hit Allen early and often helped set a pace for the offense and quarterback, a pace that has been lacking recently. Herbert targeted Allen five times – for four goals – during the Chargers’ opening series.
“The games we tapped into were just our basic combination,” Allen said. “So every time we can hit those and put Justin in the direction of the game, it makes everyone feel comfortable, everyone settles down.”
Allen finished with 12 receptions for 104 yards, the 30th 100-yard game of his career.
“Keenan’s reputation precedes him in this league because it’s well deserved,” Staley said. “It’s well deserved. People know this guy got real stuff real thing.”
Allen posted this Sunday, as did Herbert as the Chargers flew over the country and – with one final hammer blow – kept the Eagles down, helpless.