In attempting to advance their running game on Sunday, the Chargers actually went down in the third quarter.
They finished with a minus one yard in four onslaught against Philadelphia. At this point, the Chargers had only gained 30 yards in 15 attempts.
“It was a hell of a game,” said coach Brandon Staley on Monday. “But this commitment has served us well throughout.”
In the fourth quarter – a quarter the Chargers would win to secure a 27-24 last-second win – they ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards. Austin Ekeler had gains of 10, 14 and 16 yards in the last 15 crucial minutes.
Towards the middle of the season, the Chargers rank 10th in the NFL in total yards but only 22nd. Still, the ability to claim on-site property in the fourth quarter is vital.
The Chargers’ offensive is best when it is in the hands of quarterback Justin Herbert. But the feet of players like Ekeler must also play an important role.
“There will be some people who look down at some of those two or three yard runs and say, ‘Okay, you don’t get the same production. Why wouldn’t you just let Justin throw it? ‘ “Said Staley. “That is a legitimate question, such a legitimate question and a topic of conversation.
“But I have a feeling that it forces the defense to defend more. I felt like our O-Line forced that defense to defend more games. I think that ultimately gave us such a great day on the offensive. “
The Chargers finished their second best performance of the season with a total of 445 yards. They averaged 6.8 yards per game and had a seven-minute lead in possession. Their only two non-scoring drives came when they flipped the ball at deep depths in Philadelphia Territory.
“If we can finish some of those rides in the first half,” Staley said, “we’ll say, ‘Man, that was a pretty special achievement.’ ”
The ending was still special, with Dustin Hopkins kicking a 29-yard field goal two seconds behind.
This moment was initiated by a final drive in which the Chargers let the ball run seven times out of 15 games, twice converted the fourth down on the ground and took more than six minutes.
Ekeler had his 16-yard run just before Hopkins stepped out for the game winner, which relieved the skilled kicker.
“That’s just the type of player he is,” Staley said of disgust. “He was a good embodiment of a complete performance for us on the offensive.”
Staley also praised his line for its toughness and overall offense for its grinding mentality.
“I think the way we played football on this last ride is a great example of the mindset we’re talking about,” he said. “Leading football and protecting the quarterback is such a team job.”
As for the offensive line specifically, Staley said, “These guys really paved the way for our football team to have a full performance.”
On Sunday, the Chargers won a game on the east coast for the second time this season by clearing the clock with an extended final drive. They beat Washington 20-16 in their season opener by taking the final at 6:43.
In Philadelphia, they gave the Eagles enough time to attempt just one desperate, multiple kickoff return that failed miserably.
The Chargers have apparently lost defender Ryan Smith for the season due to a knee injury. Staley said the initial diagnosis was an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Smith was signed in the off-season for his skills in special teams and missed the first four games of the season because he was dealing with a core muscle problem. He also spent time on the COVID-19 reserve list this summer. Smith played a season high of 41 snaps on Sunday’s defense as opening cornerbacks Michael Davis (Hamstring) and Asante Samuel Jr. (Concussion Log) were injured. … Davis and Samuel’s availability for Sunday when the Chargers play Minnesota at SoFi remains unclear. … Staley said he was confident that Kenneth Murray Jr. can return against the Vikings. The linebacker remains on the injured reserve list because of an ankle problem. He got back into training last week.