Chargers Tricked By Patriots In Halloween Matchup
The Los Angeles Chargers got off to a hot start but saw their momentum dissipate in the second half, falling to the New England Patriots 27-24 Sunday afternoon.
Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert looked out of sync most of the game and turned in an underwhelming performance. Lacking his best stuff, Herbert missed some seemingly routine plays and made some outstanding throws that were dropped by Chargers pass-catchers. The second-year signal-caller went 18-for-35 passing for 223 yards, two touchdowns, and two game-changing interceptions. The Patriots converted those turnovers into 11 points which ultimately decided the outcome.
The first interception came late in the second quarter as the Chargers drove down the field in an attempt to improve on their 14-10 lead. Instead, Herbert threw to running back Austin Ekeler who was streaking across the middle of the field. The ball was a bit high but catchable. Ekeler allowed the ball to slip through his fingertips as former Chargers safety Adrian Phillips dove to intercept the deflection. The Patriots settled for a 48-yard field goal from kicker Nick Folk to trim the deficit to one point.
New England completely dominated the third quarter which limited Los Angeles to just 10 plays the entire period. Still, the Bolts held a slim 17-16 advantage and had the ball to start the fourth quarter. Trying to will his team back into the game, Herbert dropped back and threw a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook. Cook never saw the ball coming and turned the opposite way of the pass. With his eyes fixated on the quarterback, Phillips picked off his second pass of the day. This time, Phillips regained his footing and returned the ball into the endzone for a defensive touchdown. A two-point conversion to receiver Jakobi Meyers gave the Patriots the 24-17 advantage before suffocating all life out of this Chargers team.
The Bolts managed to score a touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game which made the final score a little less embarrassing but did not influence the outcome. From 24-yards out, Herbert threw arguably his best ball of the day. A jump ball into double coverage, which probably should have been intercepted as well, was snatched out of the air by rookie Josh Palmer. On the ensuing kickoff, Los Angeles dialed up an onside kick with the team’s last successful recovery dating back to 2011. The kick was a nice one that took a friendly bounce before landing in the lap of another former Charger, Hunter Henry.
The Bolts, who haven’t beaten New England since 2008, needed a fast start and began the game playing extremely aggressively. On the second play of the day quarterback Justin Herbert found receiver Keenan Allen for a 41-yard gain, giving the Chargers the ball deep in Patriots’ territory. New England’s defense held their ground the next three plays, forcing a 4th-and-1 at the New England 13-yard line. Head Coach Brandon Staley, living up to his new 4th-and-Staley nickname, decided to keep the offense on the field. A physical run up the middle from running back Austin Ekeler gave Los Angeles the well-deserved first down.
On the following play, Ekeler appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage as he was met by a host of New England defenders. He kept his feet moving before the Chargers’ offensive line got involved and dominantly moved the pile forward. The extra push propelled Ekeler through the defense and into the endzone for the first points of the day.
With L.A.’s passing attack struggling to find its rhythm, the Bolts relied on a heavy dose of the run game and finished with 163 rushing yards. Backup running back Justin Jackson has been nursing some injuries all year and has been unable to contribute when he is healthy up to this point. Jackson eventually left the game with another injury but not before rattling off the most explosive play of the day. Pinned on their own 14-yard line, the Chargers handed the ball off to Jackson who exploded through the line and burst down the field for a 75-yard gain. A few plays later, Allen found a soft spot in the Patriots zone defense as Herbert delivered a strike to his chest for six points.
Ekeler entered the week dealing with his own injury concerns and was questionable to play on Sunday at all. The former undrafted free agent was obviously not his explosive self but played through the pain and had one of the better stat lines. No. 30 finished with 64 yards and a score on the ground and also added six catches for 60 yards through the air. This marks the fifth time this season that Ekeler has finished with at least 100 all-purpose yards.
The injury bug also had a major impact on the Chargers’ defense. In the second quarter, starting cornerback Michael Davis pulled his hamstring while chasing a Patriots receiver on a crossing route. He was unable to return and the severity of the injury is yet to be seen. On the same play, rookie Asante Samuel Jr. went up to break up a pass and landed awkwardly before limping to the sideline. Samuel Jr. returned the following possession but was removed from the game entirely early in the third quarter after hitting his head on the turf. The former Florida State product was evaluated for a concussion.
With their top two corners out, the Chargers needed somebody on the defense to step up. Safety Derwin James Jr. never shies away from a challenge and had an impressive day when his team needed him the most. DJ tallied a game-high 13 tackles, forced a fumble, and had a fantastic tackle for loss where he perfectly timed the snap and dropped the ball carrier in the backfield.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins made his Chargers debut and though he was not called upon for a game-winner, the eight-year veteran made all four of his kicks. Three extra point attempts may seem insignificant but any Chargers fan who witnessed former kicker Tristan Vizcaino miss five over a four-game span will tell you how important it is. Beyond the chip shots, Hopkins showed off his leg strength as well when he buried a 48-yard field goal attempt straight through the uprights.
Los Angeles has now dropped its last two games in an extremely disappointing fashion. The 4-3 Chargers now sit in second place in the AFC West and look to get back to their winning ways before falling too far in the division standings. This week, the Powder Blue will head to the City of Brotherly Love for a matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.