Five reasons the Eagles beat the Chargers on Sunday. And yes, Eagles fans, you were one of them.
With a little more than 6½ minutes left in the game, Jim Schwartz’s defense was toast. It had just given up a second consecutive 75-yard touchdown drive. The Chargers had scored on four of their last six possessions.
If Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and his offense got the ball back, they were going to score. And the Eagles were going to lose. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
The Eagles either had to score a touchdown, which would have put them up by nine, or play keep-away.
They played keep-away.
They put together an impressive 13-play possession that squeezed the final 6:44 off the clock and sealed their third win in four games. They ran the ball on 10 of those 13 plays, and converted three straight third downs.
The Eagles, who came into the game leading the league in average time of possession, controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes Sunday. They ran a season-high 74 plays. Six of their nine possessions had eight plays or more.
LeGarrette Blount had his best game as an Eagle, rushing for 136 yards on 16 carries. The offensive line did an outstanding job opening holes for him, but the 250-pound bull was shedding tacklers all day.
His rushing total was the second highest of his career in a regular-season game. So much for thinking those 299 carries with the Patriots last season turned him into a shot fighter.
For the second straight week, he had four double-digit-yard runs. For the second straight week, he had four rushing first downs.
After the Chargers closed to within two, 19-17, with 13½ minutes left, Blount took a handoff from Carson Wentz and went straight up the middle for 68 yards to the San Diego 3-yard line. It was the longest regular-season run of his career and set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Wendell Smallwood that extended the Eagles’ lead to nine.
Blount ran the ball three times for 24 yards on the Eagles’ final clock-gobbling drive.
Jake the Snake
Jake Elliott is hot right now. He beat the Giants last week with a franchise-record 61-yard field goal, which was preceded by a 46-yarder that tied the game. Sunday, he was 4 for 4, nailing 45-, 40-, 53- and 47-yard field goals in a game the Eagles won by two points. That’s six in a row from 40-plus yards. And the Eagles needed every one of them.
Not including their final drive of the game, when they were at the LA 15 as time ran out, the Eagles were inside the Chargers’ 30-yard line five times in eight possessions but made it to the end zone just twice.
Elliott also had seven touchbacks on seven kickoffs. Not a bad day’s work. Donnie Jones put both of his punts inside the 20. The Chargers’ average drive start Sunday was the 22.2-yard line.
Home on the road
With the possible exception of the Steelers’, no fan base travels better than the Eagles’. That never was more evident than Sunday when Eagles fans took over the StubHub Center.
The crowd was announced at 25,374. The general consensus of press-box observers was that more than half of them were Eagles fans.
I haven’t seen a stadium takeover like this since 2003 when Eagles fans descended on Miami for a late-season game against the Dolphins and turned it into a home game.
The E-A-G-L-E-S chants were nonstop. It was so loud at one end of the field that the Chargers actually had difficulty hearing Philip Rivers’ snap count.
Eagles players noticed. “Only team in the NFL with 9 home games this season!!!’’ Malcolm Jenkins tweeted after the game. “Thank you @Eagles fans. #flyEaglesfly.’’
Center Jason Kelce said that thanks to the fans, they didn’t have to use a silent count, which usually is standard operating procedure on the road. “That was really an LA home game for the Eagles right there,’’ he said.
The effort up front
The Eagles’ offensive line had another strong day. Tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson won their important battle against the Chargers’ dangerous edge-rush tandem of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Ingram and Bosa, who combined for 18½ sacks last season and had 7½ in the first three games, had no sacks and two hurries Sunday.
The Chargers sacked Carson Wentz twice. Both came inside from defensive end Darius Philon.
The Eagles did a good job of staying out of third-and-longs, which prevented obvious passing situations on which the Chargers could just tee off on Wentz. Ten of their 16 third downs Sunday were 4 yards or fewer.
For the second straight week, the line blew open holes for the Eagles’ running back by committee. A week after rushing for 193 yards against the Giants, the Eagles ran for 214 yards on 42 carries against the Chargers.
Blount rushed for 136. But Smallwood and rookie Corey Clement also were effective, even though they each averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry. Smallwood and Clement combined for six rushing first downs.
Wentz had two more rushing first downs, including one behind Kelce and his guards on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak late in the third quarter that kept a scoring drive alive.
Smallwood followed his blocking for an important 3-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the game that gave the Eagles a nine-point lead.