Eagles beat Chargers, 26-24, as Philly fans flood Southern California

Zach Berman, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

CARSON, Calif. -- It didn't matter that the Eagles were nearly 3,000 miles from Philadelphia. At the start of the game and at the end of the game, it sounded like they were playing on South Broad Street. And when the Eagles needed to run the clock out late in the game, the traveling and transplanted fans joined to chant "Let's go Eagles!" to cheer on a team that led the entire way in a 26-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

The Eagles advanced to 3-1, appearing like one of the better teams in the NFC East during the first quarter of the season. They held onto the lead during another hectic fourth quarter, relying on an overpowering running game to cement the victory.

LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 16 carries for 136 yards. Carson Wentz went 17 of 31 for 242 yards and one touchdown. Zach Ertz had five catches for 81 yards, and Alshon Jeffery caught a touchdown.

The scoring in the fourth quarter started when Chargers reserve running back Austin Ekeler sprinted through the middle of the Eagles' defense for a 35-yard touchdown to cut the Eagles' lead to 19-17, and the Eagles' lead could have been in danger. They needed a response. And that response was the 250-pound Blount.

Blount burst through San Diego's line on the second play of the drive, and he welcomed anyone who dared try tackling him. He broke four tackles and carried the ball 68 yards before the Chargers could drag him down. That was the type of momentum-changing play the Eagles needed, and Blount looked like the powerful runner the Eagles desired when signing him in May.

They didn't have as much success moving the ball when they neared the goal line, and they needed a Chargers penalty to bail them out and offer a fresh set of downs. The Eagles didn't spoil those downs, with Wendell Smallwood jumping into the end zone to give the Eagles a 26-17 lead.

The defense couldn't hold that margin. Rivers found Keenan Allen across the middle for a 50-yard catch on third down, and then hit Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone to make it a two-point game again with 6 minutes, 44 seconds remaining.

The Chargers never got the ball back. The Eagles relied on their running the clock to wear down the clock and the Chargers defense, and the crowd was in a frenzy by the end.

They were in a frenzy at the start, too.

With the Chargers in Eagles territory, Eagles defensive end Chris Long chased Rivers from behind and stripped the quarterback. The Eagles recovered, and they turned the turnovers into points on eight plays. The key play of the drive was a third-and-3 pass from Wentz to Nelson Agholor for 36 yards when Wentz threw a strike while under pressure. That brought the Eagles near the goal line, and Wentz connected with Jeffery for an eight-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

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Elliott hit his first field goal on Sunday to end the first quarter and give the Eagles a 10-0 lead. When Elliott added another field goal midway through the second quarter, the Eagles appeared in the driver's seat. It took one play for the Chargers to make Eagles fans reconsider.

The knock on the Eagles cornerbacks is their speed. They're tough and competitive, but you don't want them in a footrace with a fast receiver. So when Tyrell Williams burst past Rasul Douglas at the line, Rivers knew where to go. Rodney McLeod didn't help as the deep safety, and Williams streaked down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown.

Elliott added a 53-yard field goal on the ensuing possession to give the Eagles a 16-7 lead. With a chance to add to the lead late in the second half, Pederson bypassed a fourth-and-1 at his 49-yard line and elected to punt. Pinning the Chargers back in their territory was the safe choice, although it was a departure from the aggressive nature Pederson has shown to date. The Chargers took advantage of the possession and drove 77 yards for a 28-yard field goal by halftime. The key play was a 49-yard, third-down reception by Keenan Allen to put the Chargers in field goal range.

The Chargers were the team that lacked aggression in the third quarter. With a fourth and 7 at the Eagles' 45-yard line, the Chargers took a delay of game instead of going for the first down. The Eagles started the ensuing possession at the 11-yard line and brought it into field goal range on 13 plays. Elliott's 47-yard kick offered the only points of the quarter and gave the Eagles a 19-10 lead to set up the wild fourth quarter.

The Eagles return home to host the Arizona Cardinals. Although that will be an official home game, it felt like a home game on Sunday in Los Angeles.

(c)2017 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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