Have teams ‘cracked’ Justin Herbert? The Chargers’ loss to the Patriots is worrying

Chargers coach Brandon Staley insisted he was not concerned that his team’s previously flashy and potent offense was erratic and sometimes stalled during their 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. , which gave him his first two-game losing streak as the team’s head coach.

Maybe you should be upset. Two losses don’t make a pattern, but the way the Chargers lost is enough to demand some serious observation of their performance that leads to some creative solutions before facing the Eagles next Sunday in Philadelphia.

Having a bye week after their 34-6 loss in Baltimore didn’t favor the Chargers ‘passing game on Sunday, and that worked in the Patriots’ favor.

New England was willing to give up rushing yards – the Chargers’ 163 yards were their second-highest total this season – but Bill Belichick’s team focused on third-play situations and effectively eliminated passing plays.

The Chargers converted only four of 12 third Attempts, 33.3% effective. The Patriots were nine of 19 (47.4%).

“What we have to do is do a better job in the first downs to get into the rhythm, to stay on the program, to develop the explosive plays, to mix the run and the pass, to move the body, and if we can do that then we can be an offensive and dangerous football team, ”Staley said.

“But the third down, it’s a situation you would rather not have in the NFL. You don’t want to live like this. We have to do a better job at the passing game. We are capable of more and we will be better in the future ”.

A late drive capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to rookie receiver Joshua Palmer increased Herbert’s passing yards by 80 for a total of 223, including two touchdown passes. But he was intercepted twice by the formersafety Chargers’ Adrian Phillips, one of them for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that put New England ahead definitively, 24-17. At Baltimore two weeks ago, Herbert passed for 195 yards, the second-lowest total of his young career, and was intercepted once.

Patriots safety Adrian Phillips intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Patriots safety Adrian Phillips intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Herbert, who was so impressively poised as he helped lead the Chargers to four wins in their first five games, said he didn’t know if opponents had started to figure him out as he entered his second NFL season.

But he has shown in the last two Chargers games that he still has a lot to figure out when it comes to conquering tough defenses.

On Sunday, the key for him was finding other options against the Patriots’ zonal coverage. Staley said he saw some protection issues, but Herbert said he didn’t feel rushed, though he plans to review that when he sees the gameplay footage.

“I felt like they gave me enough time,” he said. “It’s up to me to shoot those shots and get the ball up faster, but I think my teammates up front did a good job blocking and I feel good with them.”

But in situations that required patience and discipline – a phrase Staley uttered three times in a row, for emphasis – Herbert sometimes fell short. And he knew it.

“If the defense drops everyone and there’s nothing open on the field, you have to find your checkdown. You have to take off and find four or five yards, whatever you can get, ”he said. “But that’s the difficult part about playing quarterback. And it’s something that I have to keep learning ”.

Catcher Keenan Allen blamed the loss on the team for sabotaging themselves. That is true, but it is not the whole story. He cited missed passes and penalties as one cause, although the Chargers only received five penalties for 40 yards.

“We shouldn’t have lost,” Allen said. “I think the Ravens did a good job. Today it was all of us. I didn’t see anything that [los Patriots] they made that we could not have prevented ”.

But it added to something the Chargers couldn’t handle. When asked what they needed to improve, Allen replied, “Good question. I do not have the answer.

“Every year, for me, it’s just the same frustration. It’s always the same. Beat ourselves. It’s frustrating”.

This isn’t the same team or the same coach, so it’s easy to think that Allen just blew it off while the sting of defeat felt fresh. And the Chargers drew valuable contributions from their level game, which Staley deemed important.

“We have to make sure we keep improving on that,” he said, “because when all you do is go back to pitch, it’s hard to do it consistently in this league because very few people in the NFL can protect the passer when he’s a known pass. Very few can, and I think that is the great lesson of today’s game.

The other lesson should be that it is time to worry and fix things before it is time to panic.

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Have teams ‘cracked’ Justin Herbert? The Chargers’ loss to the Patriots is worrying