The Eagles failed to establish home-field advantage in Chip Kelly’s inaugural game at the Linc. They allowed the San Diego Chargers to travel cross-country and win an exciting, albeit ultimately disappointing, game for Eagles fans.
The last seven times the Chargers had traveled to the East Coast, they had lost, and usually by large margins. The Eagles were an eight-point favorite, playing an early game against a team coming off a short week, and they could not get the win.
There was plenty of blame to go around, but the main culprit was definitely the defense, and specifically, the pass defense. It was as frustrating as it gets for fans because the defense continually got the Chargers into third-down situations only to allow them to convert.
The lack of a pass rush was as much to blame as the poor coverage. Carey Williams was flagged for three pass interference penalties and Nate Allen played abysmally, as usual. The tackling was not as ragged as it had been last year, but it was a problem at times.
Chargers receiver Malcolm Floyd was burning the Eagles secondary badly in the first half. When he went out with an injury, the Chargers simply plugged pedestrian receiver Eddie Royal in Floyd’s spot and the Eagles secondary proceeded to make him look like a Pro Bowler. They allowed big tight end Antonio Gates to turn back the clock as he played to a level he had not reached in years.
The Eagles defense managed just one sack of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers against an offensive line that surrendered 49 sacks last year and is known for being ineffective. Rivers, when pressured, is turnover-prone; when given time to throw, he is dangerous, which he proved Sunday by throwing for 400-plus yards.
The Eagles offense put up 30 points for the second straight week, but never seemed to really be in rhythm. That perception could be because they only had possession of the ball for twenty minutes of game clock. Part of that was because the defense could not get off the field; however, part of it was also because, inexplicably, the Eagles passed the ball 65% of the time.
Lesean McCoy toted the ball 31 times in the first game and backup Bryce Brown got nine carries. They were extremely effective in gaining yards, bludgeoning and tiring the defense, and controlling the clock.
On Sunday, McCoy had just 11 carries and Brown 3. It was unpleasantly reminiscent of the Andy Reid era when fans became desperate for more emphasis on the running game. And it came less than a week after the Eagles basically won a game by virtue of how well they were able to run the ball—very puzzling.
Despite playing well, Mike Vick missed Desean Jackson on a couple of potential long touchdowns and the Eagles were forced to settle for field goal attempts several times, one of which Alex Henery missed.
In fairness, Desean Jackson had another excellent game, with 9 receptions for 193 yards and a TD for the second straight week. Despite his paltry carry total, McCoy managed another great game, catching five passes for 114 yards, including a 70-yard reception early in the game.
Chip Kelly made a critical error in clock management towards the end of the game. The Eagles trailed by 3 points, but were in the midst of a long drive. The clock stood at 2:20, while the ball was inside the Chargers 15-yard line, where the Eagles had a first down.
The Eagles should have allowed the clock to run down to the two-minute warning or at least forced the Chargers to use a timeout to stop it. It was evident the Eagles defense was incapable of stopping the Chargers offense, so they needed to run as much clock as possible.
Instead, they hurried to the line and ran a play: the result was an incompletion that stopped the clock at 2:03, forcing the Eagles to run another play before the two-minute warning.
Ultimately, the team had to settle for a field goal, and they left 1:51 on the clock for a Chargers team that had been allowed to preserve its three timeouts. It was more than enough time for them to get into field goal position and win the game.
In the Redskins game, everything went right for the Eagles. It was a lot of fun, but it left fans with an unrealistic impression of the team. This game was a more accurate barometer. The Eagles have a potent offense, but a bad defense. It seems likely this is a precursor of how Eagles games are going to go this season.
The offense is going to have to compensate for the poor defense; sometimes, like today, it is not going to be able to. It was an exciting, but frustrating, game. The Eagles need to straighten some things out on defense before their Thursday night game on a short week.
Eagles fans want this next win more than any division game because Andy Reid will be on the opposing sideline with his new team, the 2-0 Chiefs.
If Chip Kelly strives to return to his week 1 form—when he was the anti-Andy, using the strong running game to bludgeon his opponent—Eagles fans will leave the Linc happy Thursday night.
Their team will be 2-1 and they will have exacted a large measure of revenge in beating their former leader.