Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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Eagles-Chargers: What did we learn?

Chip Kelly endured his first career NFL loss after the Eagles fell to the Chargers, 33-30, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. It was an entertaining game, full of interesting subplots. Here are some observations:

Eagles-Chargers: What did we learn?

Chip Kelly and Michael Vick. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Chip Kelly and Michael Vick. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

Chip Kelly endured his first career NFL loss after the Eagles fell to the Chargers, 33-30, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. It was an entertaining game, full of interesting subplots. Here are some observations:

-- The Eagles offense left some points out on the field, but the loss fell squarely on the shoulders of Bill Davis’ defensive unit. The Eagles forced the Chargers to punt only once and held on only 5 of 15 third downs. This was the defense many of us expected, although I’m not sure I imagined it would be this bad. If it weren’t for two turnovers inside the ten – and the Eagles should certainly be credited with forcing those fumbles – San Diego might have put up 47 on the Birds.

-- Connor Barwin said the Chargers weren’t really running an up-tempo offense early on even though they were going no-huddle. The linebacker said that quarterback Phillip Rivers was using the pre-snap time to read the Eagles’ defense, especially in terms of its blitz packages. “They did a no-huddle … but really it wasn’t a no-huddle,” Barwin said. “They were just waiting to see our blitz. They would line up with 25 seconds [left on play clock] and they’d take it down. He never snapped, I think, before eight seconds. And we picked up on it. … It showed our hand early.” Barwin said the defense adjusted, but the damage had been done.

-- The blitz packages that seemed to work against the Redskins a week ago had little luck against the quick-throwing Rivers. Davis said afterward that he tried everything to get some pressure on Rivers. The plan going in, apparently, was to the blitz the heck out of Rivers, but when the Chargers caught on early, and Davis backed off, sometimes rushing only three, the Eagles were discombobulated. There was little pass rush and the secondary did little to get Rivers to hitch before throwing. “When the ball is coming out quick it’s as much on the front four as it is on the back five,” Barwin said. “We need to work together. We need to give them a tip pass here, they need to make a play for us there.”

-- Michael Vick was excellent. He missed DeSean Jackson on a few deep balls, but he played efficiently and made few errors. The Eagles were going in for the score and a late lead when he left with an injury. It’s still unclear why the officials told the Eagles that he had to leave for a play. He got slammed to the ground fairly hard, but returned after a Nick Foles fade to Jackson in the end zone was incomplete. The Eagles had lost some momentum, though, and Vick couldn’t hit Jason Avant on third down.

-- A few stats: The Chargers had 79 plays to Eagles’ 59. They won time of possession, 40:17 to 19:43. Kelly doesn’t think much of time of possession, and in many ways he’s right to devalue the stat, but San Diego controlled the clock and kept the explosive Eagles offense off the field for much of the game. The Eagles didn’t run the ball much because they said the Chargers were stacking the box. That had something to do with the lack of possession time. A week after rushing for 184 yards on 31 carries, LeSean McCoy took just 11 handoffs for 53 yards. He made a mark in the passing game, though, catching five passes for 114 yards. Stacked box or not, the Eagles’ best offensive player needs to get more than 15 touches in a game.

-- Lane Johnson didn’t get run over and held his own against Dwight Freeney, but he took two illegal formation penalties, one of which negated a 37-yard touchdown catch by Jackson. “I had two of them and they may have cost us the game,” Johnson said. “They were stupid on my part and unacceptable.” Johnson’s penalties hurt the Eagles, but he showed character after the game for how he explained his mistakes.

-- Jason Kelce was walking around the locker room with a brace on his right hand that supporting a wrapped thumb. He said he couldn’t divulge the injury, but said that he would be ready to play Thursday night against the Chiefs. It’s difficult to judge the Eagles offensive line without watching the playback, but they seemed to adjust after a few early moments in which the defensive linemen, led by defensive end Cory Liuget, got some push.

-- Vick targeted Jackson 15 times and he caught nine for 193 yards and a 61-yard TD. There could have been at least two more TDs, not even including the one brought back by Johnson’s penalty. The Chargers had no answer for Jackson on a go route. He made a costly mistake, though, when he pushed a defender after the Eagles took their first lead, 27-23, in the fourth quarter. The short field aided the Chargers, especially after a fumble on the kickoff was booted 21 yards and San Diego retained possession.

-- Of all the Eagles defensive backs, cornerback Brandon Boykin was the only one that made any plays. He striped a fumble and broke up several passes. He had his low moments, including a third down conversion when he lost Eddie Royal. But the loss couldn’t be pinned on Boykin, who was starting on the outside for Bradley Fletcher (concussion). Cary Williams was called for three pass interference penalties (one was declined after the pass was completed) and was beat a few times. Brandon Hughes gave up a few deep passes before leaving with a hamstring injury. Nate Allen’s struggles in long form. His day got off to a poor start when he was run over by running back Ryan Matthews (I think) and he was also called for a face mask. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before. Patrick Chung missed at least three tackles. Earl Wolff still has a lot to learn. He was placed in a difficult spot having to split time with Allen, who would be benched in most circumstances.

-- A few quickies: Tight end James Casey played only two offensive snaps last week. He didn’t make a strong case for more when he dropped a would-be TD in the first quarter. Vick’s throw wasn’t perfect, but he should have had it. … Zach Ertz had two catches – one for 31 yards, the other for 27. He ran crisp routes and was wide open. … Brent Celek was targeted only once and finished with no catches. … Alex Henery missed a 46-yard FG at the end of the first half and let the Chargers kickoff fumble slip through his hands. … The Eagles had nine penalties for 82 yards. … Allen, yes, Allen led the Eagles in tackles with ten. … The Eagles starting defensive line – Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Isaac Sopoaga – was especially quiet. … Barwin had a sack and two tackles for loss. … Trent Cole forced a fumble and had a few other moments, but didn’t play at the same level he did in the opener. … Casey Matthews spelled Barwin at outside linebacker for several plays … The Eagles went with three safeties with Chung in the slot for most of the second half in the nickel defense.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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