CARSON, Calif. — What an odd football game. All of it.
Three thousand miles from Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles played what was, in mood and feel and sound, a home game, beating the Los Angeles Chargers, 26-24, Sunday at StubHub Center. The announced crowd, a sellout, was 25,374, and it is a safe bet at least 12,688 of those spectators were Eagles fans. There were more Harold Carmichael jerseys in the stands than there were Lance Alworth jerseys. The place was louder when the Eagles did something good than it was when the Chargers did. During one stoppage of play in the second half, Eagles fans chanted, “Let’s go, Eagles!” and Chargers fans chanted “Let’s go, Chargers!” and the interlopers shouted down the Californians.
Yes, it was odd, and it provided a revelation for the Eagles this season: Between Sunday’s game and their Dec. 10 game against the Rams, the Eagles essentially will have two extra home games. The Rams are experiencing the worst attendance drop in NFL history, so we’re likely to see a similar scene play out at the Los Angeles Coliseum in two months. When LeGarrette Blount went on his 68-yard rumble in the fourth quarter, setting up a vital two-yard touchdown dive by Wendell Smallwood, the crowd noise followed him like rolling thunder.
On Sunday, the Eagles needed that juice, the friendly environment that their loyal followers provided. They dominated the early part of the game but failed to bury the Chargers when they had chances to do so. They settled for four Jake Elliott field goals — three of them 45 yards or longer — and they are indeed fortunate that the kid kicker has been such a spectacular acquisition, for they would have lost last week to the Giants and on Sunday to the Chargers if not for him. Their defense allowed big play after big play to Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles offense, and their cornerbacks showed their inexperience and lack of speed time after time.
But they are 3-1, and in this parity-ridden NFL season, maybe all the Eagles have to do to reach the playoffs is this: Just make fewer mistakes each week than their opponent does. Carson Wentz still held the ball too long on a few plays and was fortunate not to be intercepted on a few others. But with 6:44 left and the Eagles clinging to a two-point lead, he led a drive that melted away the rest of the game clock, completed all three of his passes and relying on Blount to handle the rest. The Eagles are 3-1, and they still have eight home games left, if you count the one you wouldn’t have counted before Sunday. Again, odd.