Chip Kelly's hurry-up offense had to wait quite a bit Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field because defenseless coordinator Bill Davis had a zero-solution scheme in place for quarterback Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
It made for an entertaining afternoon of football, but ultimately Kelly's first home game as the Eagles coach came down to which team had the ball last. When Rivers set up behind center on the San Diego 21-yard line with 1 minute and 45 seconds remaining, the outcome of this one was no longer in doubt.
"The feeling I had in the huddle was that we weren't going to lose this game," San Diego wide receiver Eddie Royal said.
The opposite feeling was palpable among the 69,144 fans who crammed into the Linc hoping to see an offensive show from the Eagles in Kelly's home debut. The paying customers got their money's worth from Michael Vick and company, but they were also reminded that Davis' defense might give up 50 points in a game before Kelly's offense scores 50.
The final score was 33-30, with Nick Novak's 46-yard field goal providing the winning points for the Chargers.
Amazing was not among the list of words Kelly or Davis used in describing the Eagles' defensive performance. It would have been a good choice, however. It was stunning that the Chargers scored only 33 points against an Eagles defense that forced one punt and yielded 539 yards. Rivers might have had more trouble against the Chargers' scout team during practice.
The San Diego quarterback started the game with 10 straight completions and finished by going 4 for 5 for 48 yards to set up the winning field goal. His first incompletion was a drop by running back Danny Woodhead that would have gone for a touchdown. Two other San Diego drives ended on fumbles at the Eagles' goal line. Add on those 17 points and the Eagles would have allowed 50 points.
The Eagles, a team devoid of quality and quantity in the secondary, were playing without starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher because of a concussion, but this is the NFL and almost every week presents an injury challenge.
Kelly routinely dismisses time of possession as an important statistic, but on this day the Chargers had the ball twice as long (40:17 to 19:43) as the Eagles.
"Yeah, but I think it's also our responsibility to get them off the field," he said. "You can't just sit there and say we were on the field too long. Part of our responsibility is we've got to get them off the field."
If you can't, then there is some relevance to time of possession whether Kelly wants to admit it or not. The Chargers went 10 for 14 on third-down conversions, excluding their final possession, when they simply used third down to place the ball where Novak wanted it for the game-winning kick.
"Oh, that's awful," Davis said in reference to the Chargers' clock dominance. "We've got to get ourselves off the field. That's one of the biggest things about defensive football. You get yourself off the field and get your rest. We weren't making the plays in the second half on third down and in the first half we didn't make the plays on first down."
For the most part, the Eagles' defense did not make plays at all. You could cut off one hand and both feet and still count the number of big plays made by the defense. Linebacker Connor Barwin had a first-quarter sack that forced a field goal and cornerback Brandon Boykin and linebacker Trent Cole forced fumbles near the goal line that prevented touchdowns in the second quarter. Boykin also had a terrific third-down pass defense in the third quarter that forced San Diego's only punt of the game.
There's not enough room here to describe all the negative defensive plays, and they probably won't get as much attention this week as they should, because Andy Reid and the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs are coming to town Thursday.
"We threw everything at them," Davis said, which is a scary thought indeed. "We tried to change things up and bluff blitzes and we fell back and Philip had a better day than we did."
A lot of guys in the home locker room were tipping their helmets to Rivers.
"I just think they were able to understand what we were trying to do on defense," said cornerback Cary Williams, who was flagged three times for pass interference. "They did a great job with their game plan and they understood some of our calls. It looked like [Rivers] knew exactly what we were calling. He knew exactly what we were in. Sometimes you get outwitted and sometimes you get outplayed, and I think today was one of those days."
What the defense got was demolished. Davis called for three-man rushes in an effort to help the coverage. He called for five-man rushes in an effort to get to Rivers. Nothing seemed to work. Talent is probably a bigger problem than scheme and that's not going to be fixed in the next three days, three weeks or three months.
Davis understands that some other veteran quarterbacks with even better credentials than Rivers remain on the Eagles' schedule.
Can you imagine what Peyton Manning will be thinking when he gets a look at this film?
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