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Today's Task: Smart Football

Posted Sep 15, 2013

The win on Monday night is but a distant memory for the Eagles, but not for the fans. The fans have high expectations for today's home opener against the San Diego Chargers ...

The parking lots are filling up early on Sunday morning and the tailgates are firing up, and the conversation is about one thing: Chip Kelly's offense, the tempo of the group and how the Eagles are going to do what to San Diego.

First, let me applaud the fans for your devotion, love and patience. It's been a tough couple of years, no question about it. And you have every right to be completely fired up about this football team and the franchise and Kelly after what you saw on Monday night.

I've been around long enough to feel the need to exercise some restraint. As Kelly said during the week, "It's just one game."

And now this is another. And it isn't going to be as easy as some out there think it will be.

San Diego is a good football team that lost a heart-breaking game on Monday night. The Chargers are an angry team, a desperate team, and they have enough talent to put any defense on its heels and any offense out of its sync.

This is going to be a battle.

We've spent all week reading and hearing about the Eagles offense and the merits of the scheme and tempo. The Chargers have been reading, too, and history suggests that the players on San Diego's defense are pretty much sick of reading about The Next Great Thing. There is going to be some intensity on that side of the football. To have success, the Eagles are going to have to be focused and execute what Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur ask of them on a consistent basis.

No doubt, this is one of the most interesting home openers the Eagles have had. I'll compare it with the one in 2004 when new Eagle Terrell Owens wowed the crowd with three touchdown catches from Donovan McNabb and the Eagles were off and flying toward an NFC Championship.

The profile of this team has changed dramatically in a week's time. While there was a whole lot of interest in Kelly as he made his NFL head coaching debut on Monday night, there is now all-around fascination. The media have taken to Kelly's story and, um, run with it. It's been a startling vault in attention.

None of that matters on the field. The Eagles have a Chargers 3-4 defense with which to contend, led by pass-rushing standout Dwight Freeney. How the Eagles deal with Freeney -- do they attack him or do they go away from his side? -- is likely to have a huge impact on Philadelphia's offensive success?

How much of what we saw on Monday night will we see again in terms of personnel -- the Eagles went with a lot of one RB, one TE, three WR packages against Washington -- and play calling? Will the Eagles go with the no-huddle approach throughout the game today?

On defense, the Eagles must pressure quarterback Philip Rivers and limit his ability to go down the field. Tight end Antonio Gates is always a matchup challenge. San Diego starts King Dunlap at left tackle and rookie D.J. Fluker at right tackle. The Eagles must win the battle on the edge.

More than anything, the Eagles much play sound football. No turnovers. No short fields for the Chargers. Good tackling. A show of depth given the absence of cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Physical football.

These are all of the essentials today. It's a home opener that registers among the most anticipated that I can recall. The Eagles want to put on a show for their home fans. First, they must win a football game. In that end, that's all that really matters. The attention is nice, and it helps carry the days between games, but now is when all of the hard work the Eagles have put in on the practice field and in the classroom and athletic training room pays off.

It's time to take care of business today. There are some out there who think what the Eagles did in Washington was a mirage. The best way to show otherwise is to beat the Chargers, play smart and aggressive football, and then prepare for the next step in a long 2013 season.

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