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A Bump In The Road For Eagles

There are concerns about the Eagles after the loss in the home opener, especially after the defense allowed 539 total net yards and permitted the Chargers to convert 10 of 15 third downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers was masterful as he completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns.

So, yeah, the defense had its troubles against San Diego's big offensive line and against Rivers, who worked the pocket beautifully and stayed away from just about every blitz the Eagles threw his way.

But there were other reasons the Eagles fell to 1-1, and in the big picture the Eagles are going to put this game in the rear-view mirror quickly with Kansas City coming to town for Thursday night's game.

The offense, while it piled up 30 points and came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter, left too many points on the field. The Eagles were just 2 of 4 in the red zone, including an opportunity late in the fourth quarter when they had a chance to score a touchdown and force San Diego to put the ball in the end zone to win the game.

With a first down at the San Diego 14-yard line, Michael Vick threw a pass under heavy pressure to Brent Celek that was just out of Celek's reach. Vick was injured on the play and forced out of the game for one play. In came Nick Foles, and instead of playing it safe, head coach Chip Kelly opted to give Foles a chance to throw a fade pass to DeSean Jackson, which was incomplete.

On third and 10 from the 14, Vick threw incomplete for Jason Avant, and Alex Henery's 32-yard field goal tied the game at 30-30.

It wasn't enough. The Chargers moved methodically down the field 51 yards in nine plays and scored the game-winning points on Nick Novak's 46-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining on the clock.

Once again, the offense had its great moments, and most of them came from Vick. He tossed a pair of touchdown passes, one to DeSean Jackson (who had 7 catches for 193 yards and the score), and ran for a score. Vick missed some receivers as well, including Jackson on a couple of "go" routes on which Jackson had a step on the secondary.

"We had chances to score more points and we didn't," said LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 53 yards on 11 carries and added 114 yards on 5 receptions. "We have to be more consistent."

The special teams contributed to the defeat as well. Henery pushed a 46-yard field wide right at the end of the first half and then missed out on a chance to recover a fumbled kickoff return in the fourth quarter.

Then there was the defense, which just couldn't get off the field. After a terrific opening three quarters against the Redskins, this defense has given up big points and too many drives. Coordinator Bill Davis has tried dialing up the blitz and he's mixed up his coverages. The Eagles must execute the scheme better, tackle more effectively and win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

San Diego's receivers had huge days against a secondary that missed cornerback Bradley Fletcher big time. The safeties are facing intense criticism after a tough game.

In the big picture, though, the Eagles are going to get through this. They have a very short week, of course, and they have a 2-0 Chiefs team coming to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night. There isn't much time to wallow in the defeat. The defense has to step up against the run -- Jamaal Charles is a standout -- and put quarterback Alex Smith on his back. There is no question that offenses are going to challenge the secondary.

We knew the defense was a work in progress, though, so this is not a surprise. Disappointing to lose the game, yes, but the Eagles can bounce back. They didn't play a great game at all on Sunday and, in fact, they were poor at times chasing the Chargers from behind.

What you have to like about the Eagles early is their explosiveness on offense, the way Vick is leading things, how both Jackson and McCoy are making big plays, and the don't-die attitude this team has.

There are a lot of things that must be improved, and the coaches know it. How does Davis improve the defense? We are going to see what tweaks he makes between now and Thursday. There is only so much he can do in terms of personnel, and the scheme isn't going to change. Clearly, though, the defense needs more pressure up front and better coverage on the back side.

The offense has to be more efficient, particularly in the red zone. Two for four doesn't get it done in close games in the NFL. Scoring three instead of seven late in the fourth quarter isn't enough.

But there is so much encouragement to emerge as this team is tied for first in the NFC East at 1-1. The Eagles are an exciting, explosive team that needs to keep working hard, staying together in the locker room and playing with confidence. The Eagles want to be on the attack at all times.

Sunday was a tough loss, one that was there for the taking. The best medicine is to get on track Thursday and head into a mini-bye weekend at 2-1. The effort was there on Sunday. The intensity was there. There were far too many penalties, 9 for 82 lost yards, but Kelly will get that cleaned up.

This team is not to be judged by numbers. Analyzing by the stat book doesn't work. The Eagles are putting their pieces in order, and they are going to learn to close out games like the one they lost on Sunday.

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