There was an abundance of missed opportunities for the Eagles in their 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon, making the slim defeat that much more frustrating. Consider just a few of the plays that could have turned around the margin of the three-point loss.
There was an open opportunity for a touchdown on the Eagles' second offensive drive as Michael Vick tossed the ball slightly behind James Casey on a would-be 2-yard touchdown pass. That ball was dropped and the Eagles settled for a field goal. Kicker Alex Henery missed a field goal at the end of the first half. A touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson was called back for an illegal formation penalty, the second such penalty on rookie Lane Johnson on the day, as the Eagles would later settle for a field goal.
Perhaps the cruelest of missed opportunities for the Eagles came on the kickoff following a 2-yard Vick touchdown run with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. That score gave the Eagles a 27-23 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, backed up to the 20-yard-line after DeSean Jackson was called for unnecessary roughness on the Vick touchdown run, Chargers return man Fozzy Whitaker fumbled the ball at the Chargers' 39-yard-line. The ball seemed to bounce directly to Henery, who was unable to corral it, after which nearly half the players on the field seemed to have an opportunity to scoop up the ball. Eventually, the ball was recovered by the Chargers on the Eagles' 41-yard-line. Not only had the opportunity to ice the game slipped through the team's collective fingers, but the Chargers' field position was improved by 20 yards on unpredictable bounce of the ball and the visiting team would go on to score a touchdown seven plays later.
"We left points out there," said head coach Chip Kelly. "In a game like this that is decided on a field goal at the end of the game, you can nitpick and look at every play, but to me, it's not nitpicking. One play is the difference in a game and we talk about it all the time. You don't know when that play is going to impact the game. And we have to understand how important it is to make plays when you have an opportunity to make them."
On a day when Vick passed for a career-high 428 yards, the fifth-highest team passing total in franchise history, and Jackson recorded 198 receiving yards, the second highest total of his career, even those two were culpable of missed opportunities as they missed deep connections on three separate occasions.
Though a different result of any number of plays would have swung the game in the Eagles' direction, there were also macro problems that contributed to the defeat. For instance, the Chargers scored on seven of their 10 possessions on the day, punting only once and turning the ball over in the red zone twice. While Kelly has said he places little emphasis on time of possession, the Chargers' demonstrative lead in the category (40 minutes and 17 seconds to the Eagles' 19 minutes and 43 seconds) is instructive in that is highlights the inability of the Eagles defense to get off the field. The Chargers converted 10-of-15 third downs on the afternoon.
"We couldn't get them off the field," said Kelly. "We have to do a better job generating the pass rush. We went up against an outstanding quarterback. Good, pass catch combination with him and (Chargers tight end Antonio) Gates, and it didn't seem like we handled that very well.
"We didn't generate a good enough pass rush or cover well enough."
Defensively, the play of the safeties for the Eagles came under particular scrutiny. Veteran Nate Allen missed a few key tackles throughout the game while he rotated with fifth-round rookie Earl Wolff.
"You're not going to find anybody at this point in time that's hanging out on the street corner that's going to be able to play safety for you," said Kelly. "We've got to coach them better and put them in positions to make plays.
"I think they're close. Trying to get Earl involved. I think Earl shows us things where we watch him play and we think he's got a bright future. But I don't think he's totally grasped everything that we're asking him to do. So try to put him in positions when we put him in the game that we're trying to play to his strengths"
With such a narrow victory leaving the Eagles frustrated, the silver lining is that they should be able to turn the page to nest week quickly. That's because a matchup with the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs stands on the horizon only four days away.
"It's right where we are, 1-1," Kelly said when asked about his view of the big picture. We "played well enough to win one week and not well enough to win this week. So we have to get back to work tomorrow morning."
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