SAN DIEGO – So much for the pre-game statistics. That San Diego ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing offense entering Sunday's game against the Eagles meant nothing as the Chargers racked up 119 ground yards on 28 carries, a key in San Diego's 31-23 win over the Eagles at Qualcomm Stadium.
LaDainian Tomlinson's 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the icing for San Diego, which came into the game averaging just 69.6 yards per game. But with the Eagles defense forced to shuffle its linebackers, using Chris Gocong in the middle with Will Witherspoon at WILL and Moise Fokou on the strong side, the Chargers took full advantage.
They ran for 63 yards in the first half on 15 carries and then piled it on in the third quarter. Tomlinson had his biggest game of the year, running for 40 of his 96 yards in that first half.
It was a disappointing performance by the defense, even with the makeover at linebacker.
"We missed some tackles and had some assignments that we made mistakes on, but I give them credit," said Gocong. "Tomlinson is a great back. He made some plays out there."
The Eagles defense had a chance to put the offense on the field with a chance to win the game late, but the Chargers reeled off three first downs and ate all but 30 seconds off the clock after they took control with 7 minutes, 12 seconds to go in the game holding a 28-23 lead.
Instead of running there, the Chargers went to a ball-control short passing game. Quarterback Philip Rivers completed a pair of passes to gain 15 yards and then faced a critical third-and-6 play with 4:54 to go in the game. The Chargers got the match they wanted and Rivers threw to tight end Antonio Gates, who had a step on cornerback Dimitri Patterson, and San Diego picked up 17 huge yards and a first down at the Philadelphia 41-yard line. Rivers converted another third-down play - third and 2 -- to keep the drive going and the clock out of the Eagles' reach.
"We made a check in the secondary on that play that we thought was the right call at the time, but in hindsight is one maybe we shouldn't have called," said safety Quintin Mikell. "Give them credit: Gates is a great player and he was their go-to guy. We knew that and they made the play and we didn't."
The defense, which also lost cornerback Sheldon Brown in the game with a hamstring injury, battled with a lot of young faces in new places. Patterson saw a lot of snaps as the nickel cornerback before he bumped up and took all the reps with Brown out. The linebackers were completely different than anyone would have expected in July.
And the run defense, so good all season, gave up too much to a team that entered the game last in the league at running the ball. It cost the defense big time in a game in which the Eagles came up just short.
-- Posted by Dave Spadaro, 7:24 p.m., November 15