Chargers trip Eagles, 33-30, despite Vick's big day

A fumble the Eagles couldn't recover on a fourth-quarter Chargers kickoff return was key. The ball was knocked upfield, putting San Diego in position for a quick score.
A fumble the Eagles couldn't recover on a fourth-quarter Chargers kickoff return was key. The ball was knocked upfield, putting San Diego in position for a quick score. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 17, 2013

The euphoria of Chip Kelly's debut has dissipated. What's left standing might be evidence of what the Eagles will be in the coach's first season in Philadelphia. If Sunday's home opener was an indication, the Eagles will be closer to an evolution than a revolution this season.

Their offense appeared as dynamic as expected in a 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, although the Eagles too often settled for three points when touchdowns were needed.

On the other side of the ball, they looked overmatched. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers picked apart the Eagles pass defense.

"Sometimes you get outwitted. Sometimes you get outplayed," cornerback Cary Williams said. "And I think today was one of those days."

The final three points came on Nick Novak's 46-yard, winning field goal with seven seconds remaining, less than two minutes after the Eagles tied the game. It was the sixth lead change of the afternoon.

Although both teams accumulated nearly the same amount of yards - the Chargers had 539, the Eagles 511 - the Chargers controlled the ball for more than two thirds of the game and called 20 more offensive plays.

"It's our responsibility to get them off the field," Kelly said. "You can't just sit there and say we were on the field too long."

Most of the damage came from Rivers, the four-time Pro Bowler who completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns, each to Eddie Royal. Tight end Antonio Gates led the Chargers with eight catches for 124 yards, and Kelly said the Eagles struggled with that matchup.

Williams said Rivers "seemed to know everything that we tried to throw at him" and was even calling out what the Eagles were doing on defense.

"It looked like he knew exactly what DeMeco [Ryans] was calling to a degree," Williams said. "He knew exactly what we were in to a degree."

The video game-like numbers extended to the Eagles. Quarterback Michael Vick had a career-high 428 yards, completing 23 of 36 passes. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score. DeSean Jackson finished with a career-high nine receptions for 193 yards, while LeSean McCoy did more damage receiving (114 yards) than rushing (53).

Although they moved the ball, the Eagles had to settle for field goals on three drives. James Casey dropped a third-down pass in the end zone. A 37-yard third-quarter touchdown pass was nullified. Both drives finished with field goals.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles could not get past the 14-yard line and tied the game instead of taking a four-point lead. Vick missed one play on that series because of a hard hit. Kelly could have called a timeout to reinsert Vick, even though he said afterward that he could not.

Eagles kicker Alex Henery missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the first half, three points that would have been valuable when the clock expired.

"You can nitpick and take a look at every play. But to me, it's not nitpicking," Kelly said. "One play is a difference in the game."

The defense, for all its issues, forced two second-quarter turnovers with the Chargers inside the Eagles' 10-yard line. But the biggest issue was on third down, when the Chargers converted 10 of 15 attempts. That included a third and 4 with 31 seconds remaining at the Eagles' 37-yard line that put Novak within striking distance.

"Couldn't get them off the field," Kelly said. "We have to do a better job generating the pass rush."

The Eagles averaged 8.7 yards per play, even more than the 5.8 yards per play from one week earlier. That average could have been even higher if Vick and Jackson had connected on two deep passes that were inches away from big plays. Vick said it's wishful thinking to hit them all, though he and Jackson were in sync on a 61-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Vick pointed out that San Diego was able to control the football - especially in the first half - and keep the Eagles from developing an early rhythm.

That will likely be the plan for opponents this season. Games similar to Sunday's will be seen again because the Eagles offense is just as high-powered as expected, and the defense is just as susceptible - as feared.

The Eagles have four days to try to fix the latter. Andy Reid's homecoming is Thursday with the Chiefs, and Reid won't feel shy about calling passing plays.

"This feeling doesn't feel very good," Kelly said. "We better make sure we correct this thing. We have a game in four days."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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