Eagles' offense not blameless

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson watch on sideline as Chargers kick the winning field goal.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson watch on sideline as Chargers kick the winning field goal.
Posted: September 17, 2013

AT THE END of the day, DeSean Jackson forgave his own sins, and those of his offense. Chip Kelly, to his credit, did not. Michael Vick worked both sides of the aisle, but when pushed a little, sounded less like a chip off the old Chip and more like the receiver he gently chided for being "irrational."

"Maybe we need to score 37 points to win this game," Vick said, as if proposing the preposterous.

But there's nothing preposterous about it. Not with a defense that has now played six inauspicious quarters of football after that Holy Cow first half against Washington a week ago. Not with the unsightly talent in the secondary, talent that is highly unlikely to be upgraded over the next 4 months of football.

"There ain't any safeties on the street that can play at this level," Kelly said after yesterday's 33-30 loss to San Diego. "So we'll play the ones we've got."

The easy route on the day after is to pin the loss on those guys, and the guys who chased after Philip Rivers all afternoon as if they had glue stuck to their shoes. The Chargers held the ball for more than 40 minutes, ran 79 plays, rolled up 539 yards of offense and scored 33 points. The stats say it all, right?

No, they don't. Because we knew going into this season that there wasn't much to bank on with this Eagles defense, which is, to quote their head coach, "a work in progress."

We knew the secondary talent was a nightmare scenario, that some of their up-front personnel would be used in a way they were not used before, and thus be slow to recognize things at times.

We knew their road to victory would be through the execution of that Holy Cow offense, where the coach's expertise lay, where the abundance of talent lay, and the bulk of experience, too.

"Obviously, we left points out there offensively," Kelly said. "You can't do that against good teams. You play against a good quarterback, you've got to be as sharp as you can be. Seeing that touchdown called back and a drop and a missed field goal.

"In a game like this that comes down to a last-second field goal, you can nitpick . . . But to me it's not nitpicking. One play is the difference in the game."

The Eagles rolled up 511 yards themselves. Jackson caught nine passes for 193 yards, his second-highest total as a pro. Vick completed 24 of 37 passes for 428 yards and two touchdowns. And yet there were at least a half-dozen plays that factored into the difference between winning and losing, like Kelly said.

After Vick and LeSean McCoy connected on a 70-yard pass play midway through the first quarter, James Casey dropped a short third-down touchdown pass that would have given the Eagles a 7-3 lead. They settled for a field goal.

On their next series, Vick hit Jackson down the right sideline for a huge gain. Might have even gone for a touchdown if Jackson had kept his feet in bounds. He didn't. Earlier, Vick had Jackson wide-open for a touchdown and overthrew him by a good 10 feet. In the third quarter, Vick and Jackson connected for a 37-yard touchdown pass that was nullified because rookie Lane Johnson lined up wrong.

And then, on Vick's fourth-quarter touchdown run that pushed the Eagles ahead for the first time in the game, Jackson was called for unnecessary roughness after the play. The 15-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff and some unfortunate bounces on a fumbled return allowed the Chargers to begin their ensuing drive on the Eagles' 39-yard line.

Seven plays later, the Eagles' only lead of the game was gone.

"We talk about it all the time," Kelly said. "You don't know when that one play is going to impact the game. And you've got to understand how important it is to make plays when you have the opportunity to make them."

Apparently, talking about it all the time is not enough, not yet anyway. Vick's smarmy line about scoring 37 was accentuated when, minutes after Kelly spoke, he said at the very same podium, "You are not going to hit all of them. You are lucky to hit one," and Jackson followed with an almost self-absolution of his fourth-quarter penalty that included this: "Overall, I felt I had a great game."

That doesn't sound too understanding of what their new coach was again preaching after the winnable loss. And that's as disturbing as watching Nate Allen in coverage. All summer long, Kelly has told anyone who would listen that he wants his team to be tough between the whistles and that his offense is only as good as those who execute it.

In the second game of his first NFL season, two of his most important stars still didn't seem to quite get that.


On Twitter: @samdonnellon

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