Jackson hurt by missed chances, hot temper

Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates his 61-yard touchdown reception with fans in the third quarter.
Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates his 61-yard touchdown reception with fans in the third quarter. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 17, 2013

The San Diego Chargers took a good look at the game film from the Eagles opener against Washington and decided that, regardless of what else happened in Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, LeSean McCoy was not going to beat them.

The Chargers won't be the last team to make that decision this season. McCoy is that good, and defensive coordinators know that without Jeremy Maclin on the field for the Eagles, the only deep threat they must contain is DeSean Jackson.

It was a nice enough plan, but the Chargers couldn't pull it off. Jackson torched their secondary and got open deep repeatedly. On another day, he might have had three or four touchdowns. Not on this day, though.

Two things went horribly wrong in what should have been a nice home opener win, and was instead a 33-30 loss. The first, and the worst, was that the Eagles' defense couldn't stop San Diego and quarterback Philip Rivers. It wasn't that the defense didn't show up or didn't play as well as it could. Unfortunately, that might be exactly how well the defense can play. If the Eagles hadn't gotten lucky on a couple of red-zone turnovers in the first half, even the great day Jackson should have had wouldn't have made a difference.

As it was, the second stumbling block of the day was the fact that getting a guy open is a lot easier than getting something out of it. Jackson got behind the defense for five potentially huge receptions, but the Eagles were only able to take advantage of one of them, his 61-yard touchdown that tied the game late in the third quarter.

"You're not going to hit all of them. You're lucky if you get one," quarterback Michael Vick said. "We made our share of plays today, but we've got to get better. You keep firing, but you're not going to hit them all. You wish you could. Next week maybe we'll hit them all."

Next week arrives in just three days for the Eagles, so there is time for quick redemption against Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. But what Vick said is the truth. A lot more can go wrong with attempting a deep pass than can go wrong with handing the ball off to McCoy with room to run. That's the way it looks to defensive coordinators, too, and that's why there will be more home run opportunities for Jackson this season.

"As a wide receiver, you love to get those opportunities," Jackson said. "We'll go back and look at the film and there are a lot of things we can get better at. In general, no excuses. We took the loss."

In the second quarter, Vick just missed Jackson on a deep sideline route after the receiver got well behind the cornerback. The ball drifted just out of bounds and Jackson couldn't keep his feet in as he caught the pass. Vick overthrew a wide-open Jackson on the last drive of the opening half and then, on the first drive of the third quarter, Jackson dropped a ball on another deep route. On that same drive, Vick and Jackson did put together a touchdown route for 37 yards, but the score was nullified by a formation penalty against rookie Lane Johnson.

"It's very frustrating," Jackson said. "There was the touchdown that was called back, and the one I caught out of bounds, and the overthrow and the one that slipped off my hands, but that's part of the game. We've got to keep going and keep working."

Almost as frustrating was the penalty Jackson took at the end of a Vick touchdown run that gave the Eagles their first (and only) lead of the day, 27-23, midway through the final period. Jackson had been shoved out of bounds on the play and turned to give the defender a retaliatory shove. He got 15 yards for that, assessed on the following kickoff, and after a decent San Diego kickoff return ended with fumble that advanced the ball farther downfield, the Chargers were able to start their drive on the Eagles 39-yard line.

Maybe it's a moot point, since the Eagles weren't doing well stopping Rivers regardless of field position, but Jackson's foul turned into the equivalent of a 41-yard penalty, taking into account Alex Henery's almost-automatic touchbacks.

"I've got to do a better job of keeping my composure," Jackson said. "I didn't think it was that big a call, but that's what happened."

"We've all got to learn to be professionals at all times. Sometimes that's tough to do," Vick said. "He'll learn and he'll think about it tonight and he'll make a better decision next time."

Well, maybe, although we've heard that before regarding Jackson's temper and temperament. He's in his sixth season now and will turn 27 before it is over, so the time to stop waiting for that change is past due.

San Diego scored its last touchdown on that short field and then the teams traded field goals in their final possessions, and that was that. The Chargers, who chose a philosophy that dared Vick and Jackson to beat them, had gotten away with it, even though Jackson was behind them with great regularity.

"There were so many opportunities in this game. You look back and if-this and if-that," Jackson said. "It's football, though, and you can't really look back."

Even so, he had 193 yards on nine catches, and would have easily broken his single-game career-high of 210 yards if any of those near misses had come through. He'll have other chances this season, though. As long as handing the ball to LeSean McCoy is easy and completing a long pass is difficult, Jackson will get plenty of them.

Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Read recent columns at www.philly.com/philly/sports/bob_ford.

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