The Eagles gave up 539 yards and 33 points. This was an ugly performance. There were multiple reasons for the problems. Right now everyone is focused on the Safety position, but there were issues beyond just that. I think you’re making a mistake if you try to pin this game on one player or position.
Let’s start up front. The pass rush was disappointing. They only sacked Philip Rivers once and didn’t hit him nearly enough. We do have to give some credit to the Chargers. We’re used to Rivers playing in Norv Turner’s offense, which means throwing the ball downfield. Things were very different under Mike McCoy. The top 3 pass catchers were Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead and Eddie Royal…the TE, RB and slot receiver. Many of those were short, quick throws.
Still, the rush wasn’t good enough. Watching the game, I was mad at Bill Davis for not using enough 4-2-5 looks. Upon re-watching it, Davis did give that look plenty of times. The Chargers blocked well and Rivers got the ball out quickly. Not enough Eagles players were winning the 1-on-1 battles.
Coverage obviously was a major issue. There were blown coverages too often. The Chargers used a lot of bunch sets and Eagles were picked off by each other a few times. This will get cleaned up by the coaching staff, but it was a problem on Sunday. There were some plays where guys just didn’t cover the right player. There were other plays where individuals did a poor job in coverage. There were also a few plays where there was tight coverage, but Rivers put the ball on the money and all you could do was shake your head.
One of the big problems was Mychal Kendricks on Gates. Antonio is a crafty veteran as well as a good athlete. He used good fakes and quick moves to get away from Kendricks. Gates took MK to school in a big way. That will happen to young players when going against veterans. There were a couple of plays where Kendricks was on the ground because Gates got the best of him. And the Eagles did mix things up. Kendricks tried to press/jam Gates. He played off. Gates found a way to get open. The coaches tried other players on Gates, but no one had much success.
The tackling was good in the opener, but a mess on Sunday. The Chargers got plenty of yards due to defenders simply missing the runner/receiver.
There is no question that the Eagles simply lack ideal talent on defense. You could see the physical limitations of the DBs. The frustrating part is that Kendricks and the DL do have talent, but didn’t play well enough.
As far as coaching goes, I do give Davis credit for trying different things. He used the 3-4, 3-3-5 and 4-2-5. There were even a couple of 4-3 looks. The DL stunted at times. Sopoaga would loop outside with the DE slanting inside. It looked like over and under fronts were mixed in. He blitzed up the middle. He blitzed off the edge. He had OLBs line up on slot receivers. Sometimes they would blitz, sometimes they would drop. Nothing worked with any consistency. I’ll share thoughts on solutions in a later post. For now, let’s focus on what did happen.
I haven’t had a chance to check the All-22 yet so it is tough to say much about defensive coverages and adjustments. I thought Davis tried a lot of different things. The problem is that nothing worked well consistently.
One other issue must be discussed. Penalties. There were crushing penalties on Williams and Chung that kept drives going. 3rd down stops were negated by stupidity. I don’t mind a DB being aggressive and grabbing some jersey, but you cannot get a handful of jersey and hold it for 5 seconds. That’s just dumb.
* On the 3rd play of the game, SD had 2 TEs, RB and FB. Only 1 WR. For some reason, the defense stayed in Cover 2. That meant 8 blockers (5 OL + 2 TEs + FB) vs 7 defenders. They ran to the right for 8 yds. Someone has to make an adjustment call on that.
* SD ran play-action pass from simple I-left formation. Looked like ILBs were confused on who had the RB and who had the TE. Woodhead caught a short pass and turned it into a nice gain.
* Opened the 2nd Qtr with a 4-3 look.
* On the first Chargers TD, there were a couple of receivers to the right side. Both DBs played off and then were in each other’s way as they went into coverage. When DBs are to the same side, they normally line up at different depths to avoid pick plays like that. Nate and Hughes were the DBs. Not sure who was at fault. I’m sure most will want to blame Nate, but they would just be guessing.
On a later play, Cary Williams and Earl Wolff had a similar issue, but the pass was incomplete.
* Went with 4-3 look in the 2nd Qtr, but walked Barwin out over slot. 72-97-91-58 was the line.
* TD in the early 3rd Qtr. Looked like the Eagles were in Cover 3. Cary Williams played man coverage and stuck with his WR. That left a zone completely vacated and that’s where Eddie Royal ended up. Nate started to break that way, but Cary was in his way and picked him off. Also, Barwin didn’t have proper depth. He should have gotten deeper to serve as underneath defender for that route. Instead, he was focused on player running a shallow route. Ryans was also on that guy and it was 3rd/10. Barwin should have known to be deeper. These are the kind of coverage mistakes that will happen as players learn a new scheme and each other. Different coaches teach different versions of coverage, even basic zones. The players must be on the same page for them to work.
COX - Helped on Barwin’s sack by driving the RG back into Rivers. Great hustle on the next play, a screen pass. Got outside and helped tackle Woodhead. Was lined up as the NT on run play late in the half. Held ground vs double team and that enabled Trent to hit Mathews and knock the ball loose. Blew up 3rd Qtr run. Worked to inside of blocker and then grabbed the RB as he tried to go by. Good awareness, good hands. No gain. C tried to reach block him on outside run and Cox just drove him into the backfield. Made the RB stay deep, wide. Drove the C back to Rivers on pass play late in the 3rd Qtr. Beat Fluker with inside move and Rivers got rid of the ball quickly. Looped inside on 3rd/10 play in the 4th Qtr and forced Rivers to throw the ball to underneath receiver. That led to FG.
SOPOAGA - Blah game. Didn’t get push on pass plays. Wasn’t difference maker vs the run. Did make one tackle while hustling down the LOS in pursuit.
THORNTON - Had some good moments. Was disruptive at times, on both run and pass plays. Credited with 2 tackles. Disrupted a 1st Qtr run by driving his OL back and then grabbing the RB as he went wide. Didn’t make the tackle, but slowed the RB and led to TFL. Stuffed a 3rd Qtr run play to right side by sliding over from LDE. Gave up a couple of yds, but made a strong tackle. Shed block of C and stuffed inside run in the mid-4th. Got blocked on late 3rd/1 run. Spun off the block and made the tackle, but gave up 1.5 yds.
CURRY - DNP.
GEATHERS - Backup LDE. Played some at DT. Awkward. Got pushed to inside on 4th Qtr run play. Did not stand out to me at all.
LOGAN - Backup RDE. Played some DT as well. Tackled Woodhead on 4th Qtr run. Got him as Danny started upfield. Still gave up 5 yds. Failed to do much as a pass rusher.
SQUARE - Backup NT. Struggled to get pass rush early. Got moved 3 yds off the ball by double-team on early 2nd Qtr run. Got moved off the ball on the next play and that created a big running lane right up the middle. Uses his hands well. Love his effort. Just doesn’t have the size/athleticism combo that I like.
COLE - Good game. Better than I expected after watching it live. Coaches lined Trent up over the slot receiver on several plays and had him fly to the backfield at the snap. WR Eddie Royal tried to block Trent on a run play. Trent just pushed him to the ground. After the play Trent was talking to him. I’m sure he was like “Ed, don’t you know big people beat up little people?” Flew off the edge, unblocked, on pass play and dove for Rivers. Philip fired the ball to the flat, but the pass was off target. Made good stop on run play that came to his side. Got off block of OL and tripped up the runner. Drew holding call on Dunlap on the next play. Exploded off the ball and drove King back. Got held as he tried to get the RB. Beat Dunlap late in the half and put Rivers on the ground, but only after the pass was gone. On the next play, Trent got held by King, but fought through that and forced a Mathews fumble. Blew by the LG and was in the backfield instantly, but Rivers dumped the ball to his RB for a short gain. Trent hustled, helped make the tackle. Dunlap had a FS penalty when getting ready to block Trent on pass play. Beat Dunlap cleanly on pass play and hit Rivers as he threw. Pass fell incomplete. Inches away from knocking the ball loose for a strip sack. Fell to ground after using spin move on final drive. Dove for Rivers feet, but couldn’t hang on. Would have been huge play.
BARWIN - Had a tremendous play on the opening drive. Attacked the RT on a pass play. Hit him while he was off balance and knocked the RT to the ground. Barwin then got to Rivers for the sack. Impressive burst, power on the play. Had TFL on run to his side in the late 1st Qtr. Ced blew up the play and Barwin was able to get off TE’s block and make the stop. Blew by Fluker on 2nd Qtr pass play and forced quick throw. Made tackle of Brown after short dump off pass in the late 3rd. Missed tackle of Woodhead in the flat after short pass. Happened on 3rd/4 on final drive and Danny got enough to keep the drive alive. Got pressure in the 4th Qtr on a couple of plays, but was unable to get to Rivers on those critical drives. Credited with 6 solo tackles, sack and TFL.
GRAHAM - Got on the field at ROLB in the 1st Qtr. Played DE and LB. Didn’t get used as much as I wanted, but also didn’t impress when he was on the field. Had pass rush opportunities and just struggled to get into the backfield.
KENDRICKS - Bad game. Mis-read run play on opening drive. Went to wrong gap (for no reason) and run went where he’d been. Struggled with Antonio Gates. Tried to jam him on 1st Qtr pass play and didn’t get a clean blow. Gates broke hard to the outside and was wide open for easy catch. Made sloppy tackle of Mathews on run that came right at him. Reached for the RB instead of attacking him. Overran run on next play. Came right to him, but had started to flow with the OL. Made tackle, but gave up too many yds. Missed easy tackle of Woodhead that should have been for loss. Only gave up a couple of yds, but still bad. Missed easy tackle of Gates after short catch. That would have left SD in 3rd/long, but instead they got a 1st down. Recovered fumble that Cole knocked loose late in the half. Got to blitz off the edge in the early 3rd, but Rivers was able to move up in the pocket. Tripped up RB in the 3rd Qtr and held him to short gain. Good hustle on an outside run to make that play. Gave up 6-yd completion to Gates on 3rd/4. Coverage wasn’t bad, but needed to be better. Gates got just enough separation to give Rivers a target. Made a good 3rd down tackle of WR Brown after short catch on crossing route. Forced a FG. Tried to cover Gates on 3rd/3. Bit hard inside and Gates gave him a shove. That got MK off balance and Gates was wide open for short catch. Got the 1st down.
RYANS - Good game. Made a nice play on early screen. Read the play and got a hand on Woodhead, but wasn’t able to tackle him. MK cleaned up, but only after Ryans had slowed the RB down. Blew up an early inside run by being partient, reading the play and then making a good tackle. Made physical open field tackle of Woodhead after Kendricks miss. Pulled the helmet off Danny in the process of wrestling him to the ground. No penalty. Had big hit on Floyd after catch of the middle. Knocked him out of the game. Floyd left on stretcher, but luckily turned out to be okay. That was the opening play of the 2nd half. Helped stuff a run in the late 3rd Qtr. Knocked OL out of his way and got in on the tackle. Can be such a physical player at times. Tackled Royal after WR screen in the late 4th. Had a chance to make the tackle on Royal’s WR screen TD late in the game but whiffed. Took a false step on the fake at the beginning of the play and that delayed him getting outside to make the tackle. Credited with 9 total tackles (6 solo).
MATTHEWS - Played some OLB. First saw him late in the 2nd Qtr. RB came to his side, but cut up the field before he got near Casey. Hustled downfield on pass play and recovered the ball that Boykin knocked loose from Gates. Got in on tackle on WR screen in the 4th Qtr. Good motor, but nothing special as edge rusher.
KNOTT - Didn’t see him on defense.
ALLEN - Bad game. Got facemask penalty on first play, a run to the outside. Nate didn’t take a great angle on the play and then didn’t explode through the runner. Instead reached for him and got a stiff arm. Responded by grabbing the facemask. Came up and made solid tackle on next play, a pass over the middle. Just looked slow in breaking on the ball so the receiver had time to make the grab. Hurt himself when he tried to hit Gates, but instead got Chung. Only missed a few plays. Had man coverage on Danny Woodhead on 3rd/short at the end of the 1st Qtr. Was slow to get wide and Rivers got the ball to Danny for a short catch and 1st down. Gave up TD in early 2nd Qtr when he and other DB were in each other’s way and Royal was wide open for short pass. Royal then got into the endzone before Nate could get there. Came up and tackled Royal after catch over the middle in mid-4th. King Dunlap got away with holding Nate on Royal’s screen TD late in the game. Gave up completion to Gates for 15 yds to open the final drive. Next play missed easy open field tackle of Gates and gave up 20 yds.
CHUNG - Not a good game. Tried to tackle Gates by diving for his feet, but whiffed and Gates almost scored TD on that play. Flew up the field on run play in the early 3rd Qtr and put Mathews down after short gain. Came up quickly vs 3rd Qtr run play and helped tackle Brown on inside run. Pile still got moved a few yds. Made a critical mistake in the late 3rd. Grabbed jersey of receiver trying to release and was called for holding. D actually stopped the Chargers on that play, making the penalty a back-breaker. Blitzed from the slot on both run and pass plays. Tried to cover Royal in the slot on key 3rd down in the early 4th. Got beat and gave up completion. Then made sloppy tackle attempt and missed. Had good coverage on Royal on next play, a pass into the endzone. Rivers just threw the ball away.
WOLFF - Played quite a bit. Came in late in the 1st Qtr. Helped on TFL on first play. Quick to get involved in a run to his side. Love that. Be active and aggressive. Came up and hit Floyd hard after catch in front of him. Good break on the ball. Sure tackle. Looked like he was slow to get over and cover Floyd on intermediate pass. Williams played off and seemed to expect S help from the inside. Rivers had wide open target for big gain. Looked lost while trying to cover Gates on crossing route. That was the fumble in the RZ play. Flew up on 3rd Qtr run play and hit the RB in the backfield. Slung him to the ground and gave up 3 yds. Flew upfield on the next play, a run, and took on the FB. Earl got knocked on his butt, but helped to disrupt the play. Only minimal gain. Tackled Royal after Chung missed him on pass play. Single-covered Gates on pass play in the 4th Qtr. Helped break up the play. Gates was bobbling the ball anyway, but Earl made sure he didn’t make the catch. Took poor angle to the ball on Royal’s WR screen for TD. Cut under the official and that was too flat an angle. Had chance to tackle Royal but right at the goal line. Missed him. Wolff impressed me overall. Love his tackling.
FLETCHER - DNP
WILLIAMS - Not his best day. Got off to a rough start. On the 2nd drive, Cary missed an easy tackle on RB Ryan Mathews. Did make solid stop vs Mathews on short pass in the flat to open the 2nd Qtr. Made a beautiful leaping PBU on pass in the early 2nd Qtr, but drew flag. Had a handful of jersey for much of the play. Grabbed jersey on other plays. If they’re calling it, you have to stop doing it. Called for 3 PIs. 2 were definitely legit. Didn’t see good replay on the other one. Gave up a lot of completions. Sometimes had good coverage, but other times was a step or two away. Pressed plenty, but didn’t go bump ‘n run. Not sure why he wasn’t jamming receivers more at the line. Made good tackle of Gates on 3rd/4 to keep him short of the sticks, but penalty on Chung wiped out the play.
HUGHES - Lined up in slot vs Floyd and got beat to the outside for good gain late in the 1st half. Coverage wasn’t bad, but Floyd is so much bigger and the throw was terrific.
BOYKIN - Got the start outside. Pretty good game. Had air tight coverage on WR on 1st Qtr pass play, but Rivers still threw the ball and the guy made the catch. Don’t know how Boykin didn’t hit the ball. His arm was in the receiver’s arms. Great play by QB/WR. Blitzed off the right side on 3rd down at the end of the 1st Qtr. Hit Rivers just as the ball left. Could have been a huge play, but the pass got out safely. Had tight man coverage on Brown on deep ball in the mid-2nd. Pass was incomplete. Made a huge play late in the half when he hustled in pursuit of Gates. Instead of just making the tackle, BB saw the ball swinging and knocked it loose from behind. That prevented either a TD or FG since it was in the RZ. Beaten by Royal on 3rd/7 in the early 2nd half. Boykin seemed to be playing the sticks, thinking Royal would go for the 1st down. Royal turned upfield and got cleanly away Boykin. Royal then made a spectacular catch for a gain of 23. Boykin guessed wrong. Ugh. Broke up 3rd/5 pass to Brown that actually a downfield throw. Came from slot and BB had tight coverage. Gave up short catch to Brown in the late 3rd, but once again had tight coverage. Gave up intermediate completion to Allen on 3rd/7 play in the early 4th Qtr. Critical down. Boykin was banged up on the play and went out, but returned quickly.