Moral Victory Monday – Ten Takeaways from Chargers 27, Eagles 24

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The question coming into this game was very simple:

Would the Eagles continue to do the things that made them successful in Detroit?

It was a way for Nick Sirianni and Jonathan Gannon to prove that they were evolving over the course of their first NFL year, and show that last week was more than just beating a piss-poor Lions team. Sirianni needed to continue to run the ball, and show a diversity in his play calling. And Gannon needed to continue to mix and match his coverages, following a game where he pressured Jared Goff and got away from his comfort zone of two deep safeties.

The answer to our question was yes and no. Sirianni called a nice offensive game, and again committed to the run, but Gannon’s defense was disappointing, and just couldn’t get a big stop when it mattered. They couldn’t get to the quarterback and couldn’t take the ball away. It wasn’t totally vanilla schematically, but it wasn’t some crazy Ben and Jerry’s flavor either. It wasn’t Cherry Garcia.

Honest to God, the Eagles didn’t play a horrible game when you go lump together the offense, defense, and special teams into one overarching unit. They just lost to a better squad that made a few more big plays. That’s why we’re calling it a moral victory Monday. Posidelphia, folks!

1) Hurts so frustrating

Jalen Hurts went 11-17 for 162 yards and a score, and ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards.

The second-year quarterback continues to do some really nice things, especially with his feet. That front flip on the 3rd and 4 conversion was sick, and it kept alive the drive in which DeVonta Smith scored. You cannot question Hurts’ heart and drive and determination.

However, we’re looking down the road in a macro type of way, and he missed a couple of third down throws that would have changed the game. The first was when he overthrew a wide-open Dallas Goedert to end the first possession. The second was when he missed Smith on that third and goal in the red zone:

Fair or not, those are the throws he’s gonna be judged on, above all else. He could make a bazillion jillion plays with his feet, but those are the “NFL” tosses that he’s going to need to make to get the Eagles to commit to them as their QB1. Hurts can extend plays, and he typically shows poise and composure, but until he starts exhibiting consistency with some of these next-level throws, he’s probably not going to convince anybody that he’s “the guy.” That’s the main thing we’re trying to learn this year. Is he the guy? I still don’t know.

2) ground and pound baby

Running the ball is a BIG topic these days, and they lined up under center with Boston Scott on the first play of the game, then proceeded to throw it six times in a row. Jordan Howard got the next carry with the Eagles backed up on their own two yard line, and then they had to punt.

But on the third drive, guess what? Nick Sirianni decided to open by running the ball, and they immediately gashed LA for 26 yards on two carries, moving the ball right into Charger territory. They got into the red zone, converted a third down, and then handed the ball off three times in a row to punch the ball into the end zone.

There were eight called run plays and two called pass plays on that scoring drive, so it seems like Sirianni is understanding the need to stick with the run despite a proclivity to throw.

Keep in mind, the Chargers came into this one with the league’s worst yards per carry number, giving up 5.1 on average. They had given up a league-high eight runs of 20+ yards and were conceding more ground yards than everybody not named the Houston Texans.

Sirianni gave the ball 22 times to Eagles running backs, and those three, Howard, Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell, ran it for 105 yards. That’s a 4.77 YPC number, and one of the reasons why we’re going with a moral victory Monday.

 

3) defensive regression

If you wanna exemplify “bend but don’t break,” look no further than the Chargers’ opening drive. They went 98 yards, took the ball down to the Eagles’ two, then decided to throw the ball three times while running Austin Ekeler once. Philadelphia would have collectively had a conniption if Sirianni was calling that set of plays.

Early on, it looked like Jonathan Gannon had gone back to his old ways. Passive coverage and a light box. I hate to be that guy, but I really need to see “the film” to get a full understanding of what the Eagles were doing Sunday. We get the game replay right away, but the all-22 is delayed, and that shows us safety and corner movement, which can sometimes be off screen.

For what it’s worth, Sirianni said on Monday morning that the Eagles played that soft middle/two deep scheme only about 33% of the time, so we’ll go back over the tape this week and see how much man coverage and single-high safety was mixed it. He said they pressured 20 times.

One thing we can determine right now is that the Birds were giving up easy stuff underneath, because Justin Herbert completed a bazillion short passes, according to his NGS chart:

Just one big bomb over the top, one 20+ yard attempt. I went through some old charts, and Herbert looks to have attempted two or more passes of 20+ yards in every game except this one. The Eagles tried to take away the deep shot and allowed that underneath dink and dunk shit again, which leads me into the next segment:

4) Presented without comment

No comment. The good thing is that a bunch of stinky quarterbacks are up next.

Edit: It’s worth noting that the front four didn’t generate a single sack or QB hit. Even in a boring-ass conservative scheme like this, that’s hard to do.

5) Quotables

Here’s Hurts talking about those missed throws:

“[On the throw to WR DeVonta Smith] I was expecting something else and ended up getting out the pocket and made a throw kind of back peddling. Maybe I didn’t need to do that. I ended up leading him too much. It’s just a missed opportunity in my eyes. And then I think about the opening drive to Eagles TE Dallas Goedert. I couldn’t really follow through with my throw and couldn’t finish through it. Maybe I could have gotten deeper in the pocket. Knowing that they were bringing five, it‘s kind of hard to block man-on-man sometimes. It’s something I’m going to learn from, but I look at it as a missed opportunity for me regardless of [it being] late in the game, what that looks like and putting us in a position to go in. It’s about what you didn’t do.”

Also this:

6) Mistakes and breaks

They’ve actually cut down this list significantly, it’s just that the mistakes they do make tend to be killers:

Mistakes:

  • Steven Nelson with an untimely roughing the passer penalty
  • Big play Slay holding on a man-to-man possession (looked like it might have been hand fighting, bad call?)
  • Derek Barnett with his one dumbass penalty of the game, this time a 3rd and 6 neutral zone infraction

The Barnett flag was a total backbreaker. Of course it was! The Chargers converted on 3rd and 1, marched right down the field, and T.J. Edwards whiffed on a tackle before getting himself stuck in molasses on the Herbert touchdown run.

Breaks:

  • LA neutral zone infraction on 3rd down of opening drive.
  • idiotic Chargers deciding to throw the ball three times from the Eagles’ two yard line
  • Chargers having to burn a timeout on 1st down during their second red zone possession
  • LA burning another timeout when they saw Tyree Jackson on the field during third down.
  • Jack Driscoll got away with what looked like an obvious hold on that 3rd and 3 that Hurts converted with his feet (third drive).
  • Chargers shanking an extra point.
  • Herbert’s streak of 11 straight completions ending with what looked like an easy pitch and catch
  • Chargers false start on 1st and 10, 2:00 remaining in the fourth

LA did more dumb things than the Eagles did.

7) Ancillary wins and losses

Things are improving in these areas:

  • lost time of possession 33:37 to 26:23
  • net 0 turnover margin
  • 8-12 on third down (75%)
  • 0-0 on fourth down
  • allowed Chargers to go 5-10 on third down (50%)
  • lost 7 yards on one sack
  • 2-3 success rate in the red zone
  • 3 penalties for 25 yards
  • 20 first downs, 28 for LA
  • ran 65 total plays, LA 57

The Eagles had 35 minutes in TOP last week, which was a season high, and turned out to be an aberration. After making strides in clock control, they regressed this week, and fell below their season average of 27:13, which was third-worst in the NFL. The good thing is that they’ve mostly cleaned up the penalties and are doing better in the turnover and third down departments.

8) Nick’s best call?

Definitely pounding the rock on that third drive.

As far as individual plays, I loved the QB run on 3rd and 5 in the red zone. They just went five-wide in 12 personnel, doubled the defensive tackle, and won the numbers game in the box:

Good job by Landon Dickerson on that play of reaching the second level and getting a hand on the linebacker.

I also liked the zone read with the pulling tight end, which is straight out of Hurts’ college tape:

You find that stuff in his Alabama and Oklahoma tape. More QB runs with lead blockers. Different zone read and RPO wrinkles. They can still have success with it at this level, as long as Sirianni keeps mixing the requisite under center and pro set looks.

9) Nick’s worst call?

You could point to the punt from 4th and 5 at the LA 45 on the opening drive. He hasn’t been very aggressive in those situations this season. 

The only other thing I can think of is perhaps challenging that 3rd down spot on LA’s final drive. It looked somewhat generous, and they might have been successful moving the ball back a yard, but that’s a tough risk to commit to when you could use those timeouts late in the fourth quarter.

10) Excellence in broadcasting

After two straight weeks of Jonathan Vilma, we were gifted Ian Eagle and Charles Davis, with Evan Washburn on the sidelines. No relation to Jim Washburn, who brought us the heralded WIDE NINE back in the day.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying super-close attention to the broadcast, because I had the Union game on the second screen and was scatter brained for most of the afternoon. But Davis did a good job while talking for 80% of the time. He is wordy but enthusiastic, and that’s just fine.

One thing I did notice was Nate Burleson at halftime, who said something about the Eagles having a run-first mentality, or a ground and pound identity. Huh? Has he watched the Birds this year? I swear these guys just make shit up, unless I was hearing things.

Otherwise, we had a pretty straightforward and uneventful television experience, so I’ll leave you this morning with a statistic:

Temple University and the Eagles are a combined 2-6 at Lincoln Financial Field this year. Big wins over Wagner and Memphis.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email