By Dave Thomas
For the San Diego Chargers, this Sunday’s game in Philadelphia will be a good test as to whether or not the team can put the season-opening catastrophe against the Houston Texans in the past.
While it was just one game, Monday’s 31-28 loss to the Texans could possibly linger over the trip to Philadelphia, though none of the Chargers will ever come out and say that.
Holding a 28-7 lead, the Chargers could only sit back and watch as Houston scored 24 unanswered points, culminating with a 41-yard game-winning field goal from Randy Bullock with 00:05 remaining. As the Texans celebrated on the field, the Bolts knew they had just let one slip through their fingertips.
Now, the focus turns to NFC East Division leading (tied with Dallas) Philadelphia, who looks like a new and improved team in white and green after just one game.
Just One Game on a Long Schedule
As first-year head coach Mike McCoy told Chargers.com, as tough as the loss to the Texans was, it is just one game.
“It’s one of 16 games, it’s a long season and you’ve got to learn from it,” McCoy remarked. “As an organization, you’ve got to put those games away. We had every opportunity to put that game away and we didn’t do it. So we’ve got to learn from it … We’ve got a short week we’re working on right now.”
That short week means preparing for an Eagles squad that looks nothing like the team a year ago that dismissed longtime head coach Andy Reid. After struggling at times to move the ball a season ago, the Birds under new head coach Chip Kelly posted 33 points against Washington Monday evening in a 33-27 victory over their NFC East rivals.
For the Chargers, even though the loss to Houston prevented them from being in a three-way tie in the AFC West (Denver, Kansas City) for first place after the initial week of the 2013 season, it is a long season. Many opportunities to atone for the loss to Houston will be available. The question, however, will the Chargers take advantage of those opportunities?
Defense Needs to Play Four Quarters
The most glaring piece of disturbing evidence to come out of the Houston loss was San Diego’s inability to stop the Texans on key third down scenarios, especially in the second half.
After all but shutting down Houston and its versatile offense in the first half, the Chargers appeared at times in the second half (especially late in the game) like they were out of gas on defense (allowed 449 total yards to the Texans). Throw in the fact that the offense came to a screeching halt, and you had a perfect recipe for disaster late in the contest.
A strong and durable defense will be key come Sunday in South Philadelphia, as the Chargers face an opponent who leads the NFL in rushing yards per game after one week (263 yards per game). The Eagles also come into this Sunday’s contest with the sixth best yards per team average (443.0). If San Diego’s defense is on the field too long chasing both quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, the Bolts could be staring at an 0-2 start to the season.
Lastly, the Chargers managed to come out of the opener without any serious injuries.
Rookie linebacker Manti Te’o (Notre Dame), who had to sit out the first game due to an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for Sunday’s match up with the Birds.
After seeing how San Diego’s defense wilted in the fourth quarter Monday evening, having Te’o on board against Philadelphia certainly can’t hurt.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.