By Dave Thomas
It was not pretty at times. It was not exactly how the San Diego Chargers likely drew it up on the drawing board. It was certainly something one would not want to watch over and over again in the film room.
When all was said and done, however, the Chargers were able to escape the tough environment that is Lincoln Financial Field, scoring a 33-30 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. With the win, the Bolts headed back to Southern California at 1-1, something that sounds much better than the thought of going 0-2 to start the young season.
In a game that saw Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd carted off on a stretcher with a neck sprain (Floyd was taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons), San Diego did just about everything possible to give away the victory, something they did in the season opener (a 31-28 loss to Houston). Fumbles deep in the red zone by running back Ryan Mathews and tight end Antonio Gates potentially took away 14 points, points that could have made this a much different game.
To their credit, the Chargers did not give into the pressure that is playing four full quarters of football. In the loss to the Texans less than a week earlier, the Chargers coughed up a 28-7 lead, something that brought back eerie memories of a season ago, when San Diego seemingly routinely got leads, only not be able to finish.
In a game that featured Eagles quarterback Michael Vick once again piling up big numbers (23-of-36, 428 yards, 2 TDs), the Chargers made just enough key plays to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Nick Novak, who kicked the game-winning field goal (46 yards) with :07 remaining in the game, was also good on attempts of 49, 44, and 33 yards.
The story of the day, however, was San Diego’s offense.
The Chargers looked like the Oregon Ducks on the offensive side of the ball, piling up 545 yards of total offense and 31 first downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers was on cue again this week, finishing the day with three TD’s and 419 yards of passing.
With those numbers, it sounds like it was all but perfect execution by the offense.
That, however, was far from the case. In a close game, those earlier mentioned turnovers by Mathews and Gates nearly cost the Chargers the game.
While San Diego was able to survive those miscues on this late summer afternoon, it certainly is not something it wants to make a habit of.
Offense: Grade A-
Although San Diego put up gaudy numbers (even against a susceptible Philadelphia defense), the two aforementioned turnovers have become an all-too-common thing in recent years. Mathews needs to shake the label of being a fumbler, especially down in the red zone. Some Charger fans are beginning to openly question just how many chances the Fresno State product should get. While there is no doubt talent there with number 24, his fumbling (especially in key spots of the game) must be eliminated. If not, San Diego may look elsewhere for a top running back come 2014.
On another note, as great as Gates is (future Hall-of-Famer), it is clear that he oftentimes carries the ball like a loaf of bread. Instead of tucking the ball away as tacklers converge on him, he’s all too often left the ball dangling out there, much like he did as he was being stripped of the ball while going in for a touchdown Sunday. Meantime, although Rivers was sacked on the afternoon, the offensive line as a whole did a good job of giving their QB just enough time to hit some key passes. Among those catching passes, Eddie Royal had a huge day, hauling in seven balls for 90 yards and three scores. Lastly, San Diego held the ball for 40:17, compared to just 19:43 for Philadelphia.
Defense: Grade B+
You would not think that giving up 30 points would net a high rating for a defense, but the Chargers did just enough to keep Vick and Co. from taking charge of the game. Even though Philadelphia put up impressive offensive numbers, it was not enough for the Birds to go to 2-0 (beat Washington in opener). Yes, Vick hit a number of wide open receivers (more than San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano would have liked), the Chargers came up with enough key stops to preserve the win. That said, the Chargers can’t afford to get into shootouts week after week; giving up 61 points in two games is something that Pagano and Co. will definitely need to correct.
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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.