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Eagles Lose to the Chargers: The Grades

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Playing without their starting left tackle, a makeshift linebacking corps and a depleted secondary, the Eagles shouldn’t have much of a chance against a good San Diego Chargers team.

For most of the day they didn’t, and never led, but behind 450 passing yards from quarterback Donovan McNabb the Eagles came from way back to have a shot on the game’s final play.

Still they lost and there are no medals for trying, here’s a look at San Diego’s 31-23 win that sends the Eagles to 5-4 as the second half of the season is underway.
 
PASSING OFFENSE –
It’s hard to disparage an effort that produced 450 yards, although it took 55 passes to get there. The Eagles lost this game, not because of Donovan McNabb’s total game (35-for-55, 450 yards, two touchdowns), but because of their failure inside the 20 yardline, or more specifically the 10 yardline. Three times in the first three quarters the Eagles had the ball inside the Chargers 10 and three times settled for field goals. In the fourth quarter the Eagles got inside the Chargers 10 two more times and scored touchdowns. McNabb was 2-for-6 for 11 yards on the first three failed drives and 2-for-5 for 11 yards on the two touchdown drives inside the 10.
McNabb used eight different receivers on the day and four – Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek – all caught at least six. Avant had a career day with eight catches for 156 yards.
Grade: A-
 
RUSHING OFFENSE – Again the balance of the offense was ridiculous. Yes, the Eagles fell behind early, but they ran the ball just 13 times, and they ran it just twice on the first three drives of the game when it was close. Brian Westbrook carried six times for 28 yards (a 4.7-yard avg.) before leaving the game with his second concussion in four weeks. This could be it for one of the best Eagles running backs in history. The rest of the Eagles offense, including a botched reverse by Maclin, produced just one yard on seven tries. Inside the San Diego 10, the Eagles ran the ball three times – once each by Westrbook, fullback Leonard Weaver and Eldra Buckley—and did not gain a yard.
Grade: D
 
PASSING OFFENSE – You figured it would be tough for the Eagles, playing without their No. 3 and No. 4 cornerbacks – the injured Ellis Hobbs (on injured reserve) and the suspended Joselio Hanson – against a good Chargers passing offense. When Sheldon Brown went out with a hamstring injury it made it even more difficult. San Diego and quarterback Phillip Rivers attempted just 25 passes. However, Rivers completed 20 of those 25 for 231 yards and two touchdowns for a 131.8 quarterback rating. On San Diego’s final drive, which began with 7:12 on the fourth quarter clock, and lasted until 30 seconds remained, Rivers was 5-for-6 for 54 yards. Rivers had decent time to throw, as the Chargers nullified the Eagles best pass rusher, Trent Cole, and allowed just two sacks. The Eagles also failed to force a turnover.
Grade C-
 
RUSHING DEFENSE – After the game, Eagles players admitted they were surprised the Chargers ran so often, especially early in the game. With the Eagles moving their linebackers all around and starting Chris Gocong in the middle, you figured the Chargers might try. They did and LaDainian Tomlinson carried 24 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the Chargers had four carries for another 23 yards. The Eagles loaded the box at the end to keep L.T. out of the end zone a third time, but it was too late by then.
Grade: C
 
SPECIAL TEAMS – Coverage teams were pretty good, keeping the dangerous Darren Sproles to 24.5 yards on six kickoff returns and just 4.3 yards on three punt returns. That’s not bad at all. David Akers made three chip-shot field goals and Sav Rocca averaged 40 yards on four punts, but put two of the four inside the 20. The Eagles did miss Hobbs on kickoff returns, as Maclin managed just an 18.0 average on four returns. Victor Harris showed a little but with a 28.5 average on two returns, and may get another look. Neither Jackson (two returns for six yards), nor Maclin (one for seven) did much on punt returns.
Grade: B-     

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