It was fun while it lasted. Now that the Eagles’ records stands at 1-1, everyone dreaming of playoffs and parades just woke up with a serious headache. This tough loss to the Chargers also guarantees Chip Kelly won’t be the topic du jour across the league and the national media this week. That’s a good thing—this city and its teams don’t wear front-running well. And despite the final score and today’s pessimism, it was an action-packed, entertaining game. Things just look a little different than they did less than a week ago.
1. The Real Defense Stood Up (Or, More Accurately, Sat Down)
Remember how ugly the D played in the second half on Monday night against Washington as RG3 found his groove? Turns out that’s the real Eagles defense. Sure, they forced a few turnovers yesterday, which is already an improvement from last year’s unit. But that squad was horrible; the 2013 squad looks like it’s somewhere between “horrendous” and “subpar.” Even when Phillip Rivers lost his top receiver to injury, the quarterback’s 3rd down conversion rate was lethal. In Kelly’s post-game press conference, he seemed resigned to giving up points in bunches; when asked about improvements at safety, the coach said, “There ain’t any safeties on the street, so we’re gonna play with the ones we got.” The coach seemed more concerned that the offense left points off the board than the fact that his defense couldn’t hold the Chargers—jet-lagged and limping on a short week following a loss—to less than 30.
2. DeSean Jackson Returned to Form, Part 1
I’d given up on Jackson this season, largely because he sulked through the 2012 season (and yes, partly because he’s been dead weight on a few of my fantasy teams). Yesterday’s 193-yard performance gives him 297 yards and two touchdowns in two games. Breakaway speed, ballet-like footwork to pick up extra yards on the sidelines—that’s what you expect from your number-one wideout. What you don’t, especially from a stringbean like Jackson, is gutsy blocking upfield and padlock-tight ball security. Welcome back, D-Jack.
3. DeSean Jackson Returned to Form, Part 2
We’re also talking about the same guy who made one of the most boneheaded goal-line plays in NFL history. Cue the fourth quarter yesterday, as Vick runs into the endzone untouched—and Jackson is flagged on the opposite side of the endzone. Away from the play. Nothing to do with the touchdown, just a hothead letting his emotions get the best of him and giving the Chargers 15 yards on their next possession. That proved critical, as Rivers started his drive in Eagles territory and finished in their end zone. Jackson didn’t single-handedly blow the game, despite what I imagine you’ll hear on sports radio today. But his carelessness in a critical moment overshadowed an otherwise stellar performance.
4. We’re Over The Play-Call Signs
Last week, the illustrated play-call cards held up on the sidelines were chuckle-worthy. But flashing Ozzy Osbourne seemed like a portent of bad things to come, as Sunday in South Philly turned into a black football Sabbath.
5. Batman Needs A Robin
In which LeSean McCoy is the Dark Knight and Bryce Brown is his sidekick. Shady is still cutting like Jam Master Jay (R.I.P.), but as his workload increases, he needs time to catch his breath. Enter Brown, who’s making the most of his touches and keeping the ball off the carpet. He’s quietly become an essential cog in Chip’s offensive machine.
6. There’s Another Chip Kelly
No coach is jovial after a loss, especially when you cough up the home opener to a double-digit underdog. But post-game Chip was decidedly less chipper with the media yesterday. Asked if being on the field for so long affected his defense, he replied, “I don’t know.” His big-picture view after two games? “We’re one and one.” Can’t blame him for being dour, but will someone in public relations please tell him to avoid the phrase “We’ve got to do a better job”? Gave me chills when he said it, and not in a good way. Speaking of which…
7. Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid
The sight of Andy Reid in his red Kansas City polo shirt is frightening enough—like a giant Heinz ketchup bottle with a moustache and a Motorola headset (Big Red, indeed). What’s scarier is his defense, which clamped down on Dallas en route to a win yesterday. That made the Reid-led Chiefs undefeated heading into this week’s Thursday night matchup with his old team. He doesn’t have much intel on Kelly’s offense yet, but Reid knows the personnel better than anyone in the league—Kelly included. Expect Vick and company to face their toughest test yet on offense, while Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe give the defense fits. Considering what’s at stake for the Birds already—a winning record and a chance to beat their old coach—this game should have an Eagles-Cowboys level of intensity.