Eagles hold on late to fend off Chargers; eclipse last season's road win total

Eagles hold on late to fend off Chargers; eclipse last season's road win total


CARSON, Calif. — The Eagles already have more road wins through a quarter of this season than they did all last year.
Although Sunday wasn't much of a road game.
Eagles fans absolutely invaded the StubHub Center and got to see their team leave the soccer pitch with a 26-24 win over the Chargers (see observations). It was so loud it seemed like Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers was having trouble with crowd noise.
With the win, the Eagles improved to 3-1 on the season, while the Chargers dropped to 0-4.
The Eagles remain first in the NFC East and gained ground on the Cowboys, who lost to the other L.A. team.
The Chargers called Sunday a sellout crowd of 25,374 in the soccer stadium. It's hard to venture a guess but there really might have been more Eagles fans in attendance.
The Eagles weren't perfect Sunday — far from it — but in a league where road wins are hard to come by, they'll take it (see report card). LeGarrette Blount ran like a monster, Carson Wentz hit some perfect throws, the defense made enough stops and last week's hero Jake Elliott hit four field goals.
The Eagles will have a fun six-hour flight back to Philly tonight.
Turning point
There wasn't really a turning point in this one. The game was close but the Eagles led the whole way. Chris Long's strip sack sort of set the tone.
Key stat
Blount went over 100 yards. He became the first Eagle to rush for 100 yards in a game this year. Ryan Mathews did it twice last season. It was the third-biggest rushing game of Blount's career. He finished with 136 yards.
Offensive stud
Blount was running with force Sunday. His 68-yarder in the fourth quarter was a career long.
Offensive dud
Torrey Smith continues to drop too many passes. It's now becoming an every week thing. Wentz hit him on a beautiful strike in the first half and Smith couldn't bring it in.
Defensive stud
Long got the game started with a strip sack and provided constant pressure all afternoon.
Defensive dud
Rasul Douglas wasn't really bad, but he did get beaten by Tyrell Williams for a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first half. It let the Chargers back into the game. It seemed like Rivers was happy to pick on him.
Key plays
• Rookie Corey Clement picked up huge conversions on third downs late in the fourth quarter to ice the game (see rookie report).
• Hunter Henry caught a four-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone and tapped both toes. Originally, it was ruled incomplete, but the Chargers won the challenge to cut into the Eagles' lead, 26-24.
• Keenan Allen caught a slant and went 50 yards for a big first down on 3rd-and-long.
• On a key third down, Chargers lineman Darius Philon was called for illegal hands to the face to keep the drive alive. Wendell Smallwood dove across the end zone for a touchdown a few plays later.
• Blount broke off a 68-yard run, throwing off would-be tacklers along the way, and set up the Eagles deep in Los Angeles territory.
• Austin Ekeler broke off a 35-yard run up the gut for a touchdown. It looked like Mychal Kendricks over-pursued in the backfield on the play and then Rodney McLeod and a few others couldn't make a tackle. It cut the Eagles' lead to 19-17. It was the second-longest run the Eagles have given up this year.
• Late in the third quarter, Wentz changed the play at the line of scrimmage and was able to hit Alshon Jeffery for a 13-yard gain to move the chains on third down. Wentz stood in the pocket and delivered the throw knowing he was about to get crushed. But it kept the drive alive and the Eagles kicked a field goal to go up 19-10.
• A week after the Eagles failed on 4th-and-8 near midfield, head coach Doug Pederson elected to punt the ball on 4th-and-1 from his own 49-yard line with 1:04 left. The Chargers took the ball and went down the field to kick a field goal to make the score 16-10 as the first half expired.
• Rivers hit Williams for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Chargers right back in the game. Douglas was supposed to be in coverage. It's the second straight week the Eagles have given up a 75-yard pass.
• The Eagles hit two of their running backs on 20-plus-yard catches on the next drive, that put them up 10-0.
• On the Eagles' first scoring drive of the game, the biggest play came on a 36-yarder from Wentz to Nelson Agholor on third down. The Eagles ended up going up 7-0 after Jeffery caught an eight-yard touchdown.
• Long started off the game with a big strip sack against Rivers. Derek Barnett came along and scooped the ball up to give it to his offense.
The Eagles came into the game with five injured players who were already ruled out: Fletcher Cox (calf), Ronald Darby (ankle), Corey Graham (hamstring), Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist).
Up next
The Eagles return home to the Linc next week to take on the Cardinals. After that, they'll travel on a short week to play the Panthers in Carolina on a Thursday night.

Roob Knows Podcast: Biggest offseason need for the Eagles

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Roob Knows Podcast: Biggest offseason need for the Eagles

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, Reuben Frank and Ray Didinger give their final thoughts on the loss in New Orleans.

The guys react to the coaching changes the organization made on Thursday. 

Also, an early look at what promises to be a busy offseason.

1:00 - Roob and Ray still think Nick Foles was going to lead the Eagles to a win.
6:00 - Game changed on a single play.
13:30 - Eagles make some coaching changes on Thursday.
20:30 - Eagles must address the running back position.
30:45 - Neither Roob nor Ray can see the Eagles pursuing Kareem Hunt.
32:30 - Previewing Championship Sunday.

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Where will Eagles turn to fill desperate need at running back?

Where will Eagles turn to fill desperate need at running back?

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first three rounds since LeSean McCoy a decade ago.

This year it caught up to them.

The Eagles managed to hide their issues at running back for much of the regular season, getting by with a rotating committee that included Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Darren Sproles after Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement were lost for the season.

In the playoffs, the absence of an authoritative running attack was glaring.

With 42 rushing yards against the Bears and 49 against the Saints, the Eagles became only the fourth team in NFL history to rush for fewer than 50 yards in back-to-back playoff games (the same year).

Smallwood, Clement and Sproles have all had their moments, but they don’t project as a lead back, and we don’t even know if Sproles wants to keep playing. Ajayi is a free agent and coming off an ACL. Josh Adams went from averaging 14 1/2 carries the last six weeks of the season to getting one snap in the playoffs. Donnel Pumphrey is back after being released by the Lions but hardly looks like a prospect.

So you can make a pretty compelling case that running back is the Eagles’ biggest need this offseason.

The question is where do they get one.

The Eagles have two second-round picks, and this is a draft that should have terrific running back value in the second round.

With the Senior Bowl and Combine still to come, guys like the two Alabama backs — Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris — plus Iowa State’s David Montgomery, Kentucky’s Benny Snell, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill and Georgia’s Elijah Holyfield are all intriguing prospects, and several of them will be on the board when the Eagles pick at No. 53 and 57.

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986 and that’s unlikely to change. But the second and third rounds— where they found Duce Staley, LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook — make sense, and the way Howie Roseman likes to wheel and deal, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles find their way back into the third round.

If the Eagles decide to go the free agent route, there’s Le’Veon Bell, who is as talented as anybody and a great fit in this offense because of his tremendous receiving and blocking ability. But it’s hard to imagine the Eagles finding cap space to sign him, and his exhaustive workload with the Steelers — more than 1,500 touches before his 26th birthday — could be a red flag.

Tevin Coleman of the Falcons and Mark Ingram of the Saints are less-expensive options who are both effective runners and solid receivers.

Coleman is younger and has less wear and tear. Ingram has more of a proven body of work and for a 29-year-old two-time Pro Bowl back doesn’t have a ton of touches (14.6 per game over his eight-year career).

There’s also Ajayi, who is still only 25 and has been productive when healthy, but he’s coming off ACL surgery as free agency approaches, and the long-term state of his knees is a concern.

The Eagles have been unsettled at running back since Chip Kelly jettisoned McCoy. They’ve had a different leading rusher five straight years — McCoy in 2014, DeMarco Murray in 2015, Ryan Mathews in 2016, LeGarrette Blount in 2017 and Adams in 2018.

Roseman doesn’t say much, but he did come as close as he ever will to acknowledging that the Eagles have to be better at running back.

“We have to look at that, among other positions, and figure out where we are going forward,” he said. “We want to strengthen the roster, make sure we're improving the roster, we're not standing pat.”

The Eagles were able to make things work last year with Blount, Ajayi and Clement, but they need an elite receiving back to give Carson Wentz a consistent dump-off option, provide consistent production on the ground and help take the offense to the next level.

Someone they can count on when they face a top defense in the playoffs.

I like Ingram, but I prefer the idea of going running back in the second round and building around a prospect like Snell or Hill.

The Eagles have to get younger, faster and more consistent at running back, and they will definitely get that chance in April.

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