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October 01, 2017

Final observations: Eagles 26, Chargers 24

They let the game hang in the balance for longer than their fans would prefer, but the Philadelphia Eagles will take a win home from their West Coast trip. Riding the running backs to victory, the Eagles squeaked out a 26-24 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, bringing their record to 3-1 on the season.

The Good

•  Carson Wentz kept the good times rolling in half two, throwing another beautiful touch pass over the top for a big gain. This time, it landed in the hands of Zach Ertz, who went down immediately, as is custom.

It'll take a few more of these to silence the doubters, but this is real progress, and that's great to see out of the second-year QB

RELATED: First half observations: Eagles 16 Chargers 10

•  Big Balls Doug is back! The Eagles converted an important fourth down in the third quarter with a Wentz sneak, and it sure feels like they can't fail when they lean their quarterback to get those last few inches for a first down.

Turns out it helps to have a 6'5" guy behind center! Wentz's numbers from Sunday don't exactly leap off the page—17/31 for 248 yards and a single touchdown—but he made big throws when the team needed him, and made several critical conversions to extend drives throughout the game. 

•  You could do a lot worse than a Jake Elliott jersey purchase at this point. If he was anything less than perfect today, the Eagles would have had to sweat this one out a lot more than they already did. But the new guy in town continued to solidify his spot on the roster, coming through for the offense each and every time one of their drives stalled out.

•  LeGarrette Blount did his best Marshawn Lynch impression early in the fourth quarter, rumbling, stumbling, and bumbling his way through a barrage of would-be tacklers.

That's what he was brought to Philadelphia to do. He's not going to beat anyone with speed, but he's a tough SOB to bring down. 

Pederson went to the run game early and often against a Chargers defense that has struggled to do anything to stop opposing running backs, and the Eagles' committee stepped up to the challenge. It looked like that strategy was about to backfire in the fourth quarter, when they tried and failed to punch the ball in with Blount several times.

But a substitution brought Wendell Smallwood onto the field, and he made his coach look smart.

It would be a little more reassuring if the Eagles had "the guy" to give the ball to in tough situations, but for now, the trio they have is doing just fine. The running backs combined for 200 yards against the Chargers, with Blount's big 136 leading the pack.

The Bad

•  Listen, Doug, I know you're probably sick of people telling you to run the ball more, but there are ways to prove your point without running it on third-and-eight to close the first drive of the second half.

•  There were a ton of unforced errors from the Eagles' defense on the afternoon, highlighted in particular by several offsides penalties. This remains one of the more perplexing penalties I can imagine someone taking — all you have to do is look at the ball to see when it's snapped! Chris Long took one that gave the Chargers a second shot on third down early in the third quarter, and the Eagles were lucky to escape without any real harm done. 

With full understanding that "just look at the ball" doesn't necessarily help linebackers and corners who are trying to catch blockers off-guard, there's no reason the team's defensive linemen should be picking offsides penalties up, at least with any real frequency.

•  As it turns out, settling for field goals throughout the game makes the end result a lot closer than it should be! A 35-yard touchdown from Austin Ekeler brought the Chargers within two early in the fourth quarter, and frankly, the game should have been out of reach by then.

Ekeler's touchdown was a reminder of just how much the Eagles miss Fletcher Cox, despite a solid effort to make up for his absence through most of the game. He ran untouched through a massive hole in Philadelphia's D-line en route to six points.
Not the best tackling effort from the guys at the second-level, either.

•  The Eagles are turning fourth-quarter struggles into something of a habit, and that's something that needs to be considered a big-picture problem at this point. Through the last three weeks of action, the Eagles have allowed 52 fourth-quarter points to opposing teams. That's simply not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations.

There aren't the same built-in excuses we heard weekly during the Chip Kelly era. Philadelphia dominated the time-of-possession battle on Sunday, giving their defensive counterparts plenty of time to catch their breath and prepare for the Chargers offense. It made no difference, and they wore down in the final frame for a third-straight week.

They can get away with this against bad teams like the Chargers and Giants. As you all saw against Kansas City, they will not be afforded the same luxury against teams with real talent.

The Ugly

•  Phillip Rivers had a gigantic hissy fit after the Chargers couldn't line up in time for a fourth-down play, and it was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen a quarterback do, ranking just behind Cam Newton's outfit choices.

If this were a younger player or a prima donna receiver — or even the aforementioned Newton! — we'd have at least 48 hours of programming this week on how his immaturity was hurting his team, and First Take segments on whether Rivers, "has what it takes to win." But for whatever reason, he gets away with being a grouchy old man, and sort of always has. What a putz.

•  I really don't want to pick on Dick Stockton — respect your elders and all that jazz — but goodness gracious, it's time to call it a career. At one point, he was convinced Carson Wentz had attempted to call a time-out, despite a play having just concluded and 9:50 remaining on the fourth-quarter clock. There was no threat for a timeout on the play, and if Stockton was paying any attention to the game situation, he would have known that.

The vision doesn't appear to be there either: