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October 01, 2017

First half observations: Eagles 16 Chargers 10

No Fletcher Cox? No problem, at least so far. The Eagles were the better team for most of the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers, making themselves at home in enemy territory.

Here's what put the Eagles in pole position after the first 30 minutes of football.

The Good

•  Eagles fans showed out in full force out on the West Coast. On the first play of the game, Eagles players were already aware of the sizable contingent of road fans, and the defense started motioning to the crowd to make some noise to disrupt Phillip Rivers.

If you think that's an exaggeration, listen to what it sounded like after Carson Wentz hooked up with Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown on the game's first drive.

Think the Chargers regret that move to LA yet? (Probably not)

•  Speaking of that touchdown, Wentz threw what may have been his best throw of the season to set up that red zone opportunity. Standing in the pocket just long enough to allow Nelson Agholor to get separation, Wentz made the former USC receiver look good near his old stomping grounds.

Once they got in scoring range, it was as simple as throwing it to the big man in the end zone. Easy money.

•  The defense was missing some key pieces, but they managed just fine without leading man Fletcher Cox. With San Diego on the cusp of field goal range on their opening drive, Chris Long came from behind to strip Phillip Rivers and get the momentum rolling in the Eagles' favor.

Of course, they almost gave the ball right back in their effort to pounce on the football, but rookie Derek Barnett eventually got on the end of it. I'm sure there were a few thousand people yelling, "Just fall on it!" at their TVs.

•  As I mentioned prior to the game, the Chargers have an atrocious run defense, and the Eagles made sure to test it early and often throughout the first half. We got to see a little bit of everybody pounding the rock, as LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement all got opportunities to gash the Chargers.

Your drunk uncle who always thinks they should run the ball more might be onto something, at least this week. 93 yards on 19 attempts isn't too shabby.

•  Jake Elliott, ladies and gentlemen! One week after he booted his way into the Eagles record book, Elliott was a perfect 3/3 in the first half, absolutely crushing all three of his attempts. I think this kid may stick around for a while.

•  Timmy Jernigan is a bad, bad man, and the Eagles probably need to start preparing to offer him a bunch of money in the offseason. He may not be Cox, but Jernigan helped mitigate the loss of the defense's anchor quite nicely.

He got plenty of help from the supporting cast around him, with Beau Allen, Barnett, and Chris Long all making plays in the backfield during the first two quarters of play.

The Bad

•  It's a little unfair to throw them into the "bad" category, but the offensive line had a mixed performance in the first half. Some of this can be blamed on slow-developing plays — they ran two fake end-arounds in a three-play sequence — but Wentz was having to do a lot of work to avoid taking sacks throughout the first half. 

Of course, when it did come together, it was a thing of beauty, leading to plays like the one you'll see below.

•  Phillip Rivers made a hell of a throw for a 75-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, but the Eagles did not exactly drape themselves in glory in their coverage on the play. Rasul Douglas got eaten up by a simple move from Tyrell Williams, and it was over once he got over the top.

This is an inherent problem when you play several corners with less-than-exemplary speed.  

•  The Eagles needed to come away with more points from their first few drives. They were moving the ball fairly easily against LA's defense, and while I'm happy Elliott continues to cement his reputation as a local icon, the Eagles should have been able to create a lot more separation. We'll see if it comes back to haunt them.

•  Faced with a fourth-and-one opportunity with a minute left in the first half, the Eagles attempted to draw L.A. offsides and failed. After calling a timeout, Doug Pederson changed course and brought out the punt team rather than press his luck.

Personally, I much prefer "Big Balls Doug." And I'm not just saying that because Keenan Allen made a 50-yard reception on the ensuing drive to put the Chargers in field-goal range anyway.

Twitter did not look kindly on the punt decision.

The Ugly

•  All due respect to Dick Stockton for a long and prolific career, but his time has come and gone. Neither he or Mark Schlereth appeared to be aware they were in Los Angeles for this game.

•  Torrey Smith had an opportunity to take a throw to the house early in the second quarter when Wentz made a very similar throw to the one that sent Agholor streaking down the sideline. The difference? Agholor caught it — I'm as surprised as you are — and Smith did not.

This sort of thing is becoming a little too common for Smith, and Eagles fans were not shy about unloading on him over another big drop.

Smith has made himself a ton of fans in Philadelphia with his social media presence, but he's not doing himself any favors squandering big-play opportunities.