By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles kept the good start to the 2017 season rolling with a 26-24 victory on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers. The road win, fueled by the running game and a very good contingent of Eagles fans, made for an enjoyable trip home for Philadelphia as they took care of business to take first place in the NFC East.
LeGarrette Blount carried the football 16 times for 136 yards, while Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement each contributed to a rushing attack that went for 214 yards and played a key role in chewing away the final 6:44 of the game to protect a narrow two-point lead. Going back to last week, it seems as though the Eagles have discovered how to utilize their running game to their advantage. Having an efficient and productive running game behind a solid offensive line helped open things up a bit. Carson Wentz could have had some better throws and there were a few drops along the way, but Wentz passed for 242 yards and a score and took just one sack for a loss of two yards. As a team, the Eagles racked up 26 first downs and dominated the time of possession by holding the ball for over 39 minutes without a turnover.
Aside from a few big plays pulled off by the Chargers offense, the Eagles played fairly well on defense for the majority of the game. The Chargers scored two of their touchdowns on a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 35-yard touchdown run, accounting for 110 of the Chargers’ 400 yards of offense. There were some missed tackles that hurt, such as on a 3rd and long in the second half with a chance to possibly slam the door on Los Angeles. Jordan Hicks had a big day with nine tackles. Rookie Derek Barnett recovered a fumble by the Chargers on the game’s opening drive, which led to an early Eagles touchdown.
Special Teams: A+
Rookie Eagles kicker Jake Elliott continued to knock down kicks from all distances. A week after his 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, Elliott knocked down all four of his kicks from 45, 40, 53, and 47 yards to put 12 much-needed points on the scoreboard. Any time you have a kicker putting that many points on the board when you win by two points, you are grateful for having him on your team. Punter Donnie Jones was called on to punt away twice, and each time knocked the Chargers inside their 20-yard line with an average of 47.5 yards per punt.
Kenjon Barner, who was just signed by the Eagles last week to help replace the injured Darren Sproles, returned three punts for a total of 15 yards.
Give credit where credit is due. Doug Pederson called a very good game on the road against the Chargers to help guide the Eagles to a win. Knowing he was up against a team with a poor run defense, Pederson made sure to keep the ground attack going, especially in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to work the clock. There is still room for improvement, and it is best not to get too carried away with a win against a team that has yet to win a game, but Pederson deserves little to no criticism this week after coaching the Eagles to a 3-1 record.
Up Next: The Eagles are back home in Lincoln Financial Field next week for an afternoon showdown with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming in following a low-scoring overtime victory against the San Francisco 49ers and have already dropped a pair of games in NFC play against Detroit and Dallas. A win next week could have the Eagles feeling really good about the rest of the season.