Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's hotly anticipated home debut was one of those games the National Football League thrives on. There were points aplenty, late lead changes and more than a few talking points for casual and hardcore fans alike.
Officials' calls did not lose the game for the Eagles, who forced Chargers punter Mike Scifres onto the field only once.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had the ball for more than 40 minutes and generated 33 first downs primarily because the Eagles rarely pressured him and could not stop his receivers or tight end Antonio Gates.
But for two red-zone turnovers by the Chargers in the second quarter, the Eagles could very well have gone to the locker room down 27-10 and been all but dead.
Somehow, though, there were the Eagles—defense in tatters, losing every trench battle and coverage fight when they did not have the ball—leading the game 27-23 with a little more than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The lead should have been bigger, and in the moments to follow, the lead would be put in grave danger (is there another kind) by a penalty from one of Kelly's Heroes.
"Should have been bigger," because a third-quarter 37-yard touchdown strike from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson came off the board for—wait for it—a really dodgy illegal formation call.
Here you had a game where Malcom Floyd was hospitalized by a DeMeco Ryans hit, per ESPN.com, where bodies were flying and tempers were flaring—none of it drawing a flag.
Line up six inches too far behind the posterior of the guy next to you, though, and it ends up costing you four points. The Eagles' drive stalled after the Lane Johnson illegal formation penalty, ending with an Alex Henery 48-yard field goal.
So, instead of leading 31-23 after Vick's touchdown sprint around the left end, the Eagles' lead was only three (four after the PAT).
And, regrettably for the Eagles, the iffy yellow laundry made another appearance.
DeSean Jackson, whose nine-catch, 193-yard day was nearly all that kept the Eagles in the game, was flagged for a personal foul for unnecessary roughness after Vick scored. Per Dan Dierdorf on CBS' broadcast, Jackson got tangled up with a Charger about 40 yards away from where Vick scored.
Instead of kicking from their 35, then, the Eagles kicked from their 20 after the PAT. A return that never should have happened in the first place ended up with a fumble, a scrum and a Chargers recovery of the fumble on the Eagles' 39-yard-line.
Seven plays later, Chargers receiver Eddie Royal plunged into the end zone—aided by a plain rugby tackle by Chargers lineman King Dunlap on Eagles safety Nate Allen.
The Eagles never led again, in large part because Vick had to sit out 2nd-and-10 from the Chargers 14 on the last Eagles drive after being driven into the turf on a hit that, if not late, was as close to unnecessary roughness as you'll see go uncalled in a league that allegedly wants to protect quarterbacks.
Again, the Eagles lost the game on merit and could just as easily have been blown out in the first half.
But they weren't, and in the second half with the game in the balance, they came up on the wrong end of too many shady decisions to survive.
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