Eagles' secondary looks like 2012 -- maybe worse

Eagles' secondary looks like 2012 -- maybe worse

September 15, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Antonio Gates eludes Patrick Chung during the first half of the Eagles' 33-30 loss to the Chargers on Sunday. (AP)

You didn’t think it could get any worse.

It may be worse.

The Eagles had hoped their rebuilt secondary meant the nightmarish pass defense we saw on a weekly basis last year was a thing of the past, but Philip Rivers ruined Chip Kelly’s home debut Sunday by tearing up the overmatched Eagles’ defensive backfield with 419 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers in a 33-30 Eagles loss at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

Two games into the 2013 season, the Eagles have allowed 748 passing yards, the sixth-highest total in NFL history (see Roob's 10 observations).

"Philip Rivers just seemed to know everything we were trying to throw at him,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “They were able to understand what we were trying to do as a defense. They did a great job in their preparation, a great job in their game plan.

“They understood some of our calls. It looked like he knew exactly what DeMeco [Ryans] was calling to a degree, he knew exactly what we were in, to a degree. Some days you get out-witted, some days you get outplayed, and today was one of those days.”

Last year, an NFL-record six quarterbacks completed over 70 percent of their passes with two or more touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles.

Add Rivers to the list.

Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for his 419 yards and three touchdowns, doing much of the damage even after losing top receiver Malcom Floyd to a scary injury (see story).

“A lot of guys in here are hurt,” Williams said. “We felt we let the team down.”

The Chargers' 22 passing first downs tied the most ever against the Eagles. The Cards had 22 in 1964.

Three Chargers had at least 90 yards receiving -- Antonio Gates (8-for-124), Floyd (5-for-102 before he got hurt) and Eddie Royal (7-for-90).

“It’s up to us to stop those guys and unfortunately we weren’t able to do it,” Williams said. “They were the better team. Rivers is a veteran guy, he’s savvy, he caught us in bad situations and used those matchups against us and was able to capitalize.

“We didn’t capitalize when we needed to. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

Taken by itself, Rivers’ performance is disturbing. Taken when combined with Robert Griffin III’s second half Monday night -- 276 yards and two TDs after halftime -- it’s alarming. And taken in the context of last year, it’s horrifying.

In their last 16 games, the Eagles have now allowed 34 touchdown passes and recorded seven interceptions.

Since halftime Monday night, opposing quarterbacks have completed 72 percent of their passes against the Eagles for 695 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception.

The players are different. The coaches are different. The scheme is different. So far, the result has been the same.

“There really is no excuse,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “Rivers just made the plays, they made the catches, they made the runs, we weren’t making the tackles when we needed to.

“We’ve got to be a lot better and we will. We know we’ll be better. It’s the second game. We’ll look at the film and make corrections. We take pride in our defense. We did some good things, but the completions on third down really killed us.”

The Eagles played without starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher, out with a concussion, and they lost corner Brandon Hughes in the fourth quarter to a hamstring and even lost Boykin for a couple snaps at one point. When the game ended, the Eagles were going with three safeties and Patrick Chung in the slot.

“At the end of the day, we’re not here to make excuses,” Williams said. “We’ve got to go out there and put our best foot forward each and every down. It’s up to us to stop those guys and unfortunately we weren’t able to do it.”

But the one incumbent starter from last year, safety Nate Allen, may have had the worst day of all.

Allen continues to struggle badly both in coverage and getting in position to make tackles.

“They just got us today,” Allen said. “They got us on a few routes, a lot of routes. We might not have tackled as well as we should have on a couple of things.”

Do the Eagles have any options? Not really.

“There aren't any safeties on the street, I can tell you that," head coach Chip Kelly said. "So we're going to play with the ones we've got.”

Rookie Earl Wolff played a lot more than in the opener, rotating with Allen, and showed some encouraging signs.

But the bottom line was the Chargers piled up 33 points and 539 yards.

“That’s a lot of yards,” Chung said. “We just have to watch film to see where we can get better and where we messed up.”

And the Eagles have just three days to regroup before hosting Andy Reid and the Chiefs on Thursday night.

Their quarterback, Alex Smith, has completed 60 percent of his passes so far with four TDs and no interceptions.

“All we have time to do is watch the film and start planning for the Chiefs,” Wolff said. “It’s tough, man. First home game, we were riled up, but you always learn from your mistakes. We made some mistakes out there but no mistakes we can’t correct.”

Rivers’ 419 yards are the third-most any opposing quarterback has ever thrown for against the Eagles, behind only Jon Kitna’s 446 for the Lions in a 2007 and Joe Montana’s 428 in a 38-28 comeback win for the 49ers in 1989.

Rivers’ 36 completions are the second-most any QB has ever had against the Eagles. Daunte Culpepper had 37 for the Vikings in a loss here in 2004.

Don’t look now, but the Eagles still have to face Eli Manning and Tony Romo twice, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, RG3 again, and Peyton Manning in Denver in two weeks.

“We’re going to bounce back,” Boykin said. “We’ll be fine. We’re a good team and we’ve got a lot of confidence in ourselves.”