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Malcolm Floyd racked up 102 yards on five catches before leaving early in the second half with an injury. (AP)
There were plenty of different reasons from different Eagles to explain why quarterback Philip Rivers seemingly moved the ball at will against the Eagles’ defense.
Some said blitzes weren’t well disguised. Some said coverage wasn’t tight enough. Others blamed bad tackling. Some just tipped their hat to Rivers for being the smartest guy at the stadium, coaches included.
Well, nobody was wrong. In a film-review look at all three Chargers touchdowns, the Eagles showed different looks and attack plans on all three and were victimized each time by a different breakdown.
Let’s go through all three.
Cary Williams said some of the Eagles’ blitzes were too obvious -- like a pitcher who tips his pitches. In this case, the Eagles make it easy on Rivers by motioning cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) out of slot coverage on Eddie Royal and toward the right edge as a blitzer:
Rivers, who was under center, immediately looks to his right and barks out a new cadence, noticing that the closest defender to Royal is safety Nate Allen (29), who’s a good 10 yards deep.
Boykin jogs halfway back toward Royal, hoping to confuse Rivers, but he retreats back to his blitzing position on the right edge, so the Eagles' defense looks exactly the same when Rivers drops back. He knows pressure is coming.
After the snap, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks rush also, creating a seven-man rush with quarters coverage up top (the fourth D-back can’t be seen in the upper right corner). But Rivers, who knew something was coming, unloads in about 2.5 seconds.
The closest defender on the play in Allen. And here’s what happens when you give Royal that much space, with Allen in defense…
I think you all know this footrace turns out.
Let’s look at Rivers’ second TD toss, in the third quarter. This time, on 3rd-and-10 at the Eagles’ 30, Davis calls off the dogs and tries to maximize his coverage. Not a bad idea, right? Keep the receivers in front and, at very least, hold them to a field goal.
The Eagles show a four-man rush against San Diego’s spread personnel, so Rivers already has an idea that he won’t see tremendous pressure.
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, lined up in the left slot, then motions to the right while the Eagles' Brandon Hughes (27), playing the left slot, creeps up toward scrimmage. Now, it appears there might be some pressure. But Hughes drops back into his slot position. When Rivers snaps the ball, right outside linebacker Connor Barwin also drops back, as the Eagles rush three.
With five men blocking three, Rivers has plenty of protection but just four wideouts matched against eight Eagles defenders.
There’s no way anyone can get open, right?
Well ... maybe not.
If you give a good quarterback enough time in the pocket and give receivers enough time to get open against linebackers, things like this happen. Nobody got close to Rivers and Royal managed to separate from Kendricks (95) to catch this 24-yard touchdown pass.
So we’ve seen one pressure scheme get picked apart and one coverage scheme get foiled, each for TDs.
The third touchdown, a 15-yard screen to Royal, isn’t as easy to diagnose. The Eagles aren’t guilty of tipping pitches. They line up showing a basic four-man line:
But Rivers isn’t convinced that he’s off the hook. He changes the formation anyway, realigning halfback Danny Woodhead from his right side to the left:
The play ends up being a screen to -- who else? -- Royal in the left slot. Woodhead’s route is designed to take linebacker DeMeco Ryans away from the left side and toward Woodhead. When that happens, Rivers has an easy pitch-and-catch to Royal on the left side -- even with Patrick Chung (23) rushing from the slot at the last second:
At this point, the Eagles have to shed blocks and make a tackle. Allen is first up, but he’s swallowed up by left tackle King Dunlap, who gets away with a major hold. (Allen is the blurry figure getting trampled by the bigger blurrier figure):
Ryans and safety Earl Wolff still have a chance to stop Royal from getting to the end zone, if they can get off a block and wrap up. The next blurry figure is Ryans diving at Royal’s ankles and coming up empty:
Royal is slowed up though, and you can see Wolff in pursuit at the 4-yard line. Wolff was considered an excellent tackler at N.C. State, and the rookie outweighs Royal by 25 pounds. He gets to Royal around the 2 and has a chance to bring him down:
Yeah, it was that kind of day for the Eagles' defense.