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Philadelphia Eagles: 5 Keys to Beating San Diego Chargers

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Philadelphia Eagles: Five Keys To Beating San Diego Chargers

Brad Mills - USA TODAY Sports

It's safe to say Chip Kelly took the NFL by storm.

Kelly's debut was a rousing success as the Philadelphia Eagles behind their high-octane offense powered past the Washington Redskins 33-27 to open the season on Monday night.

The next task ahead of Kelly's troops is a matchup with Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field.

While there certainly was plenty to be excited about in the Birds' season opener, a deeper look into the game revealed areas for improvement. A more balanced distribution of carries between running backs — compared to LeSean McCoy's paltry 31 — is certainly something to watch as is this team's ability to sustain it's quick strike capability for an entire sixty minute period.

While Michael Vick completed 60% of his passes (15-25) for 203 yards and two touchdowns, there were times where he did not look crisp and missed wide open receivers with potential for big plays or even scoring opportunities left on the field. He'll certainly need to be sharper in Week 2.

The defensive side of the ball is perhaps where Kelly's Eagles sent the most shock waves across the league in their ability to pressure Robert Griffin III all night long and create three takeaways, as a unit that posted the fewest in that category a year ago.

Rivers is no Griffin, but he certainly is surgical while in the pocket.

Here is a look at five things that must go the Eagles way in order for Kelly to set the stage for his team entering Thursday night's showdown against Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs with an unblemished 2-0 record.

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5. Find The Right Balance For LeSean McCoy

Brad Mills - USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that Chip Kelly likes to run the football.

The Eagles ran the ball on 66% of their 77 plays against the Redskins in Week 1, and it's little surprise that LeSean McCoy was the league's leading rusher with 115 yards by halftime at Fed Ex Field. It's also not shocking that he finished with 184 yards rushing after toting the rock 31 times.

Both Kelly and McCoy hinted afterwards that there needs to be a more balanced distribution of carries between the Eagles workhorse and Bryce Brown. If for nothing other than self preservation for McCoy, the Birds must remain committed to the run game today but find room for Brown and even Chris Polk to get touches.

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4. Michael Vick Must Be Even Sharper

Brad Mills - USA TODAY Sports

All eyes were on Michael Vick on Monday night and whether or not he could ideally run Chip Kelly's Ferrari of an offense. Initial indications are that the 12-year veteran passed with flying colors.

Vick certainly was sharp, completing 60% of his passes but in order for this offense to reach it's maximum potential, especially in tight ball games, he must be even crisper.

There were scoring plays left on the field against the Redskins, and Vick took unnecessary hits both by refusing to slide after long runs and while blocking for McCoy on sweep plays. He simply needs to do a better job of protecting his body, especially against a Chargers defense that finished ninth in the league a year ago and will be gunning for him today.

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3. Defense Can't Skip A Beat With Brandon Boykin Starting

Brad Mills - USA TODAY Sports

With Bradley Fletcher out with a concussion, Brandon Boykin gets his first start of the season.

The second-year cornerback can't allow himself to be part of a dropoff in production in Week 2. Boykin recorded his first career interception in the first quarter of last week's game but it will be a different beast for the typically nickel corner to slide outside and start against the likes of Eddie Royal or Malcom Floyd.

The door is certainly open for Boykin, but in order for this defense to reach it's potential for the second-straight week, he'll need to seize the opportunity.

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2. The Eagles Must Slow Antonio Gates

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The Eagles must duplicate what the Houston Texans were able to do in Week 1 and that is limit Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

Gates stumbled in the opener, recording just two catches for 49 yards.

While the Birds have been run over by opposing tight ends in recent years, the new look 3-4 defense is built in a way that by design limits tight ends because of less free space being open over the middle. The play of Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham will be crucial in making sure Gates stays grounded in Week 2.

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1. Eagles Must Generate a Pass Rush against Phillip Rivers

Pass Rush
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In the first half against Washington, the Eagles defense stunted and confused a rusty Robert Griffin III.

In Week 2, the defense doesn't have the benefit of lining up across from a player who didn't step on the field during preseason. Rivers started fast against the Texans, throwing for 195 yards and four touchdowns and will look to build on that performance today.

Getting a pass rush from the front four could be aided by King Dunlap lining up as the Chargers starting left tackle, but the pressure goes beyond that. Mychal Kendricks was a violent and disruptive force against the 'Skins. If he duplicates that performance and Trent Cole and get into the backfield, it could be a long afternoon for the Chargers' 10-year signal caller.