Philip Rivers is certainly no Robert Griffin III. Unlike RG3, the veteran Rivers seemed to have all the answers for the Philadelphia Eagles’ 3-4 hybrid defense on Sunday.
Completing 36-of-47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns, Rivers led the San Diego Chargers to a stirring victory at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Looking very much like Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage, Rivers scanned the Eagles’ defense before each play, identifying the potential holes.
Screaming instructions and directing traffic before each snap allowed the clock to run, giving the Chargers the clear advantage in time of possession for the game, more than doubling that of the Eagles. The 40-plus minutes that the Chargers had the ball made up for two costly turnovers deep in Eagles territory.
In Chip Kelly’s world, it’s the amount of plays run from scrimmage that are his concern. His goal as Eagles head coach is to run more plays than the opposition. Rivers’ near flawless execution stymied the Birds in that all important area as well, as the Chargers ran 78 plays to the Birds’ 58.
Seemingly every time that Rivers needed to complete a pass, he found his open receiver. The Eagles’ pass rush, which pressured RG3 relentlessly last Monday night, was well contained by the Chargers’ offensive line the entire game. Rivers was only sacked once and was rarely hurried the entire afternoon.
Having to listen to the media and the entire NFL community gush over Kelly’s high octane Eagle offense all week, Rivers played like a grizzled veteran with something to prove. Even after losing star receiver Malcom Floyd to an apparent head or neck injury, Rivers dissected the porous Eagles defense by connecting with eight different receivers on the day.
The Chargers converted on 67 percent of their third downs, having an answer for anything the Eagles defense threw at them. Eddie Royal, Danny Woodhead, and Antonio Gates knifed through the Birds’ secondary at will, silencing the deafening Lincoln Financial Field crowd every time they rose from their seats.
Rivers, playing one of the finest games of his career, led the Chargers on a game-winning drive with less than two minutes remaining after the Birds had tied it up on an Alex Henery field goal with 1:55 remaining. Nick Novak answered the Eagles’ kicker by booting a 46-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to give the Chargers the 33-30 victory.
Michael Vick’s career-best 428 yards passing were overshadowed by Rivers’ stunning execution. Including three touchdown passes to Royal, Rivers might very well have scripted the formula to not only thrashing the new Eagles’ defense, but also for shutting down Kelly’s high wire act on offense.
Playing from behind for the entire game, not only was Kelly’s offense held to less than 20 minutes with the ball, but their entire game plan was altered. Normally a scheme that favors the run nearly 60 percent of the snaps, the Eagles were forced to throw the ball 38 times versus only 20 rushes.
Rivers presented the NFL with exactly the two issues Eagles fans have been concerned with since training camp began. The Eagles’ defense, and especially the secondary, is suspect at best with major struggles seeming inevitable without a pass rush.
Secondly, Kelly’s offense is beatable when they can’t run downhill, being forced to play from behind and not possessing the ball. With only a little more than three days to prepare for Andy Reid‘s Kansas City Chiefs, Kelly hopes that Rivers’ recipe won’t be duplicated.