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Sunday, November 15, 2009
Rapid Reaction: Chargers 31, Eagles 23

By Dan Graziano

SAN DIEGO -- Don't let the final score fool you. The Eagles put together a frantic comeback in the fourth quarter, but the hole they dug was too deep to overcome.

Once again, the Eagles came up embarrassingly empty on a trip to the West Coast. I'm sure some folks will try to blame this loss on injuries to the defense, but the Eagles should have enough talent in reserve not to get run off the field by the Chargers.

Before their desperate comeback, the Eagles allowed quarterback Philip Rivers too much time in the pocket. And it seems that someone forgot that Antonio Gates is a game-changing player. He often found himself in one-on-one matchups with inexperienced linebackers -- and that's not a fair fight.

When the Eagles desperately needed a stop late in the fourth quarter, it was rookie Dimitri Patterson who was assigned to chase Gates across the middle. Rivers connected with Gates for 17 yards on the play and the game was over.

The Eagles have been solid against the run for much of the season, but LaDainian Tomlinson gashed them for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the first three quarters. He may have lost a step, but you couldn't tell it by watching him play against the Eagles' front seven.

It was also the second consecutive game in which the Eagles were not able to convert in a key short-yardage situation. They had a first-and-goal at the Chargers' 1-yard line in the first half -- and came away with only three points. Brian Westbrook was effective in spots during the first half, but he suffered another concussion and missed the entire second half.

That forced Andy Reid to get rookie LeSean McCoy involved in the offense, something he needed to do earlier in the game. Wide receiver Jason Avant kept the Eagles in the game with his career-best game. He made one-handed catch and pretty much anything else asked of him.

In the end, the Eagles simply didn't leave themselves enough time. At 5-4, the Eagles will now slug it out with teams such as the Giants and Falcons for a wild-card spot. But this doesn't look like a playoff team at all right now.

The good news is that they don't have to return to the West Coast. Oh, and the Cowboys lost to the Packers on the road. I'm sure Eagles fans can take some solace on that.