PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Wide receiver Eddie Royal #11 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with teammate Antonio Gates #85 in the end zone after making a catch for a 15 yard touchdown catch against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 15, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Chargers defeated the Eagles 33-30. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Driving to the game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, I was listening to WIP, one of the most successful and caustic sports radio stations on earth.
The Philadelphia hosts were convinced the Eagles would score 50 points and obliterate the Chargers in Chip Kelly's first home game as Philly's head coach. Their opinion was mirrored by most of the rest of America. The Eagles were 7-point favorites.
But, to paraphrase the old saying, a funny thing happened on the way to the blowout.
The Chargers proved they're a lot better than most people think.
San Diego beat Philly 33-30, getting head coach Mike McCoy his first win as an NFL head coach, a win made even more sweet coming on the heels of their season-opening loss to Houston.
"I told them all week, don't get frustrated, just keep playing," said McCoy. "One play at a time, keep playing. Play hard for 60 minutes and good things will happen."
For the first time in a couple of years, the Chargers did, indeed, put together a full 60-minute game. They did have a couple of hiccups, with both Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates losing fumbles inside the Eagles' 10-yard line (the first fumble Gates has lost since 2008). Yet they still overcame, something they haven't been able to say for a while.
"We've won gutty in Pittsburgh, we won in New York last year," said quarterback Philip Rivers. "This kind of game, we've won our fair share of over the last seven or eight years, they just hadn't happened as often. It feels awesome to win one of these."
There were plenty of times where the thought crept in to most fans' heads ... "Here's where they're going to blow it."
After either of the two fumbles, we thought it. After the Eagles scored to tie the game at 20 on a 61-yard touchdown pass and had finally found its offensive rhythm, we thought it. The moment Fozzy Whittaker fumbled a kickoff, we thought it. But when that fumbled ball squirted through the hands of seemingly half the players on the field, and Darrell Stuckey fell on it, we thought something different.
Maybe this time, it's different.
And it certainly was. The Chargers defense came up with a great stop inside the Red Zone at the end of the game, forcing the Eagles to kick a field goal to tie the game at 30.
And then Rivers, who threw for threw for 419 yards and 3 touchdowns (all to Eddie Royal), led the Bolts in to field goal range and Nick Novak drilled a 46-yarder to win it, we had a new thought.
This time it's definitely different.
The Chargers and their new head coach will not just pull the same old disappearing act they got used to turning in. This team learned a ton from blowing a 21-point lead against the Texans.
"That was kind of the focus, that third and fourth quarter," said Novak, who made all three of his field goal tries. "When we've made some of those plays and you can feel the tide turning. That was great, that we performed in the clutch as a team."
"I think guys just kind of knew," said Royal, who has already scored five touchdowns, matching his career-high for a whole season. "You could see just looking around the huddle the guys were focused in on what we were doing and the feeling that I had in the huddle was we are not going to lose this game."
How refreshing is that?
The start of this paradigm shift actually started Saturday night, when McCoy asked veteran safety Eric Weddle to speak to the team. What the All-Pro said was honest, from the heart, and incredibly effective.
"Being my seventh year, I've seen a lot of things, from the wins to the losses," said Weddle. "I just shared how much I loved them, and I believed in them. Until we get past, mentally, winning the game, of making those dynamic plays in the fourth quarter and the last series of the game, we're never going to win. We're never going to get past that mental block.
"I just expressed to them that, my first three years, it didn't matter what we were doing, how far down we were, what the situation was, we KNEW we were going to come back and win. We've lost that over the years. I said, tomorrow night, we're going to be in that situation, and it's going to be that moment. It's going to be up to us to make that defining play for the team to get over that block. We did it, and hopefully that gives us that confidence, when we get in those situations again, we've done it, we feel it, we know what it's about. Now this team has shown we can do it."
And now we're thinking they just might do it again.