Bradford shows emotion, Eagles offense shows life in win
The Eagles’ offense was back on the sideline after another failed drive Monday night, this one ending on an incomplete pass from Sam Bradford to Jordan Matthews on a third-and-2 deep in their own territory early in the third quarter.
DeMarco Murray, who’d spent a large chunk of the first half shaking his head while pacing the sideline away from the rest of his offensive teammates, ripped his skullcap off the peg that was holding it behind the bench and dropped his helmet down on it in frustration. He prepared to go for another walk when the crowd’s reaction on fourth down told the entire offense the drive wasn’t over.
A running-into-the-kicker penalty on the Giants.
After trudging toward the bench, the Eagles’ offense sprung back to life. Nursing a 10-point lead thanks in large part to a defensive touchdown, the players quickly huddled on the sideline as referee Carl Cheffers announced the penalty.
That’s when Sam Bradford started barking at his teammates.
"Yeah, he was frustrated," center Jason Kelce told FOX Sports after the Eagles’ 27-7 victory over the Giants that lifted them into a first-place tie with their Monday night foes in an ugly NFC East. "He was frustrated the offensive line kept false-starting. It’s frustrating when you’re moving the ball effectively and doing good things against a defense and you continually kill yourself.
"As a quarterback, a lot of times it puts you in a bad position and you feel a need to say something. Obviously, he did."
One week after Bradford gave the Eagles’ offense a pregame pep talk in the privacy of the shower before a win over the New Orleans Saints, he lit into his blockers and targets in front of all of Lincoln Financial Field. While it was meant to encourage the offense, it was as animated as Bradford has been in his short stint with the Eagles. The head bobs and arm gyrations that could be seen from afar made it clear he had enough of the sloppy play.
Whether it was Bradford’s passionate speech or the sudden-change situation for the offense to run back out on the field without overanalyzing the previous drive, it worked. For eight plays, the Eagles looked like a Chip Kelly bunch once again:
— Murray off the left side or 11 yards followed by 3 more off the right side;
— Bradford to Matthews for 19 yards and then another 6 to Josh Huff;
— Now a little more tempo than we’ve seen recently from the Eagles, as Murray gashed the middle of the Giants line for 11 yards;
— Bradford to Miles Austin for 7 yards and Ryan Mathews off right guard for 3;
— And finally, Murray off the right end for 12 yards and a touchdown that pretty much put this game out of reach.
Only a few minutes earlier, Murray had been standing all the way on the right side of the Eagles’ bench, about 30 yards away from the rest of the offense, warming himself in front of a space heater while trying to keep his frustration in check.
Now, he was in the end zone, spiking the football and forcefully unsnapping his chinstrap in celebration with his teammates.
"I thought DeMarco ran really hard tonight, made some nice cuts and I thought he had good vision," Bradford said of Murray, whose 109 yards gave him his first 100-yard game with his new team. "Anytime we can get him going, it really seems to help our offense."
There are two ways of looking at this Eagles season right now. They’re at the top of their division despite a sluggish start to the year, but they’re also not doing the kind of things Kelly’s teams usually do.
The running game has been average at best (3.9 yards per carry), Bradford has nine interceptions on 228 attempts (one every 25.3 passes, which is well below his average of one every 46.3 attempts in his career coming into the season), they’re converting only 30 percent of their third downs and after cracking the 30-point mark 17 times in Kelly’s first two seasons, they’ve hit that mark only once this season.
So after Bradford threw an interception in the first half and Matthews fumbled to start the third quarter, the boos started raining down. There were probably some calls for Mark Sanchez mixed in there, too, but this team’s hopes rest on Bradford’s ability to lead the way.
That’s why it was clear the patience on the Eagles’ sideline was starting to wear thin on Monday.
"I still do think Sam’s still working some of the kinks out. I really believe that," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "He hasn’t played much football in the last two years and those years he didn’t play ball, they ended with an injury. So he’s out there and, as much as you try to recreate it in training sessions and in the preseason, he’s got to go through some of these uncontrolled situations."
One of those situations beyond Bradford’s control came after Murray’s touchdown. Bradford took a shot deep for Riley Cooper, who broke off his route. He and Bradford clearly made different reads on the coverage, though it sounded like Cooper’s was the wrong one.
"It was very gray area whether I should have ran the post or stopped. I think I stopped a little too late, so that was completely on me, not on Sam," Cooper said. "I came up to him and he smiled and said, ‘Hey, it happens.’ That’s just kind of his attitude. He cares a ton, but he’s not going to let it affect his decision-making on following plays."
With that in mind, imagine how steamed Bradford must have been to get after his teammates on the sideline the way he did.
Bradford had surely had enough of the Eagles wasting the opportunities the Giants were giving them via interceptions, fumbles and three-and-outs. The roughing-the-kicker call was a gift, and Bradford clearly recognized the Eagles wouldn’t have many more chances if they kept squandering them.
"I don’t want to get into what he said," Kelce said with a grin that indicated it wasn’t exactly printable, "but it’s along the lines of ‘Let’s stop killing ourselves, let’s go out there and do our job.’
"It needed to be said."
And it needs to be heard. Not just on Monday night but moving forward. The Eagles have yet to put a complete game together and they’ll need to do that if they want to compete in an NFC East that will get tougher once the Dallas Cowboys get Tony Romo and Dez Bryant back. And if the Eagles have visions of competing outside of their division as well, they’ll need much better efforts going forward.
As many fans were leaving after Caleb Sturgis gave the Eagles a 20-point lead with 8:19 to play — a lead that was definitely safe, considering the Giants’ offensive struggles all night — a fitting song was playing in the stadium. It was Harvey Danger’s "Flagpole Sitta," and the lyrics "I’m not sick but I’m not well" certainly summed up the Eagles’ current situation.
"I really do believe we’re still all getting used to playing together," Shurmur said. "The running game, that takes coordination, the backs getting used to the rhythm of the paths we’re running, you see some really good stuff from the passing game, we’re making an effort to get the ball down the field.
"It’s there. I think we have to do it more consistently."