Four Downs: Bradford Steps Up In Win
ARLINGTON, TX — The Eagles beat the Cowboys, 33-27, in their last meeting of the season. Here’s what we saw.
Bradford finished with a good stat line — including an 103.4 passer rating — and that’s a fair indicator of his overall performance. Early on, he appeared to miss receivers open down field and he consistently targeted players in front of the first down mark on third down.
However, he improved as the game went on and made two impressive throws in the second half. The first was a 44-yard wheel route to Murray — which Bradford executed well in the preseason, but has been less consistent on during the regular season — and the second was a 27-yard completion down the sideline to Zach Ertz, who made a great catch.
Bradford’s game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews also hit his receiver in stride, which is something he hasn’t done much of this season. Although Matthews made a good play to win the game, Bradford had to lead his receiver to give him a chance to do so.
MOST TELLING STAT: 112
That’s how many receiving yards Cole Beasley tallied tonight, as he recorded nine catches on 11 targets. He also scored two receiving touchdowns and consistently hurt the Eagles — but mostly Malcolm Jenkins — on double-moves.
On both of his touchdowns, Beasley ran a few yards to the outside, then quickly turned and cut back inside. Jenkins struggled against the quick receiver in the slot, but the second touchdown appeared to involve a miscommunication. Jenkins maintained outside leverage even as Beasley cut inside, so he was likely expecting help from a safety or inside linebacker.
Dez Bryant also hurt the Eagles by catching five passes. His second reception went for 51 yards in the first quarter, while his third was a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Bryant beat Nolan Carroll on his first two grabs, and then made a great play on a jump ball when he scored the touchdown.
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The Philadelphia offensive line had an up-and-down day versus the Dallas defensive line. The Eagles averaged 4.9 yards per carry, but they gave up one sack, a few pressures and Sam Bradford didn’t always have a lot of time in the pocket.
However, the offensive line’s second-level blocking was much better than it was against the Panthers, which played a big role in their first touchdown drive. Although each member of the offensive line had at least one bad snap in run blocking (particularly Jason Kelce in the first half), they each played pivotal roles on big runs.
Ryan Mathews was once again the Eagles’ best running back (on the ground) as he averaged more than six yards per carry and showed great vision on his 21-yard cutback run. He was more elusive in open space than DeMarco Murray, although Murray totaled more than 150 yards when factoring in his production through the air.
If Jordan Hicks isn’t already a top contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year, I don’t know what else he needs to do. He already had one forced fumble and interception before this game, and he returned an interception for a 67-yard touchdown tonight.
Although Hicks’ stats are impressive, what he does outside of the box score is more important. When Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks were injured, he played like a veteran and didn’t limit what the Eagles could do defensively. Now, with Alonso and Kendricks healthy and DeMeco Ryans hurt, Hicks is responsible for making calls and lining up his teammates.
Hicks has stabilized an inside linebacker position despite his teammates’ health issues, and has turned it into a strength for the Eagles even when they aren’t at full strength. Some questioned Chip Kelly when he spent a third round pick to get another inside linebacker, but Kelly’s investment is paying off sooner than he could’ve imagined.