Eagles Wake-Up Call: Bradford A Better Leader
The lighting — or lack thereof — was almost prophetic.
Jordan Matthews sat in his locker after the Eagles’ win yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field, while the bulb above him appeared to be burnt-out. He spoke for two and a half minutes about the dark space the team occupied just weeks prior, before identifying one of the men who lifted them into the light: Sam Bradford.
Not more than 15 seconds into Matthews’ praise of his quarterback, the bulb began to flicker, and then finally it turned on.
“Sam’s probably been through more than anybody in this locker room as far as adversity, probably [more] than a lot of the guys in the NFL,” said Matthews, who looked up and smiled when his light finally worked. “The way his demeanor is, he’s very calm, very silent. So when he opens his mouth, you better listen because this guy knows what he’s talking about. We definitely feed off that.”
Traces of Bradford’s impact were evident last week as the Eagles pulled off one of the most unlikely wins in Chip Kelly’s tenure, topping the Patriots, 35-28, in Foxborough. According to players, the quarterback, who acknowledged how he has tried to be more vocal in the last two weeks, responded to a call from teammates to become more of a leader.
“Guys have encouraged him to step up into that leadership role. He wasn’t doing that as much. Everyone wants him to be the leader of this team,” Zach Ertz said. “The past couple of games, he kind of stepped up before the game and delivered an unbelievable message to us. He wants us to go out there and be physical and set the tone for the entire game, and I think that’s what we’ve done for the past two games.”
In Philadelphia’s 23-20 win over Buffalo, Bradford completed 23 of his 38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The quarterback had more success attacking downfield than in previous games, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor that was the third longest touchdown of his career.
Bradford’s teammates, however, say his biggest contributions may have come off of the field.
“He is the captain of the ship. It’s nice to hear him and how excited he is,” Ryan Mathews said. “It gets the team going; it really does. To see how much he really wants it, it just gives us more pride. We want to do more because of how much he cares.”
Although Bradford threw 10 interceptions in his first seven games this season, he has five touchdown passes and just one pick in his last four contests. Over his last four starts, he has completed 80 of 123 passes (65.0%) for 898 yards and a 96.9 rating.
The Eagles are also 5-1 in the last six games Bradford has started and finished.
“Sam, I think, had a bit more to deal with coming into the season,” Jason Kelce said. “He was coming into a new offense, a new system, coming off of two years of not playing football, being injured and being in a new city. There are a lot of things that he had to cope with early on.
“Everyone in the offense really struggled at first, but now we are starting to gel and find out who we really are.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I don’t got nothing to say.” LeSean McCoy was despondent after his homecoming defeat.
Uneven defense, impressive quarterback play and more. Four big takeaways from the Birds’ win.
Tim brings his Instant Observations from the Eagles’ 23-20 win over the Bills yesterday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Sam Bradford is playing the best football of his career, writes David Murphy.
But the guy was phenomenal, and that’s been something of a trend here lately. In fact, it might be the most underreported story line surrounding this Eagles team. Bradford is playing his position at a very high level right now, higher than he has at any point in his NFL career, and his performance in the Eagles’ 23-20 win over the Bills yesterday was just the latest example.
He has looked like a guy who was absolutely worth a second-round pick. He has looked like a guy who will absolutely be worth a contract extension whenever it is that this bizarre season eventually ends. And, who knows, if the Eagles can find a way to get him a playmaker or two out wide, he might even put up the numbers to match.
Reuben Frank’s 10 observations on the Eagles’ win, including a rumination about Chip Kelly’s standing in his team’s locker room.
A head coach who has a very good feel for his team and his players and is able to help them navigate through such a challenging stretch. People are so quick to blast away and draw conclusions based on a game or two. But anybody who’s watched this game knows that pro football is a game of wild ebbs and flows, and you never make any grand pronouncements or draw any broad conclusions until the season is over.
Miami, Tampa and Detroit was a terrible stretch for this football team, but you really learn what any team is made of by watching how it responds to adversity, and wins over the Patriots and Bills are a pretty good sign that this coach maybe hasn’t lost anybody. I’m not saying this is a great football team by any stretch of the imagination, but quit on their coach? Please.
Chip Kelly will address the media at 1 p.m.