Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: Blitzing Bradford
For three quarters against Arizona, Sam Bradford was slinging the ball around the field, seemingly upping the value of his next contract with every big third down completion. But then came the fourth quarter, which included two interceptions, that all but put the fire out on his previously excellent performance.
Bradford finished the day completing 28 of his 41 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt and recorded a 91.6 passer rating.
“I thought Sam played well,” Chip Kelly said after the game. “Again, I think we have got to catch the ball better for him. I thought he threw the ball well tonight. He got hit, but he stayed in there and delivered the ball.”
Even with the pair of picks, plus a third giveaway when he was strip-sacked, Bradford turned in a performance featuring several impressive throws. He hung in the pocket to deliver great balls despite pressure, he fit his throws into tight windows and he displayed improved timing with his targets.
“When you see balls thrown where he anticipates or you see balls thrown where it’s based on a guy being covered like Brent [Celek] was but he sees leverage, you’re starting to see a comfort level with the guys you’re throwing to,” Pat Shurmur said. “I think that’s running parallel with the fact that he’s healthier now, he’s in better control of his own body and he’s much more aware of what the receivers are going to do.
“You see a guy that’s throwing the ball, in my opinion, extremely accurately and doing it better each week.”
Bradford’s back-shoulder throw to Celek — which resulted in a 21-yard gain on third down — stood out in real time, but what became clear when watching the film was Bradford’s ability to keep drives alive despite Arizona’s blitzes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bradford completed nine of his 11 passes under pressure for 164 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice and hit seven times, but he delivered the second-highest yardage output of his career.
“Sam’s not a burly guy, but I’m telling you, he’s extremely courageous,” Shurmur said. “When you can see a quarterback keep his eyes down field knowing he’s going to take a pretty good whack, that’s what you’re looking for. When a quarterback’s eyes start to drop, then you got problems and he doesn’t do that.”
Halfway through the first quarter, the Eagles faced third-and-13 on Arizona’s 32-yard line. The Cardinals blitzed, and because of a breakdown between Jason Kelce and Allen Barbre, a linebacker ran untouched toward Bradford and knocked the quarterback out of the game for the next snap.
Arizona played with a single-high safety against the Eagles’ 11 personnel, and Bradford had what Stephen Morris called a “sweep the field” read. The quarterback started the play by looking to the right side of the field and worked outside-in.
Because Nelson Agholor — the outside receiver — was covered well, Jordan Matthews — the slot receiver — was targeted.
“Sam made an unbelievable play to step up into the pocket and deliver a great ball knowing he’s going to get hit,” Morris said. “He sees one-on-one coverage and Jordan does a great job of letting the quarterback know when he came out of his break which angle he was going to take. Sam laid it out there where only he could catch it.”
Early in the third quarter, the Eagles faced third-and-15 on their 2-yard line. This time, Bradford found Josh Huff for a 22-yard gain. He again had pressure in his face as he stepped up to throw.
“You immediately see it’s single coverage and it’s a double-move where Huff goes on the post and then the corner,” Morris said. “Huff made the first break, but then on the second break he came on an angle that helped Sam quickly find him. It’s a best matchup progression, really; it’s not necessarily right-to-left. The corner on Huff is off and the other corner is pressed up, so you want to go to the double-move on an off corner rather than a press corner.”
However, as well as Bradford looked in the first three quarters, you can’t ignore his two interceptions. His turnovers were far from the biggest reason the Eagles lost, but they were still costly.
On Bradford’s second interception, he may not have realized Tyrann Mathieu was dropping back right below his intended target. However, Bradford (as well as the other quarterbacks on the 53-man roster) weren’t available yesterday, and Bradford didn’t specifically address this turnover after the game.
The pick-six, on the other hand, was discussed. Bradford said he simply made a bad throw and should’ve thrown the ball into the dirt.
“We made some plays. It’s not like they shut us down all night,” Bradford added. “We just had too many self-inflicted wounds to really do anything.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters and Darren Sproles were named to the Pro Bowl last night.
DeMarco Murray said he’s the same back as he was last year, “if not better.”
Jaylen Watkins could be pressed into action Saturday against an amped DeSean Jackson.
“That was last year.” Pat Shurmur discussed Murray’s diminishing role in the run game.
For all intents and purposes, the playoffs start on Saturday in the NFC East. Prep yourself.
Three things to know about Washington before Saturday’s marquee matchup for all the marbles.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Bob Ford ponders whether Sam Bradford might just want to move on from Chip Kelly’s team in the offseason.
There is still at least one meaningful game remaining in what has been an overall disappointing season, one more chance for Bradford to keep alive the hope that his career shift from St. Louis to Philadelphia wasn’t a bad move for both sides. After that game, or after the next game, or after that, if you insist, then Bradford will drift toward free agency and the Eagles will have a decision to make. Of course, so will Bradford.
Putting aside the possibility that the Eagles use a franchise tag – and $25 million – to keep him for one more season, it is just as likely that Bradford will be the one who wants to end the marriage.
He finds himself playing for a team that doesn’t value keeping elite wide receivers and pays scant attention to putting together an offensive line to protect the quarterback.
Short weeks haven’t been kind to the Eagles under Chip, writes Dave Zangaro, but they need Saturday’s game.
“A day changes everything,” head coach Chip Kelly said on Monday. “So [Tuesday] will be a Wednesday for us and everything just gets accelerated by day. [Tuesday] instead of — [Monday] is really like a Tuesday for us. So [Tuesday] is a Wednesday for us in terms of what our schedule will be, what will be on the field, meeting-wise, walk-through in the afternoon and all those other things that we normally don’t have two days after a game.”
The Eagles will play their game the day after Christmas, just 16½ hours earlier than a normal Sunday afternoon kickoff time, but history shows short weeks haven’t been kind to the Eagles in recent years.
Since Kelly took over the team in 2013, the Eagles are 2-8 (including playoffs) when playing on a short week.
Chip Kelly will address the media at 10:50 a.m.