Biggest Takeaways from Philadelphia Eagles' Week 14 Win
Little more than two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles had been left for dead.
They were coming off three straight losses, blowing a 16-point lead in the first, then dropping the next two by a combined score of 90-31. Their record was 4-7, and the conversation was shifting away from the playoffs and toward the NFL draft.
Yet all of a sudden, the Eagles are victorious in their last two games. On Sunday, they held on to seal a gritty 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills—this just one week after upsetting the 11-2 New England Patriots in prime time.
The Eagles' record has improved to 6-7, they're in a virtual tie for first place in the NFC East and in complete control of their own destiny. The momentum is once again beginning to build for a playoff push after all.
This team still has a ways to go to prove it's anything remotely near a legitimate contender. However, there are some promising signs from the past two weeks that maybe, just maybe, this most recent turnaround is for real.
The Eagles have another tough test next week in the 11-2 Arizona Cardinals, but they've given some genuine reasons to keep hope in that one.
Fletcher Cox Is a Beast
By now, the secret is out. Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and the fourth-year veteran proved it again on his 25th birthday.
Cox was extremely disruptive, finishing the game tied for team lead with eight tackles, which is highly irregular in itself for a lineman. He also added the Eagles' lone sack and two of their three tackles for loss to his tally.
Even when Cox wasn't being credited with official NFL statistics, on any given play, you could see him wreaking havoc in the backfield or at the point of attack.
Cox's sack gives him a career-high 6.5 for the season, and last week, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis opined that if only that total were higher, his defensive end would be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
At the very least, Cox should be headed to his first Pro Bowl in January.
Eagles' Backfield Officially a Committee
Nobody was sure exactly what to expect after the apparent demotion of DeMarco Murray as the Eagles' first-team running back. There was talk that the 2014 NFL rushing champion might be the fourth ball-carrier off the bench or even inactive for this week's game against the Bills.
Murray wasn't inactive, but he wasn't the No. 1 back on the depth chart either. In fact, it appears the Eagles are moving forward with a rotation.
Ryan Mathews wound up starting the game and finishing with 13 carries for 38 yards, but Murray saw plenty of action as well with 11 attempts for 34 yards. There was even a healthy dose of Darren Sproles, who wound up running the ball seven times for 41 yards.
In other words, the work was divvied up somewhat equally, seemingly indicating that the Eagles will stick with a committee approach for the remainder of the season.
In all honesty, that's probably for the best.
Special Teams Are Back
Last week, the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots partially on the strength of two special teams touchdowns—a blocked punt and a punt return.
On Sunday versus the Bills, special teams were once again instrumental in the victory.
Possibly the biggest play of the game was once again a punt, as Eagles gunner Jaylen Watkins hit Marcus Thigpen just as he received the kick, sending the ball into the arms of linebacker Bryan Braman for the turnover.
Philadelphia's kicking game was strong in general, with Caleb Sturgis converting all three field-goal and both extra-point tries, while punter Donnie Jones averaged a whopping 50.4 yards on seven punts.
In previous weeks, we had seen special teams costing the Eagles several games, a major departure from what we'd become accustomed to under head coach Chip Kelly. It seems order has been restored in that phase.
Sam Bradford Keeps on Winning
Sunday was a perfect example of why you can't use statistics to evaluate Sam Bradford this season.
The sixth-year signal-caller didn't have much of a line, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 247 yards (6.5 per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception. Then again, those numbers were marred by events out of the quarterback's control.
Dropped passes were once again an issue for the Eagles, including a 41-yard would-be reception to Riley Cooper that was overturned when replay found that the wideout dropped the football. The pick wasn't Bradford's fault either, as the defender ripped the ball out of tight end Brent Celek's hands—then despite a replay that showed the ball hit the ground anyway, the play was not reversed.
Bradford hasn't had much luck in the stats department, but it should be noted that the Eagles have won a lot of games when he's under center.
Philadelphia is 5-1 in the last six games Bradford has started and finished, and no, that's not a coincidence. You just have to look beyond the numbers.
LeSean McCoy a Poor Sport
LeSean McCoy had plenty to say in the week leading up to the game. The All-Pro running back had plenty to say about Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and his surprise trade from the Eagles all offseason long. But when the clock hit zero and his Bills lost to his former team, McCoy didn't feel like talking much at all.
McCoy ran off the field without shaking hands or exchanging pleasantries with any of his old teammates. Then in the visitors' locker room postgame, he snubbed the media, stating simply, "I don't got nothing to say."
This game was McCoy's Super Bowl. Everybody can understand being upset that he was traded from the franchise and city he loved. Everybody can understand being angry with how the move went down, with no serious discussions about restructuring his contract and learning about the swap through the media rather than from his head coach.
With that said, the behavior McCoy exhibited after Sunday's loss is part of the reason he's no longer with the Eagles. At 27 years old, he still needs to grow up.
Quotes obtained by the author.