The Philadelphia Eagles are now 6-7 on the 2015 NFL regular season schedule after defeating the Buffalo Bills on Sunday by a final score of 23 to 20. Here are 10 things we learned from this game.
1) LeSean McCoy didn't get his revenge
So much for all that drama leading up to this week's game. This was Shady's chance to get revenge on his former team, but he didn't capitalize. The former Eagles running back finished with 20 carries for 74 yards (3.7 average) and no touchdowns. He came up really small when it mattered most. He only had 11 yards on eight carries in the second half. McCoy was clearly frustrated by his poor performance. He was a sore loser after the game was over.
2) Fletcher Cox is so good that there isn't an adjective that does him justice
What a beast. Cox, who turned 25 on Sunday, led the Eagles in tackles with eight. He was also credited with one sack, one quarterback hit, and two tackles for loss. Cox's numbers would have been even better if Buffalo wasn't holding him all. Cox was living in Buffalo's backfield all day. He's been playing great all season, but he's been especially good in recent weeks. When will this man finally get credit? Someone get Cox to the Pro Bowl.
3) Sam Bradford had a good game
I really liked what I saw from Sam Bradford in this game. He didn't have any bad "WTF" throws. He was accurate and threw some real nice passes. The touchdown throw to Nelson Agholor was impressive. The interception he threw wasn't even his fault at all. That pass was in Brent Celek's hands and the Bills defender just made an amazing play. And it possibly should have been overturned. Bradford continues to trend in the right direction:
Sam Bradford’s last 4 starts with #Eagles: 80 for 123 (65.0%), 898 yards (7.3 avg), 5 TD, 1 INT, and a 96.9 rating.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 13, 2015
The Eagles are 5-1 in the last 6 games Bradford has started and finished and 6-2 in the last 8.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 13, 2015
Bradford's numbers would have looked even better if he wasn't hampered by a myriad of drops. I still haven't seen enough from the Samchise to make me think he's a legitimate franchise quarterback, but I do think he's buying himself more time to prove that beyond this season. He needs to continue playing well down the stretch.
4) The Eagles have a running back by committee
It's clear DeMarco Murray is no longer a feature back in this offense. He got the second most carries of any Eagles running back on Sunday with 11. Ryan Mathews led the way with 13 and Darren Sproles had seven. Murray still looked slow. Mathews didn't look so great either, but he deserves some slack since it was his first game back from injury. Sproles was the most effective rusher. The Eagles kept Kenjon Barner active, but he didn't get any carries. That's disappointing. Barner has run well when given opportunities this year. Chip Kelly needs to get him in the mix, even if it's just for two or three carries. Especially if Murray and/or Mathews are ineffective.
5) Ed Reynolds made the play of the game
How about Ed Reynolds stepping up big with the game-sealing interception? Expectations have been low for the 2014 fifth round pick, and he's still far from perfect, but he seems to be an upgrade on Chris Maragos as the team's nickel and dime safety. Reynolds admitted he hesitated too much on the deep touchdown allowed to Sammy Watkins early in the game but he redeemed himself by being aggressive and making a play on the ball to help the Eagles get a much-needed win. Let's see if Reynolds can build on this.
6) Some good and some bad for Nelson Agholor
The rookie receiver caught his first career NFL touchdown pass on a deep ball over the middle after he beat Buffalo's coverage. The Eagles don't have a legitimate deep threat, but the hope is Agholor can provide more big plays like that on a regular basis. It wasn't all good for Agholor. He had two bad drops on two third down plays in the game. The ball was right on his hands. It couldn't have been much easier but he couldn't snag it. He's still a work in progress.
7) Eric Rowe was quiet, and that's a good thing
For the second week in a row, Eric Rowe seemed to have a really good game. It was easy to forget he was even playing. The Bills didn't seem to throw his way often, and when they did, he wasn't allowing big plays.
8) Philadelphia's defense has rebounded
The Eagles had such a solid defense this season. Then they allowed 45 points to the Buccaneers and Lions in a span of just a few days. Now Philadelphia's is suddenly good again.
In 4th quarter, #Eagles defense held the Bills to 60 yards on 4 possessions, forcing 3 punts and 1 interception. #clutch— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 13, 2015
Tyrod Taylor entered Eagles-Bills game with 5th best passer rating in the NFL (104.3). Eagles held him to season-low 74.8 rating.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 14, 2015
Bill Davis deserves some credit for getting this unit back on track.
9) Unsung heroes made a difference
Some honorable mentions: Donnie Jones had a great day punting. Caleb Sturgis wasn't asked to make any overly difficult kicks, but he made them, and he was also money on kickoffs. Aside from a squib kick prior to the end of the first half, all his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Zach Ertz had a big catch and run for 41 yards to ultimately set the team up for a game-winning field goal. Jaylen Watkins put a big hit on Marcus Thigpen after the returner muffed the punt. Bryan Braman came up with the fumble recovery. Mychal Kendricks quietly had eight tackles. The Eagles did a lot of the little things right in this one.
Dishonorable mention: the officiating. It was bad. A lot of penalties, a lot of missed penalties, and some flat out bad calls.
10) The Eagles control their own destiny
Washington won on Sunday, so they're still technically first in the division. The New York Giants don't play until Monday night. The Dallas Cowboys were already done but now they're extra done after losing to the Packers. No matter what happens in the Cardinals game next week, the Eagles can clinch the NFC East by beating both Washington in Week 16 and the Giants in Week 17.
Let's not kid ourselves. I don't think the Eagles are a true championship contender. But I do think think they can win this division and can even win a home playoff game. Now it's up to them to get there.