Twelve plays, 84 yards and a touchdown later, quarterback Sam Bradford trotted to the sideline as Lincoln Financial Field exploded on Saturday night, excited about what they had just witnessed and what they hope to see throughout the 2015 season. In his only series of the night during a 40-17 Eagles victory, Bradford accomplished everything he set out to do.
"I feel like once we got rolling out there, I felt pretty good," Bradford said. "There's a bunch of things we all have to keep working on. I think there are things that I've got to clean up, there are things that everyone has to clean up. It's nice that we have a couple of weeks left in the preseason."
Three hundred and sixty four days after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee – the second ACL to his left knee in two years – Bradford returned to a game, a preseason one yes, had success with three completions in five passing attempts and walked off the field on his own power.
Bradford experienced what he needed – the game tempo, which was a notch higher than the reps he took in Training Camp, some crisp passes and improved chemistry with his receivers, a couple of nasty hits – and spoke afterward about his outing.
"Man, I was excited, I was nervous. There were a lot of emotions," Bradford said. "Most of all, I was excited. It was just a great feeling, hearing the crowd, getting back out there, playing football again. It's been a long time. There has been a lot of work that has gone into it and to get out there tonight and actually get to play again, it was a lot of fun."
You couldn't blame him for having butterflies the size of cheesesteaks as he ran onto the field and the crowd rose to its feet with a loud, long ovation. Bradford was hit directly on his left knee on a handoff on his second snap, thanks to an overly aggressive Terrell Suggs, who was given a 15-yard penalty. Bradford shrugged off the hit and got right back up as his teammates and the fans showed clear aggravation with Suggs.
Bradford wasn't happy with the hit from Suggs. He said after the game that he felt Suggs was, in fact, going after the left knee.
"Yeah, I was a little upset," Bradford said. "I'm not sure I can repeat what I said to him, but it's part of the game. I'm sure that's not the last time something like that is going to happen this year. Hopefully, it doesn't."
Later in the drive, Bradford took a hard shot to the sternum and again was knocked to the ground. Bradford showed some toughness and stayed on the field as the Eagles finished off the drive with a Ryan Mathews touchdown run to send Lincoln Financial Field into bonkerdom.
The single drive served as a preview of what to expect with Bradford running the show and with DeMarco Murray and Mathews carrying the football. Murray had five carries and 17 yards and finished off his night with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Head coach Chip Kelly said the plan was to play Bradford for 10 to 15 snaps in his first preseason outing, and Bradford exited after 14 (including penalties). He ran the offense with tempo, he threw the ball with timing and he took the hits and kept on ticking.
"None the worse for wear," Kelly said. "I am pleased. He's progressing the way we logically had a plan with him with what we did with the OTAs and what we did leading into this game. We weren't going to play him in the first game (against Indianapolis) and we let him get his feet wet in terms of the training sessions we had with the Ravens and then get him out here for 10 to 15 snaps. We got him 14 snaps."
Bradford said during the week of joint training sessions with the Ravens that he felt he needed to take a couple of shots to have the full football experience. Well, he took some shots - the one to his chest actually gave him a bloody lip.
He's OK, and that's all that matters. The hits are going to come, and Bradford has to have some luck on his side just like any player.
"I took a few hits tonight, got back up. It was good," Bradford said. "I think it's part of the game and it's one of those last hurdles, one of those last boxes that needed to be checked and I think it was tonight."
In those 12 plays, the Eagles' offense displayed some of the options and the sky-is-the-limit sense it has. Murray opened things with a 7-yard gain up the gut. A holding penalty on Lane Johnson backed the offense up 10 yards as Bradford just missed an open Riley Cooper down the left sideline, and on second-and-13 Murray got the call again and again pounded out 7 yards. On third-and-6, Bradford found Darren Sproles - who lined up in the slot - for 8 yards and the crowd erupted.
The Ravens and #Eagles faced off at Lincoln Financial Field for Preseason Game 2. View the full gallery here...
Bradford then threw incomplete for Sproles on first down - a pass that was just too hot - and then handed off to Sproles as Suggs came off the edge and went directly for Bradford's left knee, knocking the quarterback to the ground. Suggs was penalized and the Eagles had a first down after the roughing-the-passer penalty at their 48-yard line.
From there, Murray gained 3 yards, a defensive holding penalty gave the Eagles a first down at the Baltimore 44-yard line and after Murray lost 2 yards on a run. Bradford completed a throw to wide receiver Josh Huff for 12 yards and a first down at the Ravens' 34-yard line.
"I didn't think about my knee once I got out there. That was big for me," Bradford said. "Just to take some shots, feel the speed of the game, feel the rush, we try to simulate that in practice but it's really hard when I'm off-limits.
"It was good to just kind of feel the speed of the game out there tonight."
It was speed that Baltimore just couldn't catch. Bradford converted a third-and-5 situation with a 15-yard completion to Jordan Matthews and on the next play Mathews burst up the middle untouched for 14 yards and a touchdown.
Night over for No. 7.
Green Bay is next, another great test on the road.
"Hopefully things will just slow down a little bit," Bradford said. "I think I was just a little amped up the first couple of plays out there. We'll look at the tape tomorrow, check it out."
What he's going to see is an offense that is loaded. Andrew Gardner started at right guard and has helped solidify the offensive line. The wide receiver group is deep and talented. The running game with Murray and Mathews gets to the second level quickly. Tight end Zach Ertz is out until the regular season, but he and Brent Celek are a strong duo when both are right.
And then there's the quarterback. Bradford passed a significant test on Saturday night. He enjoyed the feeling, loved running the show and is looking ahead to the next step.
"It was good for everybody to see him," center Jason Kelce said. "He's been through a lot. You see how talented he is and what he can accomplish. It was great having him get through this. I think everyone is excited about what he can do in this offense."