Prior to last Monday night, rookie running back Bryce Brown had shown flashes of the kind of player he could be. He was impressive in Training Camp and preseason. He'd shown good power and surprising speed, with enough quickness and instincts to warrant him being the Eagles' second running back. But few people, if any, expected Brown to perform the way he did in his first start Monday night.
Filling in for the injured LeSean McCoy, Brown ran 19 times for an eye-popping 178 yards and two touchdowns. That's a season-high on the ground for the Eagles, and the most rushing yards by an Eagle since McCoy put up 185 on the Cowboys in Week 7 of last season. With McCoy likely out again this week, Brown will be asked to carry the load on Sunday night against the Cowboys.
Brown's night gave fans plenty to cheer about, but it's his two costly fumbles that linger in his own mind. The first happened on the Eagles' first drive of the second half. The Panthers had just scored their third touchdown, and the Eagles were in Panthers territory and driving when defensive tackle Sione Fua stripped the ball from Brown. The second happened two drives later on the first play of the drive. Brown is eager to correct his mistakes this week.
"Fumbling is not a habit that I have. It's not something that I normally do," he said. "I just have to be cautious and be more careful. It's football. Things are going to happen. Just go in this week and know that guys are going to be after the ball this game."
Needless to say, Brown's performance caught the attention of his teammates. Yes, he has to hold on to the ball. But it was easy for the players around him to see the skill Brown brings to the table.
"He's a talented kid and he's going to be a great running back in this league for a long time," said tight end Brent Celek. "We were talking about it today. That was his first start since high school. It was pretty impressive. He knows that he has to hold on to the football. He'll fix that. He's a young kid who wants to help this team, who wants to do a lot out there. He'll get better and he knows that. And we all know that. We've got faith in him."
Brown will have the chance to take that next step Sunday. When the Eagles and Cowboys met in Week 10, McCoy was able to find space to run, picking up 82 yards on 16 carries. Brown will look to have a similar performance against the league's 13th-ranked rushing defense. To do that, he's going to focus on what got him this far in the first place.
"My approach to the game is the same," Brown said. "Work hard this week. Do the things you're supposed to do. Get in that playbook. Learn as much as I can about Dallas and get ready to go."
Brown is no longer a secret, and the Cowboys will certainly look to shut the rookie down on Sunday night. But Brown is playing beyond his years, and a big game from him could be just what the Eagles need to leave Dallas with a win.
"I'm ready to get back out there," Brown said. "We're really desperate for a win. That's what I really, really want to get."
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