In their season finale against the New York Giants, the Eagles finished their year on a high note, even though they'd already been eliminated from playoff contention a week prior. The 35-30 win was sparked by a strong performance from quarterback Sam Bradford coupled with a huge play by safety Walter Thurmond in the fourth quarter. Here are some of the key plays and important notes from the game …
Sam Bradford Finishes The Year With Another Strong Performance
In seven starts since the Eagles' bye week in early November, Bradford failed to earn a passer rating under 90 with the exception of one game (Week 14 vs. Buffalo). Sunday's season finale was no different, with the veteran signal-caller completing 30 of his 38 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which was tipped at the line. He finished the year with 3,725 yards with a franchise-record 65.0 percent completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, earning a career-best 86.4 passer rating (minimum eight games). He also tied an Eagles record with five 300-yard passing games.
Jordan Matthews Falls Just Shy Of 1,000-Yard Season
As a rookie, wideout Jordan Matthews had 67 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. And after catching seven balls for 54 yards with two touchdowns, he finished with 85 catches for 997 yards and eight scores. In doing so, he fell just five catches shy of tying the Eagles' single-season record of 90 receptions set by running back Brian Westbrook in 2007.
Another Big Day For Ertz
Last weekend against Washington, tight end Zach Ertz finished with 13 receptions for 122 yards. Today, he picked up right where he left off. The tight end caught nine balls for 152 yards, with one reception going for 60 yards and setting up a 6-yard Darren Sproles touchdown. Ertz is the first Eagles tight end with back-to-back 100-yard games since 2009, and on the year he finished with 75 catches for 853 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Vintage DeMarco Murray
After leading the NFL in rushing last season with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, DeMarco Murray struggled in his lone season with the Eagles. Entering today's game, he'd notched 633 yards and five touchdowns through 14 appearances. But on his first carry of the day against the Giants, the 27-year-old back set a season-long with a 54-yard touchdown run that came with Bradford lined up under center. Murray finished his first year in midnight green with 702 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns.
Eagles Make Strong Stand At The Goal Line
After allowing the Giants to march down from the Philadelphia 47 down to the team's 5-yard line, the Eagles were able to hold New York to a field goal that made it 7-3. On first down, running back Shane Vereen was tackled by linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Marcus Smith two yards past the line of scrimmage, on second down safety Walter Thurmond broke up a pass in the end zone intended for tight end Will Tye, and on third down pressure on quarterback Eli Manning forced the veteran quarterback to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone.
Huge Play To Ertz Sets Up Punch-In By Sproles
On the Eagles' third drive of the day, Bradford hooked up with Ertz for a strike about 40 yards down the field. The third-year tight end was able to pick up about 20 yards more after the catch, bringing the ball down to the 6-yard line, where running back Darren Sproles scored on the very next play on a run to the outside. At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles led 14-3.
Red Zone 'D' Holds Giants To Three
New York began the second quarter at the Philadelphia 12-yard line following a 21-yard rush from Rashad Jennings, who had 116 yards on 17 carries in the first half and 170 yards rushing for the game. The team inched closer to the end zone with a 5-yard gain, but on second down linebacker Marcus Smith sacked quarterback Eli Manning, pushing the Giants back to where they began. The sack was the first full one of Smith's career and forced New York to settle for a 30-yard field goal.
Pierre-Paul's Tip Forces Interception
Immediately following the Giants' second field goal of the game, Bradford helped move his team 14 yards to the Eagles' 34-yard line on the Eagles' first possession of the second quarter. However, the Giants then struck a bit of luck when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul got a hand on Bradford's throw, a pass that was intended for wide receiver Josh Huff. With the ball in the air, Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas was able to catch and secure it, giving possession back to New York. Two plays and 35 yards later, Tye caught a 9-yard touchdown grab from Manning.
Giants Capitalize After Failed Challenge
On the Eagles' first play of the second half, Bradford handed the ball off to running back Ryan Mathews, who ran up the middle for a gain of 7. As he hit the ground, the ball came loose but officials immediately ruled the running back down by contact. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin chose to challenge the call, one he ultimately lost. The following play, the Eagles continued to move down the field, picking up 21 yards on a pass to Ertz and converting another third down. However minutes later, Murray fumbled on a 3-yard carry, turning the ball over to New York. Manning and the Giants quickly capitalized as he threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rueben Randle to go ahead in the game, 27-21.
Thurmond Fumble Recovery Helps Eagles Regain Lead
At the 3:50 mark of the third quarter, the Giants were back at the Eagles' 14, looking to take a 13-point lead in the game. That quickly changed when linebacker Connor Barwin was able to disrupt Manning's throw. Thurmond caught the ball in the air at the 17-yard line, returning it 83 yards for the touchdown and giving the Eagles a one-point lead yet again. The touchdown was the second of Thurmond's NFL career.
Perfect Drive For Bradford Capped By Touchdown
Taking over at their own 11-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter after forcing New York to punt, the Eagles were able to string together a six-minute, 13-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Matthews in the left corner of the end zone. The drive saw Bradford complete all eight of the passes he attempted, accounting for 73 of the 89 yards gained by Philadelphia on the scoring drive.
Field Goal Pulls Giants Within Five, But It's Not Enough
New York took over on offense with 9:19 left in regulation and were able to get the ball to Philadelphia's 30 before failing to complete a pass intended for Randle just shy of the goal line. Instead, the Giants opted to kick a field goal, making it 35-30 with 4:35 left to play. The Eagles were able to burn about three minutes of clock after the ensuing kickoff, and the Giants were unable to score after taking over the ball at their own 20 with 1:43 left in regulation securing the win for the Eagles.
The Eagles traveled to New York to face the Giants in their final game of the 2015 season. View the full gallery here...