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Eagles In First Place After Rough Start


After beginning the season 1-3, the Eagles were written off by many analysts. Despite Philadelphia's early struggles, head coach Chip Kelly remained confident that the team's issues could be resolved and they could get back on track if they simply took things one game at a time.

With two consecutive wins under their belt, including a 27-7 rout of the Giants on Monday night, the Eagles have taken command of first place in the NFC East. But now that they're in the driver's seat, Kelly is making sure the team keeps its foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal.

"At the end of the year, (it's about) your final record," he said when asked by a reporter about the relative importance of Monday's win versus other games they'll play this season. "You can't say, 'Well, we lost that one, but it wasn't very important.' We have a huge game coming up."

Kelly and his team have a short week ahead of them, as they prepare to travel to Carolina to take on the 5-0 Panthers on Sunday Night Football. The game will be perhaps their toughest test to date, but with Philadelphia boasting the eighth-best rushing defense in the league (94.2 yards allowed per game) they figure to have as good a chance as any team to slow down the Panthers' third-ranked rushing attack (132.8 yards gained per game).

They held the Giants to 81 yards on 23 attempts (3.5 yards per carry) and forced the Giants to turn the ball over three times, matching the combined total of their five prior games. They also sacked quarterback Eli Manning three times, bringing the veteran quarterback's total on the season from four to seven. 

"The one thing you have to do (against the Giants), because they get the ball out so quick, is to get a push in the pass rush, and I thought we did that," Kelly said. "Our defense, the rush, the ability to get to Eli (was great) ... I thought our defense played outstanding all game long."

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles did most of their damage on the ground, racking up 155 rushing yards on 37 attempts (4.2 yards per carry). DeMarco Murray led the charge, breaking the century mark for the first time this season, with 109 yards on 22 carries (5.0 yards per carry) and a touchdown. After combining for just 47 yards on 29 attempts (1.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown in his first three games as an Eagle, he's rushed 42 times for 192 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown in the past two weeks combined.

"I think our offensive line is starting to really come together as a group," Kelly said when asked about the recent success of last season's rushing leader. "The one thing about DeMarco is he's a downhill, physical runner who runs behind his pads. If we can get him started, and I think we started to get a little push at the line of scrimmage and get him to the second level, he can run through a lot of arm tackles. It was really good to see him get going today."

Sam Bradford had an up-and-down day, throwing for 280 yards and completing 24 of his 38 passes (63.2 percent) but also tossing three interceptions. Kelly attributed one of the interceptions to a poorly placed ball, another to a route that was run incorrectly by a receiver and another that was a mental error on Bradford's part. No matter the cause of the turnovers, the third-year head coach knows that limiting them is a necessity moving forward.

"He needs to improve, and we all need to improve on the offensive side of the ball," he said. "Any time that we're not on the right page, then that's more concerning. ... At one point in time, it's a receiver, another time it's that we didn't get it communicated. It's a group of guys, so we have to get it straightened out."

At the end of the day, though, the Eagles earned a 27-7 win when they needed it most against a fierce division rival. It remains to be seen whether the momentum of the past two weeks, in which Philadelphia has outscored its opponents 66-24, will carry over to Sunday's road meeting with the Panthers.

The Eagles faced the Giants for Monday Night Football, sporting their #BackInBlack uniforms. View the full gallery here...

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