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The Read-Option: Bradford's Grit


Good morning, Eagles fans. Last night's loss to Arizona may have you feeling a little down to start your week, but the Eagles' playoff chances remain intact. Here's a look back at the top stories from Sunday night's game at Lincoln Financial Field, in case you missed any of the action …

QB Bradford Must Carry The Eagles - Dave Spadaro

According to Dave Spadaro, if the Eagles are to win the last two regular season games and win the division title, quarterback Sam Bradford must take control.

The bright spot? Bradford, despite the interception, threw the ball very well for the most part. He was under a lot of pressure from the Arizona pass rush, but Bradford hung in there and fired away. He completed 28-of-41 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

And with a running game that struggled once again – the Eagles ran for 74 yards on 20 carries, with Mathews gaining 58 on 11 carries, 20 yards on a single attempt, and DeMarco Murray a non-factor with 3 yards on two attempts  – it's likely that the team's chances of winning the NFC East – and the Eagles are in with two wins, regardless – hinge on Bradford. He needs to carry them. He needs to be the franchise quarterback to save this season.

"We all believe in Sam," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said after catching eight passes for 159 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown. "He was under a lot of pressure and he threw the ball extremely well."

The matter ahead is bouncing back from such a lopsided loss and avenging an early-season defeat in Washington, one that still stings. The Eagles have a quick turnaround, which may be a good thing.

"I think the biggest thing is that you can't let one loss beat you twice," Matthews said. "Sometimes I think short weeks are good because you're able to get that bad taste out of your mouth that much quicker. It would be one thing if we didn't still have life, but we have life. Everything is still right in front of us. A game like this, it's not demoralizing because we really beat ourselves. If we clean up those things, clean up the turnovers, we can go out and get ourselves a good win next week.

"I'm really optimistic. I know the guys are, too."

That's a good start after such a tough loss on national television. A season is on the line, officially. The first must-win moment of the year faces an Eagles team that must recover physically and emotionally.

"It's disappointing to play this way but we have to put it aside and get ready for Washington," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We don't have any other choice. We have to win this game."

So it's the same scenario as last season: Week 16 against Washington in a win-or-no-chance-of-the-playoffs scenario. This time it's at Lincoln Financial Field. Let's see if Bradford, who has improved his game so much in the second half of the season, can carry this Eagles team to the victory.

Tweet Of The Day

Cardinals Vs. Eagles: December 20


The Sunday Night Football showdown against the Cardinals kicked off with the Eagles sporting their #BackInBlack uniforms. View the full gallery here...


Matthews: Reason To Be Optimistic – Alex Smith

Jordan Matthews was one of the lone bright spots for the Eagles on Sunday night, totaling a career-best 159 yards and a touchdown. Despite the loss, Matthews is optimistic about the Eagles’ playoff chances.

The Eagles ultimately fell by 23 points, but according to Matthews, there were still a number of positives for the Eagles to take from the performance.

"The Cardinals are a great team," Matthews said. "I don't want to take anything away from them. I'm still optimistic heading into next week because when you look at it, we really beat ourselves … We should be really optimistic because I feel like there were a lot of points that we left out there. It's not like they just came here and shut us down and stopped us in all facets of the game. We moved the ball but we turned the ball over at really bad times. We really beat ourselves in this one, so we need to go back and look at it and then find a way to win these last two weeks."

At 6-8, the Eagles' playoff window remains open, but the team must win its final two games of the season - at home versus Washington and on the road against New York - to take home the team's second NFC East title in the last three seasons. Nothing is going to be handed to the Eagles, but Matthews believes that the team has the right mindset heading into the most important two games of the 2015 season.

"We still have life," Matthews said. "Everything is right in front of us, and like I said, in a game like this, it's not as demoralizing because we really beat ourselves … I'm really optimistic and I know that all the guys are too."

Kelly: Tackling Biggest Disappointment – Max Rappaport

The Eagles knew they had to be on their A game on Sunday against Arizona, but sloppy tackling held the Eagles back.

Missed tackles plagued the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, and Philadelphia's front seven failed to get much pressure for the majority of the game. The team lost starting cornerbacks Byron Maxwell (shoulder) and Eric Rowe (concussion) in the first half due to injury, but despite the understandable burden that their absence placed on the defense, Chip Kelly was displeased with his team's self-inflicted wounds on both sides of the ball.

"Unfortunately, there are no asterisks," he said when asked if he looks at this week's loss differently because of the injuries. "The biggest disappointment is that we didn't tackle well, and that's really where I look at it. Defensively we didn't tackle, and offensively we turned the ball over."

The Eagles have a short week in front of them, with a Saturday night meeting with the Washington Redskins in six days serving as the game that will likely determine the winner of the NFC East. While Philadelphia cannot clinch the division crown with a win over Washington – although the Redskins can with a victory of their own, a loss would eliminate the Eagles from postseason contention. For that reason, Kelly believes it is more imperative than ever that his team focuses its attention solely on the task most immediately in their way, even though they'll need another win – or help from other teams – in Week 17 to win the NFC East.

"It's (about) if we win that one (game). It doesn't matter about two, it matters about one," he said. "If we don't take care of business on Saturday, there isn't a second game to really talk about."

Highlight: Jordan Matthews' 78-Yard TD

Other Views

Despite Loss, Eagles' Sam Bradford Shows He's A Winner – Sam Donnellon, Philadelphia Daily News

*Another gritty performance shows that Bradford is continuing to improve in this Eagles’ offense … *

In the end, Bradford's numbers reflected the gritty, if uneven performance of his entire team. Forty one pass attempts, 361 yards, two touchdown passes and two ugly picks, one returned for a touchdown.

In the end, he was hardly the reason they lost and not amazing enough for them to win, but he sure left a lot of good thought for the future in the suggestion box. He completed one clutch throw as he was driven to the ground at the back of the end zone, and completed the Eagles' longest touchdown pass in five years, a 78-yard bomb to Matthews, as he was again driven to the ground violently.

A quarterback who had spent much of this season as the focal point of civic frustration with this team had evolved over the previous few weeks as the best reason to hold onto hope. Drops and penalties along the line have continued to sabotage drives and held down scores, but until that first pick, Bradford had eliminated many of the mistakes that hounded his first half, and had become, of late, wonderfully productive on these low-percentage third-down plays, taking more than his share of punishment along the way.

"I think we did some really good things," said Bradford, sounding beat up and tired. "That was a really good defense we played tonight. I think they're top-five in the league in total defense. We made some plays. It's not like they shut us down all night. We just had too many self-inflicted wounds to do anything."

Four Downs: Turnovers Lead To Eagles Loss – Josh Paunil, Birds 24/7

The loss to Arizona hurts, but the Eagles remain in the hunt

Despite losing tonight, the Eagles are still in control of their own destiny. If they beat Washington and New York to close out the season, they will win the division at 8-8 with a 4-2 NFC East record.

However, if they lose at home to Washington on Saturday, they will be eliminated from the playoffs regardless of Week 17 results. If Philadelphia beats Washington and loses to New York, they would still win the division if New York loses to Minnesota next week and Washington loses to Dallas in Week 17.

According to the NFL's website, head-to-head results is the first tiebreaker within a division. The second tiebreaker is division record while the third tiebreaker is the teams' records against common opponents.

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