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The Read-Option: Special Teams Dominance


Good afternoon, Eagles fans! The team is ready for its Back In Black performance on Sunday and is hard at work preparing for a tough Arizona team. For all the latest news, take a look at the December 15th edition of the Read-Option ...

Offense Needs To Keep Taking Shots - Dave Spadaro

"We want more from the offense, for sure. The Eagles had six three-and-out series among the 14 offensive possessions. The running game averaged 3.4 yards per carry, gaining 116 yards on 34 carries. There were some good things -- the opening drive, the "chunk" touchdown pass to Agholor, the drive at the end of the first half that led to three key points, a 14-play, 57-yard field goal drive to open the second half and the huge Bradford throw to tight end Zach Ertz that gained 41 yards to set up Sturgis' final field goal to provide the winning points.

However, there is also a search for more explosiveness in the passing game and more consistency on the ground and more points. Always, more points.

'I still think there are some things that we can do better,' Bradford said after the Buffalo game. 'I think that we can perform at a higher level. Obviously, we are still not great out there. But I think this is what I envisioned as far as us winning as a team, you know, what we have been able to do the past two weeks, to put two wins together. I think that is kind of what everyone was looking to see.'

How can the Eagles improve on offense? They've got some tricky personnel pieces at running back, if Sunday is any indication. All four backs were active and all four played. Ryan Mathews, DeMarco Murray and Sproles combined for 31 carries and 113 yards, not great numbers but enough of a commitment to the ground game to keep defenses honest. If the Eagles can establish the running game -- and that's tough with stout fronts from Arizona and Washington coming to town in the next two weeks -- then they can do more of what they did on Sunday, and that is take shots down the field.

An offense that led the NFL in 2013 in X plays, gains of 20 yards or more, and consistently gashed defenses with huge plays in the passing game has struggled to get the ball down the field this season. Part of that is dictated by a defense's coverage -- Buffalo rarely had a deep safety in the middle of the field on Sunday and Bradford hit Agholor for the touchdown and just missed connecting with Seyi Ajirotutu on another deep throw down the middle -- and part of it is execution. Teams aren't giving away the deep ball. They're going to make the Eagles earn it underneath and with the running game."

Tweet Of The Day

On Community Monday, Steppingstone Scholars students showed Jonathan Krause and JaCorey Shepherd robots they designed for the First Lego League Challenge next month ...

Kelly: Bradford Keeps Getting Better - Alex Smith

"For the second straight week, Kelly praised the play of quarterback Sam Bradford and the growth that he's shown as the Eagles' starting quarterback. After a long road back from surgery on his left knee, Bradford is looking more and more at ease in the Eagles' system.

'I just think Sam, as a whole, has progressed as the season has gone along,' Kelly said. 'I know, it takes a long while to play quarterback in this league. There are so many things that you have to get and when we got Sam, we knew with any quarterback it's going to take time.

'Name any quarterback playing at a high level now and they have been playing in the same system for years, not for months. And that's what Sam's case is; he's just been playing our system for months. But I've said it, and I'll continue to say it, I just see improvement from Sam on a weekly basis that gets you excited about him. I thought he threw the ball extremely well yesterday. We could have helped him a little better. I thought we had too many drops. That really would have extended a lot of things for us on Sunday. But I think Sam has improved in all aspects of his game.'

Kelly also shed some light on how he feels about Bradford moving forward as the Eagles' quarterback, beyond this season.

'We've always wanted Sam here,' Kelly said. 'We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for a year.'"

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Eagles' Special Teams Huge In Win - Jimmy Kempski, PhillyVoice

**"One of the biggest plays of the game was the muffed punt by Bills returner Marcus Thigpen. As Thigpen was about to field the punt, he saw Eagles gunner Jaylen Watkins bearing down on him, which caused him to flinch, leading to the muff.

'I'm surprised he didn't fair catch it,' said Watkins. 'I was coming in pretty hot, and I was scared because he could call for a fair catch at the last second. But I had my foot on the gas, and I saw him kind of fold up because he was looking at me and the ball went right through his hands.'

'I was doubled, so I had to beat the double,' said Watkins. 'I had to go outside, and carve all the way back inside the hash. Donnie (Jones) had to have had a lot of hang time on that.'

Indeed Donnie did. By my stopwatch, Jones' 52-yard punt had a hang time of 4.91 seconds, which is excellent for a punt of that distance.

That play occurred after the Eagles just had three consecutive three-and-outs. The Bills would have had good field position, with a chance to take a lead. Instead, a few plays later, Sam Bradford found Nelson Agholor for a long touchdown pass. That is a huge swing because of one special teams play."

Three Teams, Three Weeks - Adam Hermann, Birds 24/7

"It hasn't been pretty, but the NFC East is officially the most intriguing division race in the league with three weeks to go until playoff time.

The Eagles, Giants, and Washington are all tied for first place heading into Week 15, each with at least one divisional game remaining. The Birds and Washington each hold their playoff futures in their own hands; the Week 16 matchup between the two teams will be a seismic matchup. The Eagles can still win the division if they lose to the Cardinals in Week 15 with two wins over Washington and the Giants.

According to FiveThirtyEight's predictive models, the Eagles have the best odds of any team in the NFC East to win the division. Right now, they have a 44 percent chance of winning the NFC East. The Giants are the second-most-likely victors, at 31 percent, and Washington is third, at 25 percent.

The Cowboys, for what it's worth, still have a two percent chance of winning the division because, after all, the division is still a brutal mess."

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