Philadelphia Eagles Survive Gut Check From Bills


Dec 13, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles safety Ed Reynolds (30) intercepts the ball in front of his bench during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For just the second time this season, the Philadelphia Eagles have won back-to-back games.

It goes without saying that this one was the biggest of the season. All of the talk about the Eagles “saving” their season would have been moot had the Birds gone out at home against the Buffalo Bills and running back LeSean McCoy and lost.

But that didn’t happen. It was gritty, it was raw, it was tense, it was a gut check. And at the end of the day it was a 23-20 Philadelphia Eagles victory.

Time for the “Monday Morning Touchdown.” Let’s march to six points on another “Victory Monday.”

1) LeSean McCoy

It’s hard to start anywhere other than here, with our old friend, Shady McCoy, who carried the ball 20 times for 74 yards and caught another four balls for 35 yards. Overall, a pedestrian game for the explosive McCoy, whose longest play from scrimmage was a 24-yard run.

Give the Eagles a lot of credit. They talked all week about the importance of gap responsibility and they were true to that talk. A guy like McCoy likes to dance you out of your lane and make you pay for it. He becomes far less effective when you don’t try to do too much.

2) Eagles running backs

Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray (and, technically, quarterback Sam Bradford), combined for 116 yards on 34 carries. Sproles was, by far, more effective, carrying the ball seven times for 41 yards. Murray? If he thought running to Jeffrey Lurie was going to make him a bigger part of the gameplan, he was wrong, as he finished with only 34 yards on 11 carries.

Head coach Chip Kelly is going to roll with the hot hand, and in the absence of that he’s going to roll those running backs to keep them all fresh. This is reality, DeMarco. Deal with it.

3) Ed Hochuli and crew

As a general rule, I can’t stand NFL officials. A lot of it isn’t their fault, because the NFL won’t make their duties a full-time job. If it was, maybe they wouldn’t all be so horrible.

But my goodness, watching a Hochuli game is torture. Even when he is the one who threw the flag, there’s a huddle of officials to discuss the call. How is that even possible?

There always seem to be strange interpretations of NFL rules when Ed does a game, too. Remember the kickoff return in which there were fouls against the Bills and Eagles? Offsetting penalties, of course, but not a re-kick? Since when?

And the “interception” thrown by Sam Bradford was a crime. So, you mean to tell me Leodis McKelvin has a football pinned between his forearm and hip, and said football slams into the turf has he’s falling out of bounds, and that’s a catch? That was truly an awful call that could have swung the game and ended the Eagles’ season.

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4) Ed Reynolds

The second-year safety out of Stanford was on the practice squad just a few weeks ago and now he’s making some of the biggest plays for an NFL team fighting for the playoffs. People will focus on the interception, but all Reynolds had to do there was not vomit all over himself.

I’d like to talk about the tackle he made on quarterback Tyrod Taylor and how he seemed to be in the correct spots in pass coverage every time the ball came his way.

Cornerback Eric Rowe had another solid game, too. The Eagles are getting what playoff teams need – contributions from young players.

5) Nelson Agholor

The Eagles’ rookie wide receiver still seems to have some trouble hanging onto the football, but his 53-yard touchdown reception is the kind of thing Chip Kelly had to see when he decided to make Agholor a first-round draft pick. It was a perfect route, with Agholor using his speed to get just enough separation to make the play possible.

Hopefully, Agholor can use that play to gain some confidence and be a difference-maker down the stretch. At the very least, he’s showing some flashes of the kind of player he can be when allowed to fully develop.

6) Defense

A game like this comes down to the defense. One big play (such as the 41-yard catch and run by Zach Ertz) is all it takes.

The Eagles didn’t give that up and that’s a reason for a lot of optimism. Yes, it’s not like Tyrod Taylor is an expert passer, but he could just as easily kill a team with his legs. The Eagles didn’t allow that to happen. They didn’t let Sammy Watkins get behind them in the fourth quarter. They boxed in Shady McCoy.

After giving up the game-tying touchdown, Buffalo ran 18 plays and gained a total of 37 yards. That’s slamming the door.

Extra points)

  • Another fine effort from Bradford, who looked comfortable in the pocket and threw some nice deep balls. These are the minimum outings the Eagles need from him from this point forward to make the playoffs.
  • The special teams unit lived up to its name and reputation for the second straight week. Sproles had some big returns, the coverage teams were sound and the unit generated a turnover.
  • Two straight prime time games for the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. First, the Arizona Cardinals come to town. This will be interesting, as Arizona really doesn’t have too much on the line. Barring a complete collapse and the Seahawks running the table, the Cardinals are locked into the No. 2 playoff spot. The Eagles might be catching Arizona at the best time. Meanwhile, Washington will host the Bills next week before coming to Philly for a huge showdown. So, suddenly, we’re all Bills fans. Go, Shady, go.