EAGLES ROAD TO PLAYOFFS CONTINUES AGAINST BUFFALO

Al Thompson
Eagles QB Sam Bradford must continue to play well if the Birds want to make a serious run at the post season. Photo by TJ Engler / contrastphotography.com

The Eagles win over the New England Patriots…was it a turn in the road towards a Division title and a guaranteed home game in the first round of the playoffs?

Or was it simply a fluke result by a team headed nowhere.

On Sunday Eagles Nation will find out as the Birds face the talented by inconsistent Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m. CBS).

For the Eagles to win, two things must happen:

Sam Bradford must lead the offense to at least four touchdowns. The Eagles cannot count on three scores via returns against the Bills.

Bradford has played well as of late. He has thrown 128 consecutive passes with an interception. Bradford is 5-2 in games he has started and finished.

Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was asked this week how Bradford has cut down on turnovers.

“Well, I think he’s playing better each week,” Shurmur said. “I keep saying it each week and I think he had another really fine game. He had one noticeable overthrow to [TE Zach] Ertz just into the second half there, but for the most part, he executed really well. He did a lot for us in the run game which sometimes goes unseen. And at the end there, the throw to [WR Riley Cooper] Coop, we needed to get the first down to hopefully end the game there. He stepped up, made a really fine throw with a little bit of pressure in his face, and there are a lot of elements to that play that were good, but it started with him.”

The Eagles defense must keep Bill quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy from dominating their side of the ball. Taylor is having a terrific season. He has thrown for 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions and QB rating of 104.5.

McCoy has 173 carries for 792 (4.6 yards per carry) yards and three touchdowns this season.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis was asked if his players having seen him in practice for a couple of years, does it help them on the field?

“It does, but it’s not the full speed,: David said. “ Shady is about full speed. His start and stop and perimeter run is second to none and he sees the field. You see him in one gear in practice and then there’s another gear to Shady that shows up in the game that we have to be ready for and we will be.”

Davis was asked this week what he has seen out of McCoy over the last month on film.

“Shady’s on top of it right now,” Davis said. “He’s playing the best you’ve seen him play. He’s peaking right now, like he does a lot of times; I think always in November and December, you’ve seen him be at his best. It looks like he’s in great shape. They are feeding him the ball a lot. He’s being Shady: he’s making the cuts and stopping on a dime and changing directions and making plays when they aren’t there. We are going to have our hands full and we look forward to the challenge. We know he’s going to be at his absolute best. He’ll be the best blocker, the best runner and the best pass protector that you can be. He’ll be fired up for this game, but so will we. We are excited about playing him.”

Davis was asked about Taylor running the ball and Bills runningback Karlos Williams as a complement to McCoy, and how tough is it to defend that entire running game.

“I know [Bills offensive coordinator] Greg Roman and I’ve known him a long time.” Davis said. “I think he’s one of the most thorough and best offensive coordinators in the league, in that he has everything from extra tackles, tackle over, he’s got the empty package, he’s got the quarterback run game like you’re talking about and he really makes you defend everything. Then he uses his talent pretty well. He’s got a quarterback run game and they threw the wildcat out there last week. So there’s a lot of stuff that we’re going to have to defend and stop, schematically, and he’s taking advantage of what Shady does best and what the tight end does. They have got [TE Charles] Clay and [WR Sammy] Watkins. So they have got weapons everywhere and the quarterback is throwing a great [deep ball]. He’s very impressive with his deep ball. He’s throwing one of the more catchable deep balls that I’ve seen in a while. They’re asking him – he’s not trying to do too much and he’s not making any bad decisions. “

The Eagles situation at running back is filled with drama. DeMarco Murray was demoted to coming off the bench against New England. The strategy worked as Darren Sproles had 215 total yards in the win.
Ryan Mathews did not play last week, but is expected back against the Bills. It was reported Murray complained to owner Jeffrey Lurie about how he is being used, common in Dallas where he led the league in rushing last year, but unheard of in Philadelphia.
So Shurmur was asked who he considered to be the No. 1 running back on this team?

“We have a group of running backs that we feel good about putting in the game all the time,” Shurmur said.

Shurmur went on to explain how he and running backs coach Duce Staley allocate touches in a game. He said people (reporters) are not always aware of how things work with the Eagles.

“I think that’s the way people line it up outside the building,” Shurmur said as he addressed Murray’s status as the No. 1 guy. “We’re very, very confident when he’s (Murray) in there running the football, and he’s actually had more snaps, right, than the other three guys combined over the course of the season. But I’ve said this all along, though: You’ve got to look at involvement and production over the course of the season. Some games, you get a handful more. Some games, you get a handful less. And we felt like we were getting good production from the other guys. So inside out, we don’t — it’s not that big a deal to us who is in there right now.”

It is a big deal for Eagles fans that the Birds get their act together these four final games.

They control the NFC East if they want to. It started last week against the Patriots and can take a giant step forward with a win over Buffalo.

12 Dec 15 - College football - Al Thompson - No Comments

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