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Inside the Eagles: Bryce Brown came up big for Eagles despite killer fumble

ARLINGTON, Texas - Bryce Brown deserves to be a featured running back for some team.

Eagles running back Bryce Brown hurdles over defenders in the loss to the Cowboys. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles running back Bryce Brown hurdles over defenders in the loss to the Cowboys. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

ARLINGTON, Texas - Bryce Brown deserves to be a featured running back for some team.

Forget about the fumble for a second . . . OK, two seconds. Brown's error was a killer. His fumble which resulted in a Morris Claiborne 50-yard touchdown return cost the Eagles the game. But it shouldn't offset all the good he did for the first 56 minutes.

It hammered home the fact that LeSean McCoy is still the Eagles' franchise tailback.

But Brown has put on quite the display the past two weeks - both games on national television, no less - that should lead running back-needy teams to call Howie Roseman looking to deal for the rookie this offseason.

For the second straight week, Brown rushed for over 100 yards, but once again it was not enough as the Cowboys once again stormed past the Eagles in the fourth quarter with a 38-33 win on Sunday night.

"There's no excuses," Brown said of his fumble. "I'm not going to say [it was] fatigue or anything. If it is fatigue, you got to suck it up. . . . It's a crucial moment. You go to protect the ball."

Brown ran for 169 yards on 24 carries, scored two touchdowns, and became the first Eagles rookie to rush for over 100 yards in his first two career starts since Charlie Garner accomplished the feat in 1994.

The Eagles offensive line provided ample room for Brown to run for the second straight week. But the rookie gained so many extra yards with his rare combination of size and speed.

If Brown needed to drag a few tacklers a few extra yards, he did. If he needed to scoot outside and burst around the corner, he did. And if he needed to show patience and wait for a block, he did that, too.

Of course, when the Eagles needed him to secure the football, he could not. Brown has had little experience. He hardly played in college. But there is no excuse for fumbling three times in the second half of two games.

"He's got to keep it high and tight," Reid said. "When you get tired, when you're in that fourth quarter . . . you've got to keep focus. He was trying to get every stinking yard he possibly could."

Roseman won't likely move Brown - unless he gets an offer he can't refuse - because the idea of having a two-headed rushing attack next season is an intriguing one. Even with Nick Foles' encouraging night under center, the Eagles will need everything they can get on the ground if the rookie is the quarterback next season.

If the Eagles can run the ball as they have the last two weeks behind a battered line, then there's no reason to believe a healthier unit can't do the same in 2013. It should be noted that the Panthers' and Cowboys' run defenses aren't exactly among the best in the league. But there was total domination in the trenches for extended periods.

One big unanswered question is what kind of blocking scheme will the Eagles employ next season? With Howard Mudd confirming that he will retire at season's end, the Eagles have the option to return to a more traditional vertical step method.

That decision will rest of the shoulders of the new head coach. But the Eagles have several linemen that were brought here to thrive in Mudd's system, which requires aggression, and typically, smaller, more athletic types.

Center Jason Kelce, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, said last week that he had plans to add more weight this season. He said he played at 295 pounds this year. Andy Reid recently said that Kelce was good enough to block in any scheme.

Guards Evan Mathis and Jake Scott are "Mudders," too. Danny Watkins was supposed to be one, too. It's fair to ask if the Eagles' 2011 top draft pick would fare better blocking as he did at Baylor. Scott beating out Watkins without a camp suggests that his problems are more than just scheme-related.

As for Brown, he will probably get another game to erase the fumble. McCoy is still in the early stages of his return from a concussion. He must have been sitting at home the last two weeks wondering what got into Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

The Eagles led, 24-17, midway through the third quarter because of a balanced attack. Mornhinweg called 20 runs to 21 passes when Foles hit Riley Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown reception.

Brown had 14 carries for 107 yards in the first half. McCoy ran 14 times before the break only once this season - against the Ravens. He averaged 8.5 carries in the first half of the first 10 games. Brown has averaged 11.5 in his two starts.

The Eagles will look different in many ways next season. With McCoy, Brown and no Reid, is it possible they will pound the ground.

That is, assuming, Brown isn't dealt away.