WHEN SAM BRADFORD walked off the field, carrying his left arm at an awkward angle, the Eagles were 4-4, and were holding a 16-13 third-quarter lead over the visiting Miami Dolphins.
This week, Bradford will get back behind the wheel and try to drive the team out of a 4-7 ditch, at the 10-1 New England Patriots. The Eagles last won at New England in 1987.
So. Welcome back!
"Obviously, the last two weeks have been tough, but I think our effort and energy at practice this week has been great . . . It would be easy for us to hang our heads and get down and go through the motions out there, but that hasn't been the case at all," said Bradford, who told reporters he expects to play this week, barring any sort of setback. Bradford suffered a concussion and an AC joint sprain in his left, nonthrowing shoulder when he was sacked in the Miami game.
"We were flying around out there (Wednesday), I thought we had a great practice, and I think guys are still into it . . . We're all aware of what our record is, but at the same time, we've still got an opportunity to make the playoffs," Bradford said.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday that Bradford "was playing really well for us before he got injured against Miami." The back-to-back Dallas and Miami games represented Bradford's best passer ratings (103.4 and 118.1) since Week 4 at Washington (122.6), and his only two-game stretch without an interception.
Bradford said losing was bad enough, but "when you're hurt, and you're not able to be out there fighting with your guys, helping the team, doing what you can do, it makes it even worse."
Bradford, 28, said he is thinking about New England, and isn't thinking about what he needs to do over the final five games to cement his future as the Eagles' quarterback, or prove to the NFL he can be mostly healthy after returning from back-to-back ACL tears. Bradford is making $13 million this season in the final year of his landmark rookie deal.
Bradford said Kelly and the training staff decided after he warmed up on the field last Thursday at Detroit that his shoulder "just wasn't ready."
Despite all his evil genius accolades, and the four Super Bowl rings, when Bill Belichick is trying to get his team pumped for an opponent, especially one that's a heavy underdog, Belichick sounds like any other coach.
Suddenly, the struggling opposition is a juggernaut. You might think this would be a tough sell right now, with the 4-7 Eagles having lost their most recent two games by a combined score of 90-31, but Belichick apparently craves a challenge, as he showed in a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters.
Belichick talked about how the Eagles did so much better than the Pats against the Giants (a 27-7 win, vs. New England's 27-26 escape). Asked to comment about the theory that the NFL has figured out Chip Kelly's offense, from the viewpoint of someone familiar with Kelly and his methods, Belichick said: "I know Chip and I have a lot of respect for Chip. I think he's a great football coach. We have never worked together, so there are a lot of coaches that I've spent a lot more time with than Chip. And that's not taking anything away from him. That's just the truth. It's not like we've been on the same staff for multiple years. We've competed against him and I think he does a great job.
"They're well-coached. They make you work in all three phases of the game - offense, defense, special teams. They're a very well-balanced team. They take the ball away from you. Every play is a challenge in the kicking game. Every play is a challenge defensively because of how explosive they are. And every play is tough on offense because of the movement, the different looks that they give you, and the talent that they have on that side of the ball. They're a very disruptive group, and it's why they have so many (created) turnovers and so many negative plays. They're really hard to handle up front.
"I think he's done a really good job of putting together a team that's hard to play against. They have a lot of strengths, and they hit you with a lot of different problems - I'd say probably (as many) if not more than any team we play in the league."
The Eagles again nominated Connor Barwin for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, for the second year in a row . . . Running back Ryan Mathews (concussion), safety Walt Thurmond (hamstring) and defensive lineman Cedric Thornton (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday. Unlike Tuesday, Mathews didn't even watch practice. Thurmond said he expects to play Sunday . . . Inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks said he thinks one reason he hasn't gotten back to last season's level of play is that with the Eagles' ILB rotation, he doesn't get as many snaps as he did then. "You can't make plays when you're not in there, but when you're in there, you need to make the plays," Kendricks said. "Last game, I didn't make as many plays" as he should have made.