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Eagles' Sam Bradford trending upward

SAM BRADFORD threw for only 120 yards Sunday. His longest completion gained just 20 yards, which is just not going to get the Eagles anywhere, in the long run.

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.
Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.Read more(Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

SAM BRADFORD threw for only 120 yards Sunday. His longest completion gained just 20 yards, which is just not going to get the Eagles anywhere, in the long run.

That is one way to look at it, and a lot of observers indeed dismissed Bradford's efforts in the Eagles' 35-28 victory at New England, a triumph fueled by three touchdowns the offense played no role in scoring.

But regular visitors to this space will recall that I am the fellow who does not want to give up on Bradford - or at least, I'm the fellow who doesn't see any upside in giving up on Bradford, with games still to play and no alternative beckoning. And I'm here to tell you, both those Bradford touchdown passes were good third-down throws under duress, as was the late-game, third-and-11 conversion to Riley Cooper.

If Bradford was standing back there in a clean pocket, checking down after refusing to pull the trigger as receivers frolicked through wide-open spaces downfield, in Game 12, I would be ready to cut bait. That did happen at times earlier this year. It hasn't happened lately. I didn't see a lot of downfield yards at New England that Bradford passed up. As Tom Brady is learning, throwing the ball to mediocre-to-terrible receivers can be quite frustrating, especially if you're constantly having to shift the platform because of pass-rush pressure.

The Eagles tweeted Sunday that Bradford has a 105.6 passer rating over his last three starts, and the team is 5-2 in the last seven games he has started and finished. Bradford, who returned Sunday from missing two games with a concussion and a left AC sprain, now has gone three games in a row without an interception. He took just one sack Sunday, for no yards.

All this isn't nearly enough, overall, to declare someone a real franchise QB, but Bradford is trending in a positive direction.

Chip Kelly said Monday he'd wondered "Where does he pick up?," Bradford having left the lineup just as he'd started playing well.

"I thought he did a real nice job," Kelly said after reviewing the film. "A lot of those throws were contested throws. They have a good pass rush, and they can really push the pocket, and he stood in there and really delivered the football."

Kelly also made the point that the Eagles' lack of offensive production had something to do with those three touchdowns, all scored in less than a 12-minute span of the second and third quarters by the defense and special teams. What happens then is, the other team gets the ball back. You don't get a chance to gain yards. The Eagles had two series in the third quarter.

"It was a different football game," Kelly said. "We literally were not on the field until the end of the third quarter."

Actually, that wasn't quite literally true, but it was close. Kelly said when the Eagles got the ball back with two minutes and 16 seconds left in the third, "I knew we had to keep our defense off the field," so the Eagles threw only three times on the 12-play drive, the last pass being Bradford's perfect TD throw to Jordan Matthews on third-and-2 from the Pats' 10.

Running to eat clock "had nothing to do with Sam," said Kelly, who allowed that his defense "had a ton of reps against a really good quarterback," in Brady.

Developing storylines

* On the big third-and-11 completion to Riley Cooper that allowed the Eagles to run off more than a minute near the end, Jason Peters got just enough of delayed-blitzing Rob Ninkovich to keep Ninkovich from blasting Sam Bradford. "That was the tight end's guy," Peters said, referring to Brent Celek. "He released. I saw the guy coming straight for Bradford and I just tried to get some wood on him so (Bradford) could complete the ball."

* Chip Kelly mentioned Monday that he likes playing Malcolm Jenkins "down in nickel," especially against teams that want to run. That would be this week's opponent, the Bills. Rex Ryan noted Monday that his team is 6-0 when passing the ball fewer than 30 times.

* Looked for a while Sunday like penalties were going to kill the Eagles. They were at fault on the first nine that were called, three of which were declined, but they were whistled just once in the second half. Jason Peters was a repeat offender for an offensive line that came out looking jittery, even as it opened decent running lanes. "We were all on edge," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "We knew what was at stake . . . it wasn't pretty, but we got it done."

* Kelly acknowledged that 70 snaps were too many for Kiko Alonso, who still doesn't seem comfortable, five games after returning from his Week 2 knee injury. Kelly said he needed to balance Alonso's snaps better with those of fellow inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks (48). DeMeco Ryans played only 21 snaps at New England, with the Patriots going three-wide a lot and the Eagles usually in nickel or dime packages.

* In a related development, yet another running back catching passes out of the backfield really hurt the Eagles - this time James White, with 10 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Alonso fell down, leaving White wide-open for his longest catch of the day, 25 yards on fourth-and-12, helping set up the Pats' final touchdown. Gee, wonder if the Bills have someone who can catch passes out of the backfield? What's that guy's name again - Shadowy? Gloomy? Cloudy?

* Nelson Agholor needs to be way better than this.

* Eric Rowe capped a solid, 86-snap first NFL start by ripping the ball away from Keshawn Martin on what would have been a first-down completion, on fourth-and-10, with 26 seconds left.

Who knew?

That Jeff Lurie was a fiery pregame orator?

Obscure stat

The longest offensive play for either team Sunday was Tom Brady's 36-yard catch-and-run from Danny Amendola.