Ed Reynolds wraps up Eagles' win
ON THE EAGLES' sideline, they were hollering for Ed Reynolds. Specifically, they were hollering for him to stop running. Hit the ground. Take a knee. Get down.
ON THE EAGLES' sideline, they were hollering for Ed Reynolds.
Specifically, they were hollering for him to stop running. Hit the ground. Take a knee. Get down.
"They were very adamant," said Reynolds, who said he had no difficulty hearing the directions over the din raised by 69,596 fans.
"We were just cheering him on," coach Chip Kelly joked.
Reynolds, an Eagles safety, intercepted Tyrod Taylor, with open space in front of him. But the clock was ticking - a minute and 16 seconds remained when Reynolds got the message and slid down, cradling the ball. The Eagles didn't need a big runback, they just needed to secure Reynolds' first NFL interception, send the offense onto the field and kneel a couple of times to complete a 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills and LeSean McCoy on Sunday.
McCoy? He was the first player off the field, after being held to 11 yards on eight carries in the second half, 74 on 20 overall.
During the week, the Eagles' all-time leading rusher seemed to give an interview to anyone who'd ever eaten a cheesesteak. McCoy created lots of turbulence around his return to Philadephia; but when the big day came he spent little time on the field pregame. He embraced Jeffrey Lurie but shook hands only with the other captains at the coin toss. Later, McCoy told would-be interviewers he had nothing to say.
"I didn't see him run off the field," said Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox, who dominated the game with seven solo tackles and a sack, while being responsible for several of the 15 penalties taken by the Bills and their overmatched offensive line. McCoy whacked Cox in the chest with the heel of his hand after one tackle. "I was over celebrating with my teammates."
"I just wished he could have faced it and said, 'What up?' to us," after the game, said outside linebacker Brandon Graham. Graham said he believed McCoy was staying over Sunday night and might meet up with his former teammates later.
The saga of McCoy's day of vengeance over being traded away from the team that drafted him fizzled, as did a Sunday NFL Network report about the Eagles supposedly benching DeMarco Murray, whose 34 yards on 11 carries included three big third-down conversions.
That noise dispensed with, other story lines emerged, around a 6-7 group that has fought its way back from a pair of historic blowout losses to back-to-back wins.
"Tyrod has a great deep ball," said Reynolds, who spent most of his first two NFL seasons on the practice squad but has been a solid contributor the past two weeks. "I read the routes a little bit. Saw they kind of picked (corner Eric Rowe), saw his man (Robert Woods) running up" toward Reynolds, who was playing deep centerfield. "I didn't second-guess anything I saw. I just ran to the ball and made the play."
"It was in the air and he just went and got it," Woods said of Reynolds.
The Bills had scored a 47-yard touchdown on an identical play in the first quarter, Reynolds hustling over to help Byron Maxwell but bumping into Maxwell and missing both the ball and Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins.
"No hesitation" the second time, Reynolds said. "The first one was all about me - I was there to make it, technically, I just hesitated between 'Am I going to play the ball' or 'Am I going to play the man?' I wasn't going to make that mistake twice . . . I picked it, looked, checked the sideline real quick, and got down."
The Eagles stayed even with the 6-7 Washington Redskins; the 5-7 New York Giants play Miami Monday night. By the way, the Birds can lose next week to 11-2 Arizona and still win the all-powerful NFC East at 8-8, if they win the final two, against Washington and at the Giants. (They would have a 4-2 divisional record and neither the Redskins nor the Giants could have more than three NFC East wins.)
The Eagles were way short of perfect Sunday, but they didn't need any special-teams or defensive touchdowns this time to break the 20-point barrier, and the Birds' defense really stepped up late.
Or at least, it seemed that way to many of us. Bills coach Rex Ryan, asked if it was penalties or the Eagles that stopped McCoy in the second half, said: "I don't know, that ain't exactly (the) '85 Bears, but if you want to say it is, then go for it. It must have been them."
Even Ryan couldn't sneer at what Cox did, though.
"Yeah, no question, that 91 is a good player. I was laughing when I saw him being compared to Jerome Brown, but I'm not laughing now,'' said Ryan, whose father, Buddy, of course, coached Brown. And the '85 Bears' defense.
"He made some game-changing plays for us," outside linebacker Connor Barwin said of Cox. Barwin blocked two Taylor passes. "He's been doing that the whole year."
It was also a big day for Sam Bradford, who threw the ball better than his line of 23-for-38 for 247 yards, a touchdown and a pick. The interception was wrestled out of Brent Celek's hands as Celek came down with it, and several Bradford passes were dropped.
Teammates said Bradford has been especially vocal before the past two games.
"I thought Sam played outstanding. He really put the ball on guys today; there really weren't any errant throws," said Kelly.
Bradford had a 42-yard, first-play bomb to Riley Cooper taken away when replay showed the ball slipping down in Cooper's grasp before the ground pushed it back up, but Bradford later hit on a 53-yard TD to first-round rookie Nelson Agholor, who made up for an earlier drop. It was Agholor's first NFL touchdown. Kelly said the Bills played a lot of zero coverage, daring the Eagles to beat them deep.
"I have the ball," Agholor confirmed. "Might give it to my mom for Christmas."
"I look at the way he's leading, and it's so cool; you want to make those plays for a guy like that," Agholor said of Bradford. "You want to do whatever you can - shoot, he deserves it . . . He doesn't say much usually, so when he does it's like, 'Oh, yeah! He's ready to go.' "
"The last couple of games, he kind of stepped up before the game and delivered an unbelievable message to us," tight end Zach Ertz said of Bradford. "Every game he wants us to go out there and be physical and set the tone for the entire game, and I think that's what we've done for the past two games."
Ertz seemed to take that message quite literally, trampling Leodis McKelvin on a 41-yard catch-and-run that set up the winning field goal, Caleb Sturgis' third of the afternoon, from 30 yards with 3:26 remaining.
"I don't do it very often, so it felt really good to be able to run someone over," said Ertz, who led the Eagles with five catches for 98 yards. "I don't think I've done that since college."
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Bradford, who missed the better part of two seasons with back-to-back ACL tears, showed the kind of accuracy Shurmur recalled when they were together on the Rams in 2010, Bradford's rookie year.
"He threw enough good balls to show that he's making progress - progress that we all expect," Shurmur said. He said part of working Bradford back into the flow has been getting him "comfortable with his lower body - throwing the football starts with your feet."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins was asked what has been so different these past two weeks, from the back-to-back losses in which the Eagles were outscored 90-31 and seemed dead in the water.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of different things," Jenkins said. "We're healthier than we've been in the past. Some of the leadership has started to develop - you're starting to hear some more of the players' voices. It's becoming more of a player-driven team. (Also) I think we're just playing better football. Our units are complementing each other. Special teams played lights-out today. They were helping the defense and the offense (with field position). The defense is getting stops when we need them and the offense is extending drives and putting up more points" than previously.
"When those things come together, you give yourself a good chance to win."
On Twitter: @LesBowen