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It's time for Sam Bradford to take charge of the Eagles

IT'S TIME. Time for Sam Bradford to stand up and be counted. Time for him to make Eagles Nation finally fall in love with him.


Time for Sam Bradford to stand up and be counted.

Time for him to make Eagles Nation finally fall in love with him.

Time for him to make Chip Kelly look like a GM genius instead of the village idiot.

Time for him to strap Kelly's underperforming team onto his back and carry it across the finish line.

Time for him to have the game of his life against the Redskins on Saturday night and keep the Eagles' playoff hopes alive.

Time for him to be great.

Kelly certainly can't count on a defense that has given up 178 points in the last five games to rise up and stifle red-hot Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense, particularly if nose tackle Bennie Logan (calf) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (shoulder) can't play.

Washington is going to score points. Probably a lot of them. Which is why the Eagles need a huge game from Bradford.

He's been playing well. In his last five starts, he has a 96.1 passer rating, which is nearly 20 points higher than in his first seven starts this season. He has a 66.5 completion percent, has averaged 7.7 yards per attempt and has thrown seven touchdown passes and only three interceptions in his last five games.

"I'm feeling more comfortable in the offense, and getting a sense of the rhythm I need in my footwork on certain plays has helped," he said. "But I also feel much better physically as far as my knee and where it was, coming out of training camp and during the early part of the year."

Bradford revealed for the first time Wednesday that he still felt soreness in his twice-repaired left knee early in the season.

"I think it was still a little bit sore coming out of training camp," he said. "I just feel like it's gotten stronger as the year has gone on. But also, I just think I have more confidence (in the knee)."

That's been obvious in the way he has been moving around the pocket and even taking off and running when it's been necessary. The trepidation he showed early in the season. Last week, he hung tough in the pocket, throwing strikes to receivers even when he knew he was about to be hit.

He has grown more comfortable with Kelly's offense and he has grown more comfortable with his receivers.

"The biggest thing that Sam now is doing is KYP - know your personnel," said wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who had eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in Sunday night's loss to the Cardinals.

"He's starting to understand the guys and what everybody is good at. He understands where to find people, what area of the field, what downs, where's the red zone, those types of things. (He knows) this guy is good at this, or this guy is really confident running this route against this coverage. It's not just about seeing the field, it's seeing his guys.

"The defense can do whatever they want to do, but you have to know your guys first. We all know Sam can put the ball where it has to be. So, now that Sam is getting to understand us a little bit more, I think we're all going to continue to grow and continue to get better as time goes on."

Bradford agreed.

"Just having a greater feel for how certain guys run certain routes, the angles they take, whether they like to come out flat or high (has helped)," he said. "We've been much more on the same page, as far as some of the routes compared to earlier in the year."

Saturday night's game will be the biggest one Bradford has played in since the final game of his rookie season with St. Louis in 2010 when the Rams faced the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title. Winner went to the playoffs, loser went home. Bradford and the Rams went home, losing that game, 16-6.

"That's why you play the game," Bradford said. "Rookie year with a chance to make the playoffs. You just assume it's going to be like that every year and you kind of take it for granted."

It wasn't like that. The Rams never made the playoffs in Bradford's five seasons in St. Louis. Then there was the hell of two ACL injuries. Then he was traded to the Eagles.

"Just to have this opportunity again (is exciting)," he said. "It's been five years. It's been a long time coming. This is why you play. This is why you get excited to go to work every morning. I couldn't be more excited to play on Saturday night."


From the lip

* "That's definitely something I don't pay attention to. I actually go the opposite way. My philosophy is that the less sleep you get - kids, don't listen to this - as long as you're using those sleepless hours for a purpose, I think it gives you a good chance."

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson on the whole sleep science thing

* "I'm going to eliminate it. I want to avoid (the headache). It's the No Fun League for a reason."

- Panthers coach Ron Rivera on his players having a baseball bat on the sideline, which he says was a motivational tool.

* "If we don't get better, the reality of it is this. This is professional; this is the National Football League. And unless we get a heck of a lot better, there's going to be changes. That's what I told them. There's going to be drastic changes."

- Bills coach Rex Ryan on what he told his team after Sunday's loss to Washington

By the numbers

* The Cardinals didn't have a turnover Sunday against the Eagles. It was their fourth straight game without a giveaway, which is the longest streak in franchise history. Before this season, the Cardinals had never gone more than two games in a row without committing a turnover.

* Eli Manning has four touchdown passes in each of the last two games. He's the first quarterback in Giants history to do that. Manning has thrown four or more TD passes in a game 13 times, also a club record.

* Ben Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 passes in the Steelers' win over the Broncos on Sunday. He also completed 40 passes in a game against the Colts last season. He is the first player in league history with two career games with at least 40 completions.

* The Panthers are the fourth team in the Super Bowl era to start a season 14-0. They've won 18 straight regular-season games dating back to last season. If they beat the Falcons on Sunday, they would become only the third team to string together at least 19 regular-season wins. The 2008-09 Colts won 23 in a row. The 2006-08 Patriots won 21 in a row.

Figuring the Eagles

Sam Bradford has played considerably better in his last five starts than he did in his first seven. His passer rating in his last five starts (96.1) is nearly 20 points higher than it was in his first seven (76.3). A down-by-down breakdown:


Cmp. Cmp.

Pct. YPA TD I Rat. Pct. YPA TD I Rat.

1D. . . 71.4 9.5 3 2 103.5 65.8 6.7 4 6 74.7

2D. . . 67.4 6.6 1 1 83.7 69.9 8.1 3 2 96.1

3D. . . 60.0 6.3 3 0 98.2 47.9 4.0 1 2 51.8

Tot. . . 66.5 7.7 7 3 96.1 62.0 6.4 9 10 76.3

* The Eagles are last in the league in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to convert 71.4 percent of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. Even more disturbing, over the last nine games, Eagles opponents have converted 28 of their last 34 red-zone opportunities into TDs (82.3). They have given up 27 touchdown passes in the red zone. Only the Saints have allowed more (31). The defense's red-zone percentage is its worst since 2010 (78.3). They finished 32nd that year, as well. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was fired after the season.

* Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has 74 receptions. That's the second most in the league by a tight end. Only the Titans' Delanie Walker has more (76). He had five catches for only 35 yards against the Eagles in Week 4, but was dealing with a knee injury and also suffered a concussion during the game and played only 44 of 85 snaps. The Eagles actually have done a decent job against opposing tight ends. They've given up 58 catches on 85 targeted passes for 582 yards (10.0 yards per catch) and three touchdowns.

* According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles have 109 missed tackles, including 15 in Sunday's ugly loss to the Cardinals. That's only the 11th-highest figure in the league, behind Pittsburgh (138), Tampa Bay (132), Jacksonville (127), Oakland (119), Washington (119), Dallas (116), the Giants (113), New Orleans (111), Miami (110) and Cincinnati (110). The five teams with the fewest missed tackles:

Missed Tackles - Defensive Rank - W-L

Patriots. . . 80 6 12-2

Broncos. . . 80 1 10-4

Vikings. . . 84 13 9-5

Chiefs. . . 88 8 9-5

Bears. . . 89 12 5-9

* The Eagles have held only three of their last 11 opponents under 4.0 yards per carry - the Giants (3.5), Miami (3.8) and Detroit (3.6). They have allowed 4.85 yards per carry over the last 11 games. Only two teams have a worse rush average during that period - New Orleans (5.31) and Washington (5.12).

* Nelson Agholor had three catches for 64 yards in the Eagles' Week 4 loss to the Redskins. In the seven games he's played since then, he's been targeted 20 times and has only 12 catches for 125 yards. Only three of those 12 receptions have been for first downs. Only one has been on third down. A breakdown of the Eagles' receivers on third down this season:

Tar. Rec. Yds. TD

Jordan Matthews. . . 35 18 181 2

Darren Sproles. . . 22 17 146 1

Riley Cooper. . . 13 9 106 0

Zach Ertz. . . 21 9 105 1

Josh Huff. . . 12 7 49 1

Brent Celek. . . 6 5 46 2

Others. . . 34 12 145 0

* The Eagles are third in yards allowed per first down play this season (5.0), but 24th on second down (5.7) and 27th on third down (6.3).

* The Eagles have scored on their first possession only four times in 14 games. They've averaged 4.18 yards per play and have scored only 20 points on their first possession. Their opponents have averaged 6.48 per play and scored 37 points. A game-by-game breakdown:


Plays Yds 1Ds Result

ATL. . . 3 4 0 Punt

DAL. . . 3 9 0 Punt

NYJ. . . 11 59 4 FG

WAS. . . 3 -8 0 Punt

NO. . . 6 18 1 Downs

NYG. . . 3 3 0 Punt

CAR. . . 6 14 1 Punt

DAL. . . 6 20 1 Punt

MIA. . . 4 64 2 TD

TB. . . 3 10 1 Fumble

DET. . . 14 48 4 Missed FG

NE. . . 8 22 2 Punt

BUF. . . 9 61 5 TD

ARI. . . 12 56 3 FG


Plays Yds 1Ds Result

ATL. . . 7 52 2 FG

DAL. . . 3 -4 0 Punt

NYJ. . . 3 9 0 Punt

WAS. . . 13 78 3 FG

NO. . . 6 16 1 Punt

NYG. . . 8 80 5 TD

CAR. . . 4 72 3 TD

DAL. . . 11 93 5 TD

MIA. . . 10 44 2 FG

TB. . . 8 47 3 Punt

DET. . . 3 -10 0 Punt

NE. . . 5 13 1 Punt

BUF. . . 5 41 1 Punt

ARI. . . 8 78 4 TD

Scouting the draft

NFL scouts have been breaking down the top prospects in the 2016 draft for the Daily News this season. Today, an NFC scout looks at Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook and Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott:

Cook (6-4, 220): "He's an enigma," the scout said. "He's the prototypical quarterback that you're looking for. But he's inconsistent. He'll make some NFL throws and then he'll make some what-were-you-thinking throws. I don't like him as much as (Jared) Goff or (Paxton) Lynch. But he'll probably be the third (quarterback) to go. You wish you had a better feel for him. He does have a lot of talent. He has the size, strength, mobility, arm-strength, presence in the pocket. All those things are positives. I just thought he'd be more accurate than he's been. I still think he's got a lot of upside. I don't think he's hit his ceiling. So that's a good thing. For me, the biggest concern is just the inconsistency."

Elliott (6-0, 225): "Elliott's a much more complete back than (Alabama's Derek) Henry," the scout said. "He's a runner, receiver and blocker. He's probably the most pro-ready pass-blocker that's come out in quite a while. Which means you can keep him on the field all three downs. Elliott can do it all. The only knock on him is he doesn't have top-end speed. He's not going to have a lot of 40-plus yard runs. He's going to have a lot of six- to 20-yard runs. There's nothing wrong with that. That's still chunk yardage. He's got more power than a guy like Jamaal Charles. He can run over you or through you. He can avoid. He doesn't have elite avoid (ability) like Charles. He's not really a creator. He's never been the type of back who starts and stops. He's going to make a quick decision and go. He's a downhill runner. He's an above-average receiver. I can see him going in the top-10 if somebody wants a back. I can also see him going 15 to 25. He's not (Todd) Gurley. Gurley does have top-end speed and Gurley is a creator. They're two different types."

This and that

* Chip Kelly said Wednesday that Saturday's game, like most football games, probably will come down to turnovers. He's probably right. Through 14 games, the Eagles have a minus-2 turnover differential. They are plus-7 in their six wins and minus-9 in their eight losses.

* While everyone's been talking about how the Eagles need to stop DeSean Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed Saturday night, don't forget about Pierre Garcon. Garcon, who is second in the league with 25 third-down receptions, was the guy who beat them on that game-winning 15-play, 90-yard drive in Week 4. Caught three huge passes on that drive - a 14-yarder on third-and-6 at the Philadelphia 30, a 12-yarder on second-and-10 at the Philadelphia 16 and the diving 4-yard touchdown catch that won it. He took a big hit from safety Walter Thurmond on the third-and-6 catch over the middle, and took another good lick from Eric Rowe on the touchdown, but hung on to both of them. "The thing that makes him different, the thing that makes him clutch, is his toughness," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "You look at that first game, twice he converted on that drive when he was getting hit. He's at the point of attack. He's between two defenders, getting hit, and still finds a way to catch the football. On the touchdown, he got hit in the face by Eric, and still managed to hold on to the ball. Most receivers put the ball on the ground in that situation."

On Twitter: @Pdomo