Bradford lifts Eagles to OT win
ARLINGTON, Texas – The play call came into the headset in Sam Bradford's helmet from Chip Kelly, and the quarterback turned to wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
"Hey, I'm coming to you," Bradford said. "Win right here."
The message came before the ninth play of overtime on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, and there would not be a 10th. Bradford found Matthews, just as the play was designed, and Matthews ran 41 yards through the Cowboys defense for the Eagles' 33-27 victory.
"He trusted me, he gave the chance to catch and run, so it was game over," Matthews said.
It was the signature moment of Bradford's first year in Philadelphia, restoring some of the luster from his offseason arrival. He was plagued by inconsistency throughout the first two months of the season, and Sunday's overtime touchdown might begin to change the narrative.
Those interceptions and incompletions from the first seven games could be forgiven for one week. Matthews' drops are now last month's news. If there's any way to revitalize hope in Philadelphia, it's by beating the Cowboys in overtime.
After a fumble on Ryan Mathews' fourth-down conversion was overturned to allow the Eagles to continue a drive, the Eagles had a rare chance to huddle. That's when Bradford gave Matthews the message. And Matthews executed the play exactly as Bradford hoped.
"You can't say enough about Jordan," Bradford said. "The way he worked this week, I don't know if I've seen anyone work as hard as he did. And it paid off tonight. He played great. That last play, you can't say enough about the route and the finish afterward."
It was Bradford's only touchdown pass of the game. He finished 25 of 36 for 295 yards. Matthews led all receivers with nine catches for 133 yards and the score. DeMarco Murray rushed 18 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Bradford had a chance to lead the Eagles to a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but he brought them into range for a long field goal. And that's where the Eagles turned to Caleb Sturgis, who started the season without a team and opened his Eagles tenure with wayward attempts. Sturgis' kick from 53 yards tucked inches past the upright for the 27-24 lead with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining.
That was enough time for the Cowboys _ with the help of some penalty flags _ to tie the game. Three Eagles penalties, including two for pass interference, helped set up Dan Bailey's 44-yard field goal that bounced off the left upright and fell through to send the game into overtime.
The fourth quarter went back and forth from the time Jordan Hicks jumped in front of Darren McFadden to intercept Matt Cassel's pass and raced 67 yards down the left sideline to thwart a Cowboys scoring opportunity and give the Eagles a 21-14 lead.
The lead barely had time to breathe. Lucky Whitehead returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to give Dallas favorable field position. On the third play, Cassel scrambled around the pocket to buy enough time to allow Dez Bryant to box out in the end zone. He caught Cassel's 18-yard heave in a crowd of Eagles defenders to tie the game and neutralize Hicks' big play.
The teams traded field goals for the rest of the quarter to set up overtime.
The Eagles failed to score in the first quarter for the sixth time this season. On the opening drive, they accomplished a rare feat: Two three-and-outs on the same drive. Even when a Cowboys penalty on a punt gave the Eagles a fresh set of downs, they could not use them to convert a first down. The common thread both times was failing to throw beyond the first-down sticks on third down _ an ill-fated play call this season.
The Cowboys responded from the Eagles' early ineptitude with an 11-play, 93-yard touchdown drive to take the lead. The big play on that scoring march was a 51-yard pass to Bryant, who ran past Nolan Carroll and looked more like the receiver who has plagued the Eagles throughout his career than the one who was limited in last week's loss.
The scoring quieted until the second quarter, when the Eagles went on the type of drive that was expected to be the standard this season. They went 80 yards on 13 up-tempo plays, relying on the backfield combination of Murray, Mathews, and Darren Sproles. Nine of their plays were rushes, including a 21-yarder by Mathews.
The Eagles might have started slowly in the first half, but they were tough to stop to open the second half. On their first offensive drive, they went 95 yards on seven plays in 2:39. Bradford had one of his best drives of the year. He completed 5 of 6 passes, with a 44-yard pass to Murray on a wheel route that was a placed in the perfect spot. Mathews rushed for a 6-yard score to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
The lead barely lasted, because the Eagles struggled to cover Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley. The Eagles use safeties to cover the slot receivers this season, but that's a tougher matchup against smaller, shiftier types such as Beasley. Jenkins could not stay with Beasley, who caught four passes on the drive. The final one was a 17-yarder that tied the score at 14.
The score was tied a few more times thereafter to set up overtime, when the Eagles won the coin flip.
"I said, `Let's go win it right here,' " Bradford said. "We had the opportunity to do it. Fortunately, we were able to."