Eagles

Nigel Bradham introduces Panthers to the 'beast' as Eagles' D swarms

Nigel Bradham introduces Panthers to the 'beast' as Eagles' D swarms

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nigel Bradham couldn't believe what he was hearing.

Late in the game, after yet another one of his huge plays, one of the offensive guys on the Panthers came up to him and started yapping.

"He was like, 'Man, I don't know who you is, but you a beast,'" Bradham said. "And I'm like, 'You don't know who I am? You must not know football. But you know me today.'"

Bradham played like a madman Thursday night, with 10 tackles, a six-yard tackle for loss on running back Jonathan Stewart and three pass knockdowns in the Eagles' 28-23 win over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium (see breakdown).

He was all over the field.

Bradham has been a solid, steady linebacker in his two years with the Eagles, but he took things to another level Thursday night (see 10 observations).

Bradham even played the second half mostly out of position at inside linebacker after the Eagles lost Jordan Hicks to an ankle injury.

"I told him after the game, I said, 'You a beast,'" safety Rodney McLeod said. "I've never seen that side of him. He did a heck of a job down there. Hicks went down and he had to go in and fill a tough role, but he didn't miss a beat. He made a huge impact tonight."

Bradham has gone largely unnoticed in his six NFL seasons, mainly because he hasn't made a ton of big plays. He has just two interceptions and four forced fumbles in 79 career games.

But he's played consistently well for the Eagles under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who also coached him in Buffalo in 2014.

"I feel like my whole career I've been one of the most consistent linebackers in the league, stat-wise, on tape, whatever it is," he said. "I've been making plays since my rookie year, I've been a starter since my rookie year. It's just the respect thing. At the end of the day, some people get more publicity than others."

But a game like this on national TV can help change any player's reputation.

Really, all the linebackers played well Thursday night, stuffing the run and in coverage (see report card). The Panthers' running backs netted one rushing yard, and Cam Newton didn't complete a pass longer than 20 yards.

"As a linebacking corps, we just want to make sure we get our respect," Bradham said. "It's just one of those things, we're just getting our respect."

Bradham was asked if this was the best game he's ever played.

He thought about it for a moment:

"My best game? It's up there. I don't know about best, I can't say, but it's up there."

Asked how he would describe the playmaking zone he was in, he laughed and said: "It's beast mode. That's what they call it. Yeah. That's the kind of zone it is. Just trying to create energy, man."

All the Eagles were marveling at Bradham's play after the game. They've seen him play consistent, steady and sound. 

But this was much more. He was the best player on the field for the Eagles' defense.

"He had a bunch of strong tackles that kept them short of the sticks, he was just flying around out there," Malcolm Jenkins said. "It was impressive, and with Jordan out, we needed it.

"He was a big part of why we had some success today. He got banged up, he had a stinger, he left the game, then came back in and played just as hard. He really injected some juice into our defense. I'm definitely proud of the way he played."

The Eagles got Fletcher Cox back for the Panthers, and Bradham said it's no coincidence that all the linebackers were able to shine with Cox taking on so many guys.

"He's the top defensive tackle in the league, so any time you can get [a guy like that] back, that's huge," Bradham said. "Especially to me. It's probably another reason why my job was a lot easier.

"Our front is unbelievable and I love playing behind those guys."

Eagles-Giants predictions

Eagles-Giants predictions

The Eagles will have to press on without MVP candidate Carson Wentz and turn to Nick Foles.

Foles will get the chance to keep things going against a lowly Giants team in Week 15.

We’ll get our first glance of the offense without Wentz as the Eagles (11-2) visit the New York Giants (2-11) Sunday afternoon (1 p.m./FOX).

Can Foles get a win on the road and inch the Eagles closer to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?

Our experts provide their predictions:

Reuben Frank (12-1)
Let’s be honest, the Eagles could run Matt McGloin, Matt Barkley or Aaron Murray out there Sunday afternoon and get out of East Rutherford with a win. This is the perfect first opponent for Nick Foles to make his first start of the year. Foles, 15-9 as the Eagles’ starter, has thrown just 69 passes over the last two years and is sure to have some rust as he begins the task of replacing Carson Wentz. Who better to knock the rust off than the lowly Giants? They’re 29th in the NFL in offense, 32nd in defense and playing out the string under a lame-duck interim coach. The Giants are 2-11, they’ve scored 10 offensive TDs in their last eight games and they’ve lost games this year by 10, 10, 14, 16, 17, 20 and 34 points. The Eagles won’t need a 61-yard Jake Elliott field goal this time. If Barkley were starting, I’d pick Eagles 20-7. If Murray were starting, I’d pick Eagles 17-7. If McGloin were starting I’d go 9-7 Birds. But with Foles? This one won’t be close. 

Eagles 30, Giants 7

Dave Zangaro (10-3)
The Giants are a complete mess. So no matter what you think of Foles or the Eagles' chances of winning it all after losing Wentz, they won't drop this game. 

Foles should be more than good enough to beat the NFL's second-worst defense. And there's a real chance for the Eagles to rally around their backup quarterback. I listened to a radio interview with Jeff Hostetler earlier this week and the one thing he said stood out about his magical Super Bowl run in 1990 was the support of his teammates. He said his fellow Giants really rallied around him. That's what Foles needs to happen. 

The Eagles have overcome injuries all season, but losing Wentz is by far the biggest obstacle to overcome. In many ways, he was the reason they were able to overcome all those other blows. Can they make a run without him? Well, a lot of it depends on Foles, but the rest of the team will really need to play mistake-free football because Wentz won't be there to hide those blemishes anymore. 

Oh yeah, back to this game. The Eagles are gonna win. 

Eagles 30, Giants 13

Derrick Gunn (10-3)
What a mess the Giants are right now. GM Jerry Reese fired! Head coach Ben McAdoo fired! Future Hall of Fame QB Eli Manning sits for a game and then resumes his starting role. Their offense can't score (15.3 points per game — which is 31st in the league), and their defense, which was the heart of this team in 2016, is nothing more than a distant memory. The Giants' D is 32nd overall in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, 31st in run defense and 27th in points allowed. 

The Eagles are quickly getting over the loss of Wentz, who was having an MVP season. This should be a walk in the park for the Birds even without Wentz, but you won't hear the players say that. They have a lot of respect for their wounded division foe, and as that old saying goes, "On any given Sunday." If Dallas was able to put up 30 points on the G-men, then surely the Birds can do that. You should be able to go holiday shopping by halftime.

Eagles 34, Giants 13

Ray Didinger (11-2)
The Eagles face a steeper challenge now with Wentz gone. Yes, Foles can move the offense, but he can't do all the things Wentz can do. It will be up to the coaches to draw up a game plan that is a fit for Foles. It will start with a heavy dose of the run, which is fine since the Giants are allowing 130 yards per game on the ground (31st in the league).

Jay Ajayi is becoming a bigger part of the offense — he had 15 carries for 78 yards against the Rams — so look for him to get a lot of work Sunday. For Foles to be effective, the offensive line has to play better than it did the last two weeks. The best way to protect Foles is to control the ball on the ground and let him work the passing game off play action. It's a simple formula, really.

At 2-11, the Giants are playing out the string under interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo. I expect the Eagles defense to come out inspired and swarm all over Eli Manning and the undermanned New York offense. The Eagles may not score their customary 30-plus points but they will score enough to get the win and secure that playoff bye.

Eagles 24, Giants 13

Corey Seidman (8-4)
This week’s prediction isn’t as easy it should’ve been, for obvious reasons. 

Gotta remember, however, that the Giants are a depleted team down their top two receivers and best cornerback. I think Nick Foles does enough to win and the Eagles play ball control. The defense should force many a three-and-out against Eli Manning, who gets the ball out rapidly but often for gains of three yards. 

Eagles 20, Giants 9

Nick Foles' impressive mark as Eagles starter at home

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AP Images

Nick Foles' impressive mark as Eagles starter at home

Eagles Milestone Watch just isn't quite as much fun without Carson Wentz, is it?

But you know what? There are still some pretty cool statistical plateaus to look for Sunday when the Eagles face the Giants at MetLife Stadium and through the rest of the season.

Let's take a look!

• Nick Foles has won eight straight starts at home, which is two shy of the longest home winning streak by an Eagles quarterback since 1950. Donovan McNabb won 10 starts over the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Randall Cunningham won nine straight from 1991 through 1993 and Foles (2013-14) and Carson Wentz (2016-17) won eight straight. Rodney Peete (1995-96) and Bobby Thomason (1953-54) had seven-game home-winning streaks.

• Even though he's played only five games in an Eagles uniform, Jay Ajayi has already had three games with both 75 or more rushing yards and a yards-per-carry average of at least 5.0. With one more game with 75 yards and a 5.0 average, Ajayi would join Brian Westbrook, Wilbert Montgomery and LeSean McCoy as only the fourth running back in Eagles history with four such games in a season.

• The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in eight of their first 13 games. One more 30-point game ties the franchise record of nine set in 2014.

• The Eagles are averaging 176 rushing yards per game and allowing 88 rushing yards. They're on pace to become only the third team in NFL history to gain 2,250 rushing yards while allowing fewer than 1,150 rushing yards. The others are the 1941 Bears and 1969 Cowboys.

• Finally, this: Brent Celek, who could be approaching his final three games with the Eagles, has 4,973 career receiving yards, all in an Eagles uniform. With 27 more yards, he will become the eighth player in Eagles history with 5,000 receiving yards and only the 12th tight end in NFL history with at least 5,000 receiving yards all with the same team. The only other players with at least 5,000 yards all in an Eagles uniform are Pete Retzlaff (7,412), Mike Quick (6,464), Hall of Famer Pete Pihos (5,619) and Bobby Walston (5,363).