Monday Night Football: Vikings cruise, Broncos survive on MNF

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Monday Night Football: Vikings cruise, Broncos survive on MNF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sam Bradford started his second season with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings beat New Orleans 29-19 on Monday night and spoil Adrian Peterson's first game with the Saints.

Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 93 yards, two for scores, and Adam Thielen racked up 157 yards on nine catches as Bradford carved up a Saints defense that looked again like one of the worst in the league despite a major renovation. Rookie Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards in the formal takeover from Peterson.

Peterson was an afterthought once the Saints fell behind. Drew Brees was quiet, too, with 291 yards on 27-for-37 passing padded by the late push to catch up. Coby Fleener caught the only touchdown toss, after the 2-minute warning. Will Lutz made four field goals, three under 25 yards.

Brees and Bradford are both in the final year of their contracts, with the same agent, Tom Condon, who is sure to cash in on both clients. Brees has by far the better resume, nine seasons further into his career, but Bradford stole the show on this prime-time stage.

Behind mostly clean pockets created by a remade offensive line, Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes without a turnover. With three rookies and three free agents in the starting lineup, the Saints tried hard to better a defense that has held Brees and company back since the Super Bowl title eight years ago. The first performance left a lot to be desired, with Diggs and Thielen consistently finding favorable matchups underneath.

There were three unnecessary roughness calls in the first half by the Saints. Two of the personal fouls aided a drive that ended with one of three field goals by Kai Forbath, who missed one extra point. The other 15-yarder was on safety Kenny Vaccaro for head-hunting Diggs during an acrobatic catch in the closing seconds of the first half. Diggs came right back with another highlight-reel grab to give the Vikings a 16-6 lead at the break.

Cameron Jordan and A.J. Klein each had their hands on a tipped pass in the end zone that fluttered off Cook's hands, missing a critical opportunity to thwart that drive and keep the deficit at four points (see full recap).

Broncos hold off Chargers’ late rally with FG block
DENVER -- Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo's 44-yard field goal attempt with a second left, and the Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.

Moments earlier, Koo had nailed the kick, but Joseph called a timeout to ice the kicker.

On the re-do, Harris -- who made the team because of a rash of injuries along the D-line -- sliced through and got his right hand on the kick.

It was reminiscent of last year's opener, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.

Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter but had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.

Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.

The Broncos held Philip Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned (see full recap).

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

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As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

After getting the opportunity to stay with the Super Bowl champions, Nigel Bradham spoke at length and quite passionately about someone who didn’t get the same opportunity.
Brent Celek.
Bradham, the veteran linebacker, spent the last two years with Celek, who the Eagles released earlier this week after 11 seasons.
“That’s obviously devastating, man,” Bradham said. “Taking about a guy who was here his whole career and the way he came every day and his character every day.
“He really … me and a lot of guys on our team what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and he let us know it doesn’t come easy, it takes work, and he came in and worked every day. Like no other.”
Celek was due to earn $5 million in 2018 but is counting only $1 million in dead money against the 2018 cap, so the Eagles gained $4 million under the cap by releasing him.
That cap space certainly helped them find room to re-sign Bradham, who enjoyed a career-best season in 2017 for the Super Bowl champs.
But Bradham was effusive in his praise for the veteran tight end, who has played the fourth-most games in Eagles history.
“You would never know he was (11) years in because of the way he worked,” Bradham said. “So when you lose a guy like that it obviously takes a toll on your team.
“You hate to lose guys like that that meant so much and impacted this team so much. His leadership was on another level. He went over and beyond the things he could have done as a leader. Obviously, wish he could be here still.”

Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

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Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

The Eagles on Friday reportedly hosted a formal visit with LSU running back Derrius Guice.

If the Eagles have real interest in Guice, they know he won’t be there beyond pick 32. He might not even be there at pick 32. So would the Eagles seriously consider taking a running back with their first-round pick?

The Eagles’ running back situation is murky going forward. LeGarrette Blount has found a new home. Jay Ajayi will have an enormous role in this offense, but is only signed through 2018. Corey Clement will likely take on a bigger role after he proved himself as a pass catcher and, more importantly, a pass protector. Kenjon Barner’s value is strictly as a returner, a need the Eagles may look to address elsewhere. Then there’s former mid-round picks Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey who I mention in this space simply because they have roster spots as of today. And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who’s still lingering in free agency.

The free agent market is less than inspiring. Adrian Peterson is out there but he’s not going to play for free. Do you want to bring back former Eagle DeMarco Murray or (almost former Eagle) Frank Gore? Didn’t think so. You could take a chance on an Eddie Lacy or a Matt Jones, guys who showed promise but lost their way. But, again … meh.

Last year’s running back draft class was crazy deep and talented. So much so that the Eagles were able to pick up Clement off the street after he didn’t get selected. This year’s class isn’t far behind it.

There’s an obvious RB1: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. No, Eagles fans. It’s not happening. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, focus on the guys the Eagles have an actual shot at getting. Guice, for one, would be an excellent addition as a lead back. There’s also USC’s Ronald Jones, a Jamaal Charles clone that would fit like a glove in this offense. Then there’s Georgia’s dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb is more of a bell cow while Michel is more dynamic.

The history of the Eagles drafting running backs high is not illustrious. Since they made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by selecting Michael Haddix No. 8 overall in the loaded 1983 draft, it’s been a somewhat mixed bag. They took Keith Byars No. 10 overall and Anthony Toney in the second round in 1986. Byars was OK, but Toney was a bust. They took Siran Stacy in the second (48th overall) in 1992 who never logged a single NFL carry. They did better in 1994, selecting Charlie Garner in the second round (42nd overall), and hit it out of the park in 2009, selecting their all-time leading rusher LeSean McCoy at pick 53.

The Eagles clearly have running backs on their radar in this draft. Though their history isn’t great with drafting them high, this would be the year to do it.