Nigel Bradham walked to his locker Sunday night and Malcolm Jenkins yelled across the room over to him, “What’d you have, like 20 tackles?”
Seemed that way.
Bradham made plays all over the place Sunday in the Eagles’ 16-15 wild-card win over the Bears at Soldier Field.
And if it seemed like he knew what plays were coming, maybe he did.
Just understanding their offense, the things they like to do,” he said. “I felt like a lot of their scheme game to game is repetitive. So knowing what they like to do and how they like to utilize. They do a lot of the same things. Certain formations. Also when Trey Burton went down, I think that had an effect on their offense.
The Eagles outdid the NFL’s top defense Sunday, holding the Bears to one touchdown, limiting Chicago’s vaunted 1-2 running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to 62 total yards of offense and keeping the Bears out of the end zone on all three of their red-zone drives.
It was a brilliant defensive effort against a 12-win team, and Bradham was in the middle of everything.
Officially, he was credited with seven solo tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
He played every snap for the ninth straight game, and after starting the season slowly, Bradham has emerged as one of the Eagles’ top defensive forces.
Where does this rank among the best games of Bradham’s seven-year career?
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve had a couple. But it’s up there. To me, the most important one was the Super Bowl. That was my best. Until we get another.”
Bradham’s role has evolved this year. He was suspended for the opener, then played about 77 percent of the defensive snaps the next few weeks. Since Week 4, he’s missed only four plays and become essentially the every-down linebacker who never leaves the field that Jordan Hicks used to be.
Everything about Bradham’s game has improved since his role expanded, most noticeably his tackling, which during the Eagles’ 6-1 stretch has been exemplary. It's weird, but he’s actually played better since breaking his thumb.
Does it look like he’s raised his game to another level?
“Of course,” he said. “Everybody does. It’s the playoffs. I better.”
There’s no question Bradham has turned it up the second half of the season, and a game like Sunday’s was built for him.
“It’s just pretty much getting in rhythm,” he said. “I think I played pretty well all season but certain offenses, certain schemes, I’m (going to excel against). This was a week where we played a team that liked to run the ball so that was a key factor in me having a big game.”
The reality is that everybody on this defense has played better in the second half. More pressure up front, better coverage in the back end, more turnovers and improved tackling add up to an improved performance all-around.
“Everything,” Bradham said. “We’ve got great chemistry together. We’re playing together. That’s all it is.”
The Eagles have quite a challenge in New Orleans this weekend, but this isn’t the same defense that allowed 546 yards and 48 points seven weeks ago.
And it’s not the same Nigel Bradham either.
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