Sam Bradford has been widely criticised by fans and media outlets alike since his arrival in Philadelphia to the point where it’s almost rare to see a positive story (unless you’re on our site). But with fans still calling for Mark Sanchez and reports saying that “Bradford is still a major problem”, they’re failing to recognise one thing. Bradford had his best outing as an Eagle last night.
The immediate reaction to this is “BUT HE DIDN’T THROW A SINGLE TOUCHDOWN HOW DARE YOU?!” or “HIS PASSER RATING WAS 58.7 HOW WAS THIS HIS BEST GAME?!” and you’d be right to think that. But I’m not talking about statistics. I’m talking about how he led the team despite the disadvantages he had.
Without even talking about the receivers,there are already problems. The first being the Offensive line. Bradford was sacked 5 times, forced to scramble 3 times and suffered a further nine Quarterback hits. A lot of this was down to the absence of Jason Peters who left the game early on with back spasms, but the point is simple.
For weeks critics have called Bradford out for “looking like a Deer in headlights”. Would a Deer in headlights get up after being hit 14 times and somehow manage to throw for over 200 yards when his receivers could barely make a catch? Would a Deer in headlights rush out of the pocket fully knowing he is anything but mobile, watching someone as physical and intimidating as Luke Kuechly storm towards him? For the first time this season, Bradford looked confident in the pocket and worked with what he had. If it was Nick Foles in that game I can almost guarantee that he would have faltered and began to throw wildly inaccurate passes. Bradford did the opposite, remained calm and was able to keep pushing in a game where he was over-run and had little help.
Then there’s the Interception which really should not be listed as a Bradford pick. Matthews once again tipped a pass that resulted in a pick, the same thing happened in Atlanta..this wasn’t on Bradford at all. But even if it was, you have guys like Josh Norman who have 4 interceptions alone this season lining up against inconsistent receivers? So what does Bradford do? He looks after the ball and doesn’t throw a single pick for the rest of the night. A lot of people have been quick to say the Eagles were too cautious last night, that they weren’t looking down the field. Would you look down the field knowing that your number one receiver has more drops than any other receiver in the NFL as he lines up against someone as dangerous as Josh Norman?
Bradford played it over the middle where the chances of interceptions were low, he cut down the pass attempts to Matthews and the receivers as a whole for that matter, throwing swing/screen passes to the running backs far more frequently. In fact, the running backs were targeted 17 times compared to the 18 times the receiving core was. Sure some of the pass decisions (the 3rd & 9 swing pass) were questionable but a lot of that will be down to the play calling. There hasn’t really been a balance with Bradford. It’s either all out attack or extreme conservation and last night was the closest we have seen to a middle ground, unfortunately the receivers disregarded that.
So now onto the receivers who not only failed to catch in crucial scenarios, but halted the progress of the entire team. Bradford was placing balls perfectly, the incomplete touchdown was a prime example. That throw in particular was one utilised in pre-season that proved to be effective yet again. Miles Austin made a few easy drops and Josh Huff dropped what would have been a certain touchdown pass. But despite all of this, he never once made a shockingly bad read and the throws were much more accurate than we have seen in recent weeks. Last week, Bradford let the receivers down, tonight the boot was on the other foot.
Finally, there’s the leadership quality. To take 14 hits, get back up after each one and continue to rally your team down the field shows a strong character. To not lose confidence in your receivers, pep them up on the sidelines and get behind them shows leadership. Compare this Sam Bradford to the one we saw in weeks 1-3. He looks much more comfortable in the pocket, he’s moving around, running through collapsing holes to gain level ground and reading the field deeper than we have seen in previous weeks. He is no longer just throwing to his first read, his footwork looks lighter and his arm is just as deadly. This is the best overall package we have seen from Sam Bradford.
Sure the numbers dictate otherwise, the fans are going to call for Sanchez and the media are going to point towards a Kap trade or a draft pick of Boykin..but Sam Bradford was in a gritty contest last night and that should not be overlooked. If Bradford played like this against the Giants, the Eagles would have put up 40 points. If he had started the season with this kind of intensity, the Eagles might be 5-1. Sam Bradford played his best game as a Philadelphia Eagle last night and if you go back and compare all of the points mentioned above to how he faired in the previous 6 games, I’m sure you will agree.