The Eagles were on the verge of stealing a victory away from the Detroit Lions at Ford Field before a crunch-time interception sealed the game. There were plenty of positives to take away from the loss..but also one very strange decision that dug the Eagles a deep hole in the first place.
During the Lions explosive opening drives in which they quickly racked up a 14 point lead, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was nowhere to be seen. At the time, this went under the radar as all eyes turned to a rampant Lions Offense..but it quickly became noticeable.
The Lions scored on all three of their opening drives as the Defense failed to find ways to stop the likes of Theo Riddick..and it was at this point the cogs ticked into place for many. Nigel Bradham is easily the Eagles best coverage linebacker but despite starting, played very few first half snaps.
Instead, it was Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch who were rotating in various looks..but some big third down conversions from the Lions and sloppy tackling from Kendricks began to sound the alarm bells for Jim Schwartz.
Bradham was inserted into the game during the second half and stayed their for the duration. The Defense transformed from a cause for concern to complete dominance in just minutes. In the first half, the Eagles allowed 199 yards and 17 first downs. In the second, they allowed just 45 yards and 4 first downs. What changed? Nigel Bradham was on the field.
The former Bills linebacker ended the day with five tackles, three for a loss and a fumble recovery. His presence on the Eagles Defense is absolutely crucial, so why wasn’t he in the game sooner?!
“They told me going into the game that they wanted to figure out a rotation with the linebackers, like they are doing with Jordan.” Bradham said after the game. ” Today, we started trying to rotate me.”
It does seem coincidental that Bradham’s snap count took a drop just days after he was arrested in Miami for possession of a loaded firearm and Defensive Coordinator told the media “you do dumbass things, pretty soon you’re going to be labeled as a dumbass” and that “he’s got to earn some trust back”. But punishment was never the intent, according to Doug Pederson.
Pederson continues to press idea that Bradham wasn't meant to be punished on 1st half. Wanted to go with different look. Kendricks/Tulloch
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) October 9, 2016
Whatever the reason for Bradham’s spontaneous intervals on the sideline may be, the point is very simple. The Eagles Defense is far less productive when he isn’t on the field..and if he saw more action in the opening drives, the Eagles may not have had to climb back from a huge deficit to begin with.