Brad­ham watches much of first half as ro­ta­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twitter

Nigel Brad­ham watched much of the first half Sun­day from the bench. But coaches say it had noth­ing to do with his re­cent run-ins with the law.

DETROIT >> When all was said and done Sun­day, Nigel Brad­ham de­served to be car­ried off the field by the Ea­gles’ de­fense, not co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz.

It was Schwartz who ba­si­cally spot­ted the Lions the first half be­fore ad­mit­ting what a mess he’d cre­ated es­sen­tially by re­plac­ing Brad­ham with a line­backer scheme us­ing Stephen Tul­loch and My­chal Ken­dricks in tan­dem.

That bumped Brad­ham and Jor­dan Hicks, the team’s se­cond-best line­backer, out of the nickel in the first half and opened up lanes for Matthew Stafford, who tor­mented the Ea­gles with three touch­down passes in a 24-23 win over the Birds.

What was that Schwartz said you get la­beled if you keep do­ing the same things over and over?

Af­ter the game Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son de­fended Schwartz, the exLions head coach who was car­ried off the field by his Bills players af­ter beating Detroit here two years ago.

“It’s early in the foot­ball game, you know,” Ped­er­son said. “There are a lot of things that were hap­pen­ing and by de­sign, by game plan, that’s the way we went about our busi­ness.”

Here’s the way the Ea­gles went about their busi­ness Sun­day:

Af­ter al­low­ing 21 points, 199 yards and 17 first downs in the first half, they lim­ited the Lions to 3 points, 45 yards and four first downs in the se­cond half. Al­most for­got, the Ea­gles hadn’t al­lowed a TD pass un­til Sun­day.

Brad­ham and Hicks had five tack­les apiece, tied for third among other Ea­gles. Brad­ham was your ba­sic one-man wrecking crew, blow­ing up Lions first downs with three tack­les for loss, all in the se­cond half.

It wasn’t a co­in­ci­dence the de­fense played more like the unit that showed up in the first three games when Brad­ham, who also re­cov­ered a Stafford fum­ble, played reg­u­larly. The screens and sweeps the Lions gashed Schwartz with in the first half dis­ap­peared.

“I feel like we played our style of foot­ball in the se­cond half,” Brad­ham said. “We can’t come out flat, and I feel like that’s what hap­pened. Today we came out flat, we were pe­nal­ized way too much which is un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of us, es­pe­cially as a de­fense. I mean we’ve just got to keep fight­ing man, come back next week ready for the Red­skins. It’s our first di­vi­sion game and we have to be ready.”

There was con­fu­sion over which Ea­gle was re­spon­si­ble for a 27-yard catch late in the game by Golden Tate, which set up the win­ning field goal for the Lions. Brad­ham was seen chas­ing af­ter Tate.

“We were in man cov­er­age and we kind of dealt with the back be­tween the lineback­ers but the back went across the field so I just dropped back,” said Brad­ham, who’d been de­fend­ing Theo Rid­dick. “And I saw (Tate) late. I wish I had seen him a lit­tle sooner. And I just tried to do the best I could at that time.”

The Ea­gle cor­ner­back in the vicin­ity was Jalen Mills. Tate was wide open. It was one of three re­cep­tions he had worth 39 yards.

Tul­loch has played for Schwartz dur­ing three NFL stops, in­clud­ing Detroit. He was cut by the Lions over the off­sea­son.

Brad­ham didn’t make a scene about his lim­ited snaps in the first half.

“Go­ing into the game I was told, the coaches told me they wanted me to try to fol­low a ro­ta­tion,” Brad­ham said. “Like, they were al­ready do­ing with Jor­dan.”

*** If you weren’t a big fan of Ryan Mathews and his in­juries be­fore the game, you’ll want to see him benched af­ter this dis­play.

With the Ea­gles in thir­dand-two at their 45-yard line, driv­ing down the field to at least a two-field goal lead, Mathews got the ball on a hand­off off right tackle.

Cor­ner­back Dar­ius Slay slammed into Mathews from the front, of­fen­sive tackle Lane John­son from the side, and the ball popped out to Lions de­fen­sive tackle Tyrunn Walker at the 41 of the Birds.

The play hap­pened in front of the Lions’ bench where head coach Jim Cald­well ex­cit­edly jumped into the air while giv­ing the change of po­si­tion call with his right hand.

The re­cov­ery was up­held af­ter the manda­tory re­play re­view fol­low­ing turnovers. Stafford marched the Lions to the win­ning field goal.

“I think I stuck him pretty good,” said Slay, who later sealed the win with an in­ter­cep­tion of Car­son Wentz. “We saw that he was go­ing to carry the ball out wide and we knew he was go­ing to fum­ble once in a while, so I just made a play.”

Mathews had 11 rushes for 42 yards, Dar­ren Spro­les five for 45.

In hind­sight, Ped­er­son might have de­cided against pitch­ing the ball to go wide al­though he added “We didn’t ex­e­cute prop­erly.”

*** John­son ex­pects a de­ci­sion Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day on his ap­peal of a 10game sus­pen­sion af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for PEDs.

John­son told re­porters the hear­ing with an out­side ar­bi­tra­tor lasted eight hours.

The Ea­gles de­cided against ac­ti­vat­ing rookie right tackle Hal Vaitai, as they stuck with the usual con­tin­gent of of­fen­sive line­men.

De­fen­sive tackle Ben­nie Lo­gan dressed and recorded a sack. Lo­gan sus­tained a calf spasm and was listed ques­tion­able on the in­jury re­port.

Vaitai is an op­tion to step in at right tackle if John­son loses his ap­peal.

*** Wentz passed for 238 yards, giv­ing him 1,007 pass­ing yards on the sea­son and mov­ing him past Dono­van McNabb, who was fifth on the all-time Ea­gles rookie pass­ing list.

Went also threw two TDs, giv­ing him se­cond on the sea­son, one less than McNabb’s rookie record for the fran­chise.

The 25 com­ple­tions were a ca­reer-best for Wentz.

Wentz’s streak of passes with­out an in­ter­cep­tion ended at 134. That’s the third-long­est skein for a rookie to start a sea­son, trail­ing only Tom Brady (162 at­tempts) and Dak Prescott (155 and count­ing).

“The big­gest thing is we just shot our­selves in the foot a cou­ple too many times,” Wentz said. “Some of the hold­ing plays, some of those hap­pen. But some of those de­lays of games and some of those mis­takes that we can con­trol our­selves we’ve got to just clean up. Those are things you want to have back.

And the Lions, they played great. They came out and beat us.”

RICK OSENTOSKI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ea­gles line­backer Nigel Brad­ham, left, watched a lot of the first half from the bench dur­ing an ex­per­i­ment with ro­tat­ing lineback­ers. Here, Brad­ham helps out as Lions quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford (9) is tack­led by Ea­gles safety Rod­ney McLeod, right, dur­ing the first half Sun­day.

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