EAGLES BEAT UP BRADFORD, HAND VIKINGS FIRST LOSS >>
PHILADELPHIA >> With little explanation how he ever could know, Doug Pederson long ago drew one conclusion the Eagles: They are nothing like the 7-9 team of a year ago.
He said it in training camp, and he said it after a 3-0 start, and he said it after one loss and then another. He said it with conviction, loud, into a microphone, on TV. He said it from his gut, or at least from his lifetime of football experience.
He said it and he meant it. The Eagles are different. They are better. They will be fine. And with those words, there was an implication: There would be no disintegration this year, no loss of the head coach’s authority, no obvious confidence drain, no reason for the owner to run a mop through the joint seconds into the offseason.
Whether Pederson was a visionary or a con man was insignificant, at least at first. That’s because football will always find its own ways to provide that verdict. And so it did Sunday for the Birds, who had lost their previous two and were to host the 5-0 Minnesota Vikings. They could have ended the day at 3-3 and dazed. Or they could have been 4-2 and revived. Pederson never blinked. “Just focus in on our jobs,” he said. “Do our jobs. Do our assignments.”
Do that, and it would work. Do that, even after a twogame losing streak, especially
after a two-game losing streak, and things would be different. So, they were: Eagles 21, Vikings 10.
“The mindset all week has been, ‘Let’s get back to playing the ball we know how to play,’” Fletcher Cox said. “Basically, it was everyone being where they’re supposed to be. The No. 1 thing we saw today was we got back to where everybody was having fun.”
The Eagles seemed to have fun Sunday. Just as notable, the Vikings didn’t. The Eagles were alive all day, jumping into passing lanes, blitzing from angles they hadn’t tried before, celebrating.
The Vikings were slow, their heads down, their quarterback seeming disinterested if not inept. And maybe that’s what Pederson suspected all along. Maybe that’s what he knew about the Eagles he would coach. Maybe that’s what he suspected about the Eagles that Bradford had quarterbacked last season.
In the normal flow of the NFL, where only the great clubs build sixgame winning streaks, every team will sputter. But the Vikings had nothing Sunday, and that began with Bradford, who fumbled four times, lost the ball twice, stood around to be sacked six times and threw an interception. Oddly, the crowd of 69,596 didn’t boo him quite as viciously as they might have
other former Eagles. That could be because Bradford was so overwhelmed, so early, so completely, that there was no need for such verbal over-abuse.
“We just didn’t get the job done on offense,” Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “We felt like everyone was dead out there.”
That’s how the Eagles too often looked last season, when they tired of being big-timed by the under-qualified Chip Kelly. Pederson must have seen that on film. And if so, he must have seen what was coming Sunday.
“Every team goes through adversity,” said Josh Huff, who provided a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. “I think everybody in this locker room shares the same interest, and that’s to go as far as we can go. And in order to do that, we have to overcome adversity.”
The Eagles were less than spectacular themselves, being intercepted twice, losing two fumbles, scoring only one touchdown on offense. But they played with a purpose, particularly on defense. They played as if they were determined to rescue a season.
“Everybody was riding the Vikings bandwagon, but we knew we were a good team and we knew what we needed to do to win,” Jason Peters said. “The Vikings are a great team. But we knew we could play with them. We knew if we just stuck with our plan, we would have a chance to win.”
That’s Pederson’s coaching approach. He is not as much worried about what the opponent has planned as he is that his team will be precise. For that, there was no panic after losing late to the Lions and being unable to close against the Redskins.
“It doesn’t matter who is coming into our house,” Jordan Hicks said. “We have a standard that we have to live up to and that we have for ourselves. And as long as we are doing what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine.”
They are 4-2. They thumped the Steelers. They had a minimum of trouble outclassing the undefeated Vikings. There is too much time remaining in a season, which includes a difficult assignment Sunday night in Dallas, to declare them, as the man said, fine.
But six games are not too early to declare them different, more alive, more aware, better coached than they were last season.
“They really took it upon themselves this week to make corrections,” Pederson said. “They practiced great. The leadership stood up today and took command of the game, and that’s what you like to see.” That’s what he knew he could see. That’s what he knew, that’s what he said, that’s what he keeps saying.
To contact Jack McCaffery, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ JackMcCaffery
Vikings’ quarterback Sam Bradford, right, helped his old team out Sunday, but a lot of his struggles were due to an Eagles defense that hounded him all day.