Two weeks ago, the Eagles lost their third consecutive game. They were 4-7 and on the verge of irrelevance. Losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit by a combined score of 90-31 came with Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback.
That doesn’t mean Sanchez is to blame -- the Eagles' defense played horribly in those games -- but Bradford’s return last week in New England was important. The soft-spoken quarterback addressed his teammates before that game, a 35-28 victory, and he did the same before Sunday’s 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
“I think more than anything, as opposed to changing anything on the field, I think the past couple weeks I have just tried to provide leadership to this group,” Bradford said. “I don’t think you can let what’s happened in the past affect the way you prepare for a game or alter your style.
“I think that we can perform at a higher level. Obviously, we’re still not great out there. But I think this is what I envisioned, as far as us winning as a team, you know, what we have been able to do the past two weeks to put two wins together.”
Bradford completed 23 of 38 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception, a pass that was torn from the hands of tight end Brent Celek. In the past six games Bradford has started and finished, the Eagles are 5-1.
“I think everyone looks to him as a leader,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “The past couple of games, he kind of stepped up before the game and delivered an unbelievable message to us. I think he was getting there earlier in the year, and now he has kind of established himself as a leader. The value of him to this team is second to none.”
Bradford wasn’t caught up in the drama of running back LeSean McCoy’s return to Philadelphia. He was never a teammate of McCoy’s. The trade that brought Bradford to Philadelphia from St. Louis occurred a week after the trade that sent McCoy to Buffalo.
For Bradford, the challenge was to keep building relationships and confidence with the offensive pieces coach Chip Kelly assembled in the offseason.
“I feel like over the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable out there with what we’re doing,” Bradford said. “I think everyone else has too, it seems. It’s still not perfect. There are some things we need to correct, but it seems to be going in the right direction.”
In the best sense of the word, Bradford managed this game well for the Eagles. Buffalo’s defense was often playing aggressively, which left room for deep passes. Bradford took advantage by hitting rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor for a 53-yard touchdown.
When the Eagles got the ball late in the second quarter, they really wanted to put points on the board. They were getting the ball to open the second half, so it was an opportunity to take control of the game. Bradford completed five consecutive passes for 32 yards. He picked up another 21 yards with three completions. That was good enough to get the Eagles into range for Caleb Sturgis’ 45-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, Bradford directed another drive toward a 41-yard Sturgis field goal. The Eagles had a 20-10 lead. When they needed to score again, after Buffalo tied the game, Bradford and the offense drove 54 yards to set up Sturgis’ game-winning 30-yard field goal.
“I feel more comfortable out there,” Bradford said. “I feel more confident in what we’re doing. I think, as a quarterback, when you are confident and you’re able to just let things rip, that’s when you play your best.”
For the Eagles, Bradford’s best has been good enough the past two weeks.