By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles are hoping the worst is over for 2015. Only time will tell.
After a dreadful 1-3 start, the Eagles put together a near-complete game in a 39-17 rout of the Saints. The once-struggling offense racked up 519 yards, while the defense forced four turnovers. Even the kicking game was working as Caleb Sturgis shook off a missed extra point and hit all four of his field goal attempts.
Execution had been a problem for the Eagles this season. Much of that lack of execution has been by the offensive line, which has taken plenty of criticism in the early part of the season. It was a different story on Sunday, as the Eagles linemen overpowered and wore out the New Orleans defensive front. Kelly said the work of his offensive line opened up the running game, and created the balance the Eagles have been looking for on offense.
“We just blocked better in the run game,” Kelly said. “If we can get our run game going, then our pass game with our quick game and our play action passes off of that….it starts with us being able to run the football, and we did a good job of that.”The big question remains as the euphoria of Sunday’s victory subsides…..did the Eagles take advantage of a bad football team, or is this really the beginning of a turnaround? The Eagles will find out soon, and part of the answer may come next Monday night. The first-place Giants are in town, and a win by the Eagles will move them into a tie atop the NFC East.
The play of Sam Bradford was another encouraging sign on Sunday. Bradford shook off two early interceptions and finished with 333 yards passing. Kelly praised Bradford’s effort and offered a suggestion as to how he could shake off his slow starts.
“We can play a game earlier,” joked Kelly. “We can see if we can get a scrimmage going before and have a doubleheader. We’ll talk to him about it, but he has to see some things and then he seems like he gets settled.”
The defense has already had some impressive moments in the early part of the season despite the team’s 1-3 record. The man who made the biggest impact on Sunday was defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. He recorded three sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered the second fumble in Saints territory.
“He’s been a very disruptive force on our defensive line since we’ve been here,” Kelly said. “I think he’s just starting to get noticed when he probably should have gotten noticed before. You go back to last year and opponents getting ready to play us, and they’re talking about Fletcher.”
The one advantage for the Eagles is that no one is running away with the NFC East. The Giants have won three in a row, but look far from invincible. Washington has played better in recent weeks, but the Redskins don’t exactly have the look of a contender. Dallas is leaking oil with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant out with injuries.
Now, we’ll find out if Sunday is a new beginning for the Eagles, or a mirage served up by the struggling Saints. It starts with the execution Kelly has been talking about for five weeks.
“We ran the same plays we always run,” said Kelly. “We just executed them.”