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3 things we learned about the Eagles

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PHILADELPHIA — Last season, Fletcher Cox didn’t get a lot of sacks, but he did earn a lot of respect. This season, Cox is getting the sacks and even more respect as one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.

Cox had three sacks — two of which resulted in fumbles that led to two scores — as the Philadelphia Eagles ran away from the New Orleans Saints 39-17 on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Last season, Cox finished the season with four sacks, and he has that many already after just five games.

Cox’s first sack, in the second quarter, forced a fumble from Saints quarterback Drew Brees and gave the Eagles (2-3) possession on the Saints’ 46, and that led to a field goal and a 10-7 Eagles lead at halftime.

Cox did it again in the third quarter after the Eagles took a 17-10 lead. This time he knocked the ball out of Brees’ hands and recovered it himself, and that set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Bradford to tight end Brent Celek to give the Eagles a 23-10 lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter.

Bradford completed 32 of 45 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns, while running back DeMarco Murray has his best game as an Eagle. The former Dallas Cowboy rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries after rushing for just 47 yards in his previous three games.

“By no means are where we want to be as a team,” Bradford said, “but this was a step in the right direction.”

For New Orleans (1-4), it was another step in the wrong direction, and even though Brees completed 26 of 43 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns, he was also sacked five times and intercepted once.

“We played pretty well in the first half and made the plays we needed to make,” Saints defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. “But we made too many mistakes in the second half and they did what a good team is supposed to do when you make mistakes — they took advantage of them.”

What we learned about the Eagles:

1. The Eagles can run the ball after all. They were one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL coming into Sunday’s game, but they ran for 186 yards against the Saints. Running back DeMarco Murray led the way with 83 yards on 20 carries — and, for the first time all season, they won the time-of-possession battle 34:02 to 25:58. “We knew we were better than what we had showed,” center Jason Kelce said, “and today we showed what we’re capable of.”

2. Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. Opposing players said that last year — including Dallas QB Tony Romo, who called Cox one of the most underrated players in the league — and now Cox is racking up sacks. He has four in five games after recording four all of last season. That’s what the Pro Bowl voters are looking for, even though Cox passed on the credit to his secondary. “All three of those sacks were coverage sacks,” Cox said. “When the quarterback holds the football, it gives the rush time to get there.”

3. Sam Bradford is a pretty good QB if he gets time to throw, and he got it on Sunday. Bradford still made a couple of terrible mistakes — two poorly thrown passes that were intercepted in the end zone — but he also completed 71 percent of his passes for 333 yards and two TDs because the Eagles’ offensive line protected him against the Saints’ feeble pass rush. He also showed he can be a leader. Right before the game started, Bradford gathered the entire offense in one of the locker room showers and told them it was time for the Eagles’ offense to show what it is made if.

Etc.:

–TE Brent Celek had been the forgotten man on the Eagles’ offense, as most of the snaps have gone to younger and faster Zach Ertz. Coming into Sunday’s game, Celek had just two catches for 16 yards in four games, but he caught three passes for 44 yards and a 23-yard TD that gave the Eagles a 23-10 lead on Sunday. Celek will never be the main man again, but he’s a reliable blocker and still a dangerous receiver.

–WR Josh Huff battled injuries and rarely got on the field enough to earn his keep last year as a rookie. And coming into Sunday’s game he was still a non-factor, with four catches for 39 yards. But against the Saints he had the best day of his career, with four catches for 78 yards and a 41-yard catch-and-run TD that gave the Eagles their first TD of the game.

–K Caleb Sturgis got off to a bad start with the Eagles after he was signed to replace injured Cody Parker before Week 4. In his first game with the Eagles he missed a short field goal and an extra point — four points in a game the Eagles lost by three. And he missed another extra point on Sunday. However, Sturgis did make four field goals against the Saints, with three of them coming in the second half as the Eagles pulled away.


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