CHARLOTTE - Sometimes the key to a special season lies in unexpected performances from players flying under the radar. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins are some of the household names and probably most popular defensive players to those living outside Philadelphia. But it was Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham who came up huge in the Eagles 28-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night.

Kendricks racked up a career high 17 tackles in the win. Bradham added ten tackles and had several key plays in big situations that helped to stall out the Panthers offense. Together they combined for 27 tackles and stuffed Panthers Running Backs to just one yard rushing on 13 carries.

Bradham was impressed when I shared with him the fact that he and Kendricks combined for 27 tackles.

"Ooh! Ooh! That's a lot," Bradham laughed. "We're committing. Getting to that ball. We know we got to get to the ball and create the energy for this defense."

"I didn't even realize what was going on," Kendricks stated. "I was just happy to be out there. I did my job and waited for it to come to me. It was fun, I had a good time."

Kendricks has been through his share of adversity. He did not get much playing time a year ago and went into the offseason asking the Eagles to trade him to a team where he would get that opportunity. They resisted and now it appears to be working out for both parties.

"This game is a funny game, it's a funny game," Kendricks said with a smile. "It is full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, ins and outs and I think I have been through some adversity. This feels good."

Kendricks was truly humbled after this performance and clearly grateful for the chance to do what he did against the Panthers. He has a great approach and the perfect mindset to his current situation.

"If the opportunity is there then I am going to take advantage of it," Kendricks said. "Whether it will be there going on, who knows? But I will be waiting again."

Bradham's game was big beyond just the numbers. With about 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Bradham chased down Cam Newton and got him down just before he was going to go out of bounds and stop the clock. The Panthers had no timeouts remaining and that play took an extra 20 seconds off the clock and eventually saw Carolina head to the locker room without scoring on that possession. He also did an amazing job on third and goal to chase down a receiver in the flat and make a big tackle to force a field goal.

"Is this my best game?" Bradham answered to that same question. "It's up there. It's up there."

Bradham's second year in Philadelphia and around most of the same pieces on defense has contributed to his success. The comfort with his teammates and their knowledge of the system is paying dividends under Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz.

"It's being more comfortable with my teammates and chemistry," Bradham explained. "Communication comes into play and knowing how to play off guys and what style certain guys have. They know my style as well. We all fit in well together. I feel that is why we are so good. we all have a little bit of a different style, but it is kind of the same because we are aggressive."

Together Kendricks and Bradham played a major role in the victory over the Panthers. Both players have certainly caught the attention of their teammates.

"It's been night and day compared to last year," Jenkins said. "I think they are a lot more comfortable in the scheme. The amount of snaps they have had to play when Jordan has gone down. All of a sudden Nigel (Bradham) is playing out of position, he has to call the defense. He had a huge game. He was flying around and had a bunch of big stops and big tackles.They are a big piece in what we do."

On a night when Cam Newton did his superman celebration following a touchdown run. It appeared two other superheros stepped up and became his kryptonite.

More From 97.3 ESPN