McMullen’s Quick Hits: Eagles avoid London by topping Giants
(973espn.com) - The now annual Week 17 tradition of winning meaningless football games continues as the Pat Shurmur-led Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the New York Giants, 35-30, in what likely was Tom Coughlin's last game as Big Blue's head coach.
Coughlin, the Giants' two-time Super Bowl winning coach, is expected to resign on Black Monday after New York missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season, finishing 2015 at 6-10.
Chip Kelly, of course, is already on the unemployment line after being released by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on Tuesday night.
Shurmur, the interim head coach elevated from offensive coordinator, didn't have a chance to implement much on Sunday but you did see a few tweaks, namely an early run from DeMarco Murray with quarterback Sam Bradford under center, one which resulted in a 54-yard touchdown, along with a more managed version of Kelly's tempo offense with things being dialed back with the lead late.
Bradford was brilliant, finishing 30-of-38 for 320 yards with two touchdown passes to Jordan Matthews and one interception. Matthews, along with Zach Ertz, paced the receiving corps by snaring seven catches for 54 yards and the two scores. The red-hot Ertz finished with nine catches for a career-high 152 yards.
Murray, meanwhile, didn't do all that much after the 54-yarder, his longest jaunt of the year, finishing with 69 yards on 12 carries.
The defense continued its late-season struggles, allowing New York to pile up 498 yards of total offense but Walter Thurmond's 83-yard pick six in the third quarter off a hurry from Connor Barwin shifted momentum in the game and put the Eagles back on top 28-27.
By winning Philadelphia avoids losing a home game with a trip to London but will now have to visit Seattle in 2016 and do fall back in the draft. By finishing 7-9, Philadelphia should pick between Nos. 13 and 17 in late-April.
THE REAL GAME
The real game was going on behind the scenes as news broke before the game that the Eagles are interested in Doug Pederson as the team's next head coach.
Pederson was Andy Reid's first quarterback in Philadelphia and is his current offensive coordinator in Kansas City. He was brought in by Reid from Green Bay to mentor a young Donovan McNabb and by all accounts did a wonderful job.
The first interview for the Eagles job went to running backs coach Duce Staley and that satisfied the league's Rooney Rule requirement in which at least one minority candidate has to be interviewed for the position.
Two NFL sources confirmed to 973espn.com, the Eagles also have significant interest in Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase but the competition there will be tough.
Others on Philadelphia's radar include Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Shurmur.
When it rains, it pours and Kelly's reputation continues to take on water in Philadelphia.
Lurie coined the term "emotional intelligence' when talking about what he wanted from the next head coach and some of the ex-coach's pettiness was revealed in dual reports on Sunday.
CBS insider Jason La Canfora reported that Kelly alienated Lurie and others by demanding the Eagles annual Christmas party be moved while, Cris Carter said Matthews was told by the coach to stop spinning the football or "you won't play for me."
We checked and the Eagles Christmas Party was not only never moved to acquiesce Kelly but Lurie, by and large, has nothing to do with it so that report seems specious. Carter's account of Matthews' allegation seems more like Kelly, although it's rather meaningless.
Meaningless football is what it is so don't get caught up with the big numbers put up by the Eagles offense against what is one of the league's worst defenses when healthy and was extremely banged up on top of that.
Bradford, however, was very accurate for most of the second half of the season, stayed healthy for the most part and look's like the best available option at quarterback moving forward.
His 78.9 completion percentage on Sunday was the highest ever by an Eagle with more than 30 attempts and over his last six starts, Bradford completed 175-of-256 passes for 1,959 yards and 10 touchdowns for a 99.1 passer rating.
Ertz is also starting to develop into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in football as he got healthier and healthier after the early-season, core muscle injury.
Matthews, though, strikes me as a scorer on a bad NBA team. Somebody has to put up numbers and at the end of the day the second-year receiver is nothing more than the best of a bad bunch. That's not to say Matthews can't contribute but, on a really good team, he's a third receiver.
Murray won't be seeking out Lurie on the bus ride home this time.
After the game, the now ex-rushing king confirmed that this week was the most the Eagles worked on having him run out of the traditional I-formation all year and it paid off big early.
Coming into the game, just 25 of Murray's 181 carries came with the QB under center and Shurmur proved to be more willing to play to the strengths of the cards he was dealt in 60 minutes of football than Kelly did in three years.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen