McMullen’s Quick Hits: Reynolds Wraps Eagles Win In ‘Shady Bowl’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If the homecoming was the story, the coming-out party for a number of young Eagles players was the denouement as Philadelphia edged Buffalo, 23-20, in LeSean McCoy's return to Lincoln Financial Field.
Rookie receiver Nelson Agholor hauled in a 53-yard touchdown reception, emerging tight end Zach Ertz set up the game-winning field goal with 41-yard catch-and-run, and safety Ed Reynolds sealed things late with his first NFL interception.
The win enabled the Eagles (6-7) to keep pace at the top of the NFC East with Washington, which topped Chicago by a field goal, 24-21, minutes earlier.
Sam Bradford played a relatively clean game, completing 23-of-38 passes for 247 yards with the TD to Agholor and an interception.
Philadelphia went with a running-back-by committee-approach as expected in the backfield with the returning Ryan Mathews getting the most carries, 13 for 38 yards. The embattled DeMarco Murray was next, toting it 11 times for 34 yards and Darren Sproles was the most effective with seven carries for 41 yards and a score.
"It's a triple threat," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said, perhaps overstating things a bit. "All those guys are capable of doing big things. I think we did well with our outside zone and we were able to pound it inside when we wanted to. We did some good things today."
Ertz paced the receivers with five catches for 98 yards and Agholor had three for 62.
A stingy defense was led by another monster performance by Fletcher Cox, who tallied eight tackles, two of those for losses, a hurry, and his 6 1/2 sack of the season, an ongoing career best.
"Cox is a great player," Bills guard Richie Incognito admitted. "He really shows up well on tape and we got to experience it firsthand today. I did not play my best and he beat me early and often. You have to take your hat off to him."
THE REAL 'SHADY'
McCoy's behavior leading up to the game did a great job toward explaining why Kelly wanted to move on from the franchise's all-time leading rusher in the offseason and the fans got that message, booing "Shady" pre-game, on his first touch, and again when he raced off the field after the loss.
That said, Shady's talent can't be ignored and he put together his seventh straight game of over 100 yards of total offense, carrying it 20 times for 74 yards and adding 35 more on four receptions.
McCoy, though, had 64 of those yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes and as Bill Davis' defense clamped down after intermission, allowing McCoy to get only 10 yards on four second-half carries.
"That ain't exactly the 1985 Bears, but if you want to say it is, go for it," a testy Rex Ryan said after the game.
After the game McCoy showed his true colors again. According to two different sources in the tunnel, McCoy slammed his helmet against a wall in frustration and began cursing as he entered the locker room.
He also declined an interview to a large group of reporters around his locker and attempted to push a FOX29 camera down to the floor in frustration.
"We just ignore it," Eagles center Jason Kelce said of all the hoopla surrounding McCoy's return. "I think that if you have been in the league for a long time, especially playing in Philly, you realize that the media is pretty strong and there is going to be stuff circulating at all times. I don't think anyone though too much about it."
The Eagles fans weren't all that happy with Ed Hochuli and his crew most of the afternoon but they should count their blessings.
Philadelphia was flagged five times for 51 yards while Buffalo was caught a mind-numbing 15 times for 101 yards.
There is no question there were a few more holding calls that should have been called on the Bills' O-line but the most egregious non-call of the game was on Ertz's big-play as Agholor ran a rub route that blew both he and Buffalo safety Corey Graham up on the play.
It should have been offensive pass interference on the Eagles and backed them up 10 yards. Instead it led to Caleb Sturgis' game-winning 30-yard chip shot.
Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman was outraged and called the officiating a disgrace as he left the field.
Ryan took the high road, though.
"You always have your vantage point," the coach said. "Our vantage point on the sideline looked like the guy clearly picked our guy ...You're always going to have calls you disagree with. But the officials, this crew in particular is an outstanding crew, and I'm sure they got it right."
The Bills have plenty of playmakers but their game plan left a lot to be desired, no surprise with Ryan as the head coach.
Dual-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 19-of-36 passes for 268 yards with a TD and a pick on his last throw of the game. It was Taylor's first interception in 223 passing attempts and came courtesy of Reynolds, who took over the nickel position last week in New England, entering the game when Davis uses an extra defensive back with Malcolm Jenkins moving to the slot.
Early in the game Reynolds took a bad angle on a fade route when he was supposed to help Byron Maxwell over the top, resulting in a 47-yard TD pass to Sammy Watkins. The Bills ran that same play on at least five different occasions and Reynolds was "Johnny on the Spot" late, corralling Taylor's heave down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter.
Interspersed with Agholor's big TD catch were two more egregious third-down drops so the rookie still has a long way to go.
However, the lack of production as a whole from the Eagles' receivers means they all see plenty of man coverage week in and week out and each has to be able to take advantage of that on occasion.
Agholor did exactly that Sunday and brought the big play back to the Eagles passing game with his long TD.
"It felt great," Agholor said of his first TD reception. "Obviously because it was a play that helped us out. It was not just a touchdown ...it was a touchdown that out us in position to make other plays."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen