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October 11, 2015

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Saints game

Eagles NFL
101115FletcherCox Michael Perez/AP

Eagles DT Fletcher Cox feasting on Saints QB Drew Brees.

After an awful 1-3 first quarter of the season, the Eagles started the second quarter in style, pounding the Saints to the tune of a 39-17 blowout. As always, win or lose, our 10 awards.

The Beast Award: Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox had six tackles. three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Beast. Cox was an egregious Pro Bowl snub a year ago. I think he's headed to Honolulu (or wherever they have that terrible game) this year. He and Bennie Logan have flat out dominated along the line of scrimmage this season.

The 'There He Is!' Award: Josh Huff

Huff had four catches for 78 yards, including his first career touchdown reception. On those receptions, he fought for every inch and showed the kind of YAC skills the Eagles' staff loves about his game.

Huff's kick return was just his second opportunity to return a kick this season, as Riley Cooper almost always makes him slam on the brakes and kneel it in the end zone. "He didn't have a choice (on that one)," said Huff. "It was two yards before the end zone."

The Red Zone Disaster Award: Sam Bradford

Bradford threw two awful interceptions in the end zone, a few weeks after he threw a devastating pick in the end zone against the Cowboys. The one INT to Riley Cooper was downright ugly. Bradford had a clean pocket and a wide open Cooper, but he simply left the ball way short of where it should have been, and it was picked. That's a routine throw for a high school QB.

Bradford recovered and put up good numbers thereafter, just like every other quarterback that has faced the Saints this season:

 PlayerComp Att Yards TD-INT QB Rating 
 Carson Palmer19 32 307 3-0 122.8 
 Jameis Winston14 21 207 1-0 114.6 
 Cam Newton20 31 315 2-0 119.7 
 Brandon Weeden16 26 246 1-0 105.6 
 TOTAL69 110 1075 7-0 116.3 

The Spread the Wealth Award: The Eagles' skill position players

Nine Eagles receivers had receptions Sunday. That is what happens when the Eagles' offense is effective. They are able to spread the ball around and keep the defense guessing. Credit Bradford for getting everyone involved.

The 'What?!?!? Stat' Award: DeMeco Ryans

The fumble that DeMeco Ryans forced in the fourth quarter was the first of his career with the Eagles.

DeMeco Ryans

The Rookie Beast Award: Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks had another fumble recovery, his third of the season, but what was more impressive was his athletic pass breakup of a Drew Brees pass in the second half.

Hicks has been by far and away the Eagles' most pleasant surprise so far this season, and he looks like a legitimate three-down starter in the NFL. He and Mychal Kendricks are going to be an outstanding duo on the inside for the Birds, as long as, you know, Kendricks can stay on the field.

Hicks' numbers in roughly 3.5 games this season: 27 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, an INT, three fumble recoveries, two pass breakups, and he knocked out Tony Romo for half the season.

The 'Back From the Dead' Award: The Eagles' run game

34 rushes, 186 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 2 TDs. And that's where it all starts. If the Eagles can run the ball, their offense will be fine. If they can't, they're going to look a lot like what they have the first four weeks of the season. That may sound like simple analysis, and it is. But that's the reality.

Lane Johnson said the defense wore down in the second half. "We knew they were getting tired," said Johnson. "We ran 50 plays in the first half, and that's a lot of plays. Eventually, over time they wore down and we started to run the ball effectively. Inside zone. Outside zone. I think they even knew what was coming but couldn't stop it."

The 'New #1 Back' Award: Ryan Mathews

Personally, I've been reluctant to say Ryan Mathews is better in this offense than DeMarco Murray. Anytime Murray got chances to run the football the first four weeks of the season, he had defenders draped all over him almost immediately. So in that sense, I kind of thought that we hadn't yet seen what he can do. After Sunday, I'm sold that Mathews isn't just "better in this offense." He's just better. 

The one run that Murray had that was really bothersome was when he simply stepped out of bounds short of the first down when he had more room to run. Murray is a big back and is supposed to be a hammer. I don't get that. The officiating crew (which was terrible, by the way) ended up giving Murray an extremely generous spot and the Eagles were given a first down, but that was really a disappointing play by Murray.

Murray had 20 carries Sunday. Mathews had nine. There needs to be a better balance.

The Ballhawk Award: The Eagles' defense

The Eagles came into the game with nine takeaways, which was the fourth-most in the NFL. They added four to that total against the Saints. The defense is massively improved from last year to this year, and is clearly the strength of the team.

The Champagne Award: Marcus Smith

Marcus Smith got the first tackle of his career in garbage time today. Pop open the champagne, Marcus.

Actually, Smith also got good pressure on Drew Brees, which led to a Walter Thurmond interception.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski