The Eagles finally broke out of their early-season funk on Sunday with a 21-point outburst in the second quarter.
The game got off to another slow start, with the Eagles and Jets exchanging punts for much of the first quarter, with a Cody Parkey field goal being the only points in the opening 15 minutes.
This game was decided by two major plays in the second quarter. The first was the 89-yard punt return by Darren Sproles to make it a 10-0 game. The Eagles’ offense wasn’t particularly sharp today out of the gates, but the Sproles score really made it possible for Sam Bradford, Ryan Mathews, and the rest of the offense to loosen up and put together some stronger drives to help take control of the game before the end of the half.
The second was a mental mistake by Brandon Marshall of the Jets. Marshall caught a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick with several minutes to go in the first half, and for some inexplicable reason, attempted to lateral to one of his teammates, resulting in a fumble recovery for the Eagles that led to the team’s third score of the quarter.
The Eagles quickly built up a 24-7 lead that powered them into the half.
Defense Anchors Team
After the three touchdowns in the second quarter, the Eagles offense went quiet again in the second half, failing to register another score.
Luckily, the Eagles’ defense came to play today.
The defense played a strong game against the Jets’ offense, getting off of the field early in the game and creating turnovers.
Despite missing the services of Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, and Cedric Thornton, the Eagles had a number of guys step up today, including Brandon Bair, Jordan Hicks, and Eric Rowe.
Bair did a great job filling in for Thornton on the defensive line. He got his hands up throughout the day, and batted down several passes from Fitzpatrick including a pass in the fourth quarter that turned into an interception by Hicks.
Hicks and Rowe, the team’s second and third-round picks this year, played critical roles with each player coming down with an interception.
The defense forced the Jets to punt eight times today, six of which came in the first half while the Birds’ offense was struggling.
Appreciating Darren Sproles
You can’t say enough about what Darren Sproles brings to the table.
He’s a gamer and a winner, in every sense of the words. As mentioned earlier, Sproles sparked the team’s outburst with his punt return touchdown early in the second quarter, and added another touchdown on the goalline before the half.
For a guy so small, Sproles always seems to play big. He was the engine that got the team going today, and he needs to remain a focal part of the offense moving forward.
Sam Bradford played his best regular season game to date as an Eagle, but I still didn’t come away particularly impressed.
Bradford started the game out slow, once again. He overthrew Miles Austin on a fade route on a third down during the team’s opening drive that would have been a touchdown. Instead, the team had to settle for three and left points on the field. Bradford also made a poor throw earlier in the drive to Ryan Mathews, throwing a bit behind the running back, causing him to lose his momentum and any chance he had of turning things into a positive play.
Bradford is still leaning heavily on short and intermediate throws, and for the third straight game, the Eagles were unable to get anything going in their deep passing game. For the day, the Eagles managed just 118 yards through the air.
One thing I have to give Bradford a lot of credit for is how well he throws the wheel route. The former Ram does a good job putting precise throws on those routes, and he put a couple of balls right on the money today. Unfortunately, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles each dropped a pass.
Sports Science Doing Wonders For Eagles’ Health
Remember the talk that went on before the season began about how the Eagles were supposedly the healthiest team in the league?
Well, sports science has sure done wonders so far for the crew of often-injured players that Chip Kelly brought onto this roster.
DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Josh Huff, and Cedric Thornton all missed today’s game with various injuries. Part of Chip Kelly’s system is his belief that his nutrition and conditioning programs will help greatly reduce the risk of injury to players and keep them on the field.
Murray, Alonso, Kendricks, and Huff all have significant injury history, and sports science was unable to get them back on the field in a situation where the struggling Eagles desperately needed all hands on deck in hopes of avoiding a dreaded 0-3 start.
The sports science thing is just another element of Chip Kelly’s approach that I feel has been pretty overrated to this point.
Even last season, a year in which the Eagles were supposedly ahead of the curve when it came to keeping players healthy, the offensive line was constantly in flux throughout the season because of injury. Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Evan Mathis, and Allan Barbre all missed significant chunks of time, and the Eagles’ offense suffered a bit because of it.
I don’t think the sports science thing is completely without benefit, but I don’t think it can make injury-prone players less likely to avoid showing up on a team’s medical reports.
- Good lord, Ryan Mathews is a terrible receiver. I know he bounced back and caught the touchdown on the wheel route in the second quarter, but he had another horrid drop in the second quarter that would have easily gone for a touchdown. Its the second time in three weeks Mathews has produced an inexcusable play like that.
- I also didn’t like how Mathews carried the ball throughout the game. The former Charger didn’t do a good job protecting the football, and gave the Jets an opportunity to get back in the game with a late fumble.
- Andrew Gardner left the game with a foot injury, and was replaced by Matt Tobin.
- Nelson Agholor was a complete non-factor for the third straight game.
- Miles Austin keeps dropping passes.
- The Eagles had just two completions above 20 yards.
- I can’t believe how little the tight ends are utilized in this offense. I understand Brent Celek is more of a blocker at this stage of his career, but there’s no reason why Zach Ertz and Trey Burton can’t be factors on this offense, especially with how the wide receivers have struggled.
- With all of the inactive injured players today, Marcus Smith was active for the first time since Week 13 of last year. He did nothing.
- Another tremendous game for Malcolm Jenkins, who forced two fumbles.
- Hicks led the Eagles with 10 tackles.
- Nice to the Eagles finally get Eric Rowe on to the field. Rowe broke up a pass on a third down, and came down with a huge interception in the second half that may have been the difference in the game.
- Connor Barwin registered his first sack of the season.
- Vinny Curry made a nice play in run defense, stopping Bilal Powell for a loss.
- DeMeco Ryans was in on just three tackles.
- Walter Thurmond continues to make plays, coming down with another interception.
- Byron Maxwell has struggled, but Nolan Carroll has quietly played pretty well. Carroll did miss a chance for an easy interception in the second half.
- Cody Parkey made his only field goal attempt, but made a mistake kicking the ball out of bounds in the first half.
The Eagles managed to come away with a win today, but make no mistake this is still a team with some pretty serious issues on the offensive side of the ball.
The Eagles’ offense was only able to generate 17 points, and was completely shut down after the second quarter.
It’s easier to get away with a performance like this when you’re going up against a turnover-prone journeyman quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but a better team might have been able to come back and send the Eagles to 0-3.
I look at this game, and the fact that the Eagles couldn’t do anything to put the Jets away in the second half disturbs me. Sam Bradford and the passing attack barely managed to put up over 100 yards, and the downfield passing attack remains conspicuously absent.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they’re at a point in their schedule where they’ve got a lot of favorable matchups against bad teams. With the Redskins and Saints on the horizon in the coming weeks, the Birds have a couple of struggling opponents that they could use to help figure some things out and get themselves right.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter @DennyBasens