The Philadelphia Eagles went into their game against the New York Jets with one goal - stop the bleeding. The Eagles may have been 0-2, but their lackluster performance last Sunday against the Cowboys made that record feel much worse. A loss likely would have meant the end of any playoff aspirations, and injuries to some key players made a win feel even less likely.
But the Eagles were able to get the run game going, the defensive line continued its strong play and some young payers stepped up. And instead of heading to Philadelphia winless, the Eagles are now 1-2 with some momentum on their side for the first time all season.
Overall Grade: B+
The final score was closer than it probably should have been, but all things considered, the Eagles should be pleased with the outcome. They were going against an opportunistic Jets defense that forced 10 turnovers in two games, and only allowed 8.5 points per game.
So perhaps its no surprise, then, that the offense struggled. But what might have been more surprising is just how well the defense played. Both inside linebackers Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks missed the game, meaning rookie Jordan Hicks made his first start. And Cedric Thornton was also out with a broken hand, placing Brandon Bair in the starting lineup. In the end, both backups helped secure the Eagles' first win of the season, and the Eagles were able to frustrate quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into some costly errors.
Offensively, the big story was the success of the ground game. For the first time since Thanksgiving of 2014, the Eagles had a rusher go for 100 yards. Ryan Mathews had some nice lanes to run though, but was also good at creating his own opportunities. He broke several tackles, and generally looked comfortable running up the middle through traffic. The passing offense, meanwhile, is still a work in progress.
It wasn't a perfect win by any stretch, but there is still plenty on which to build.
Believe it or not, the Eagles' running game looked good Sunday. It would have been easy to predict the opposite, as the offense was missing running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Josh Huff, and also lost guard Andrew Gardner during the game. But the offense showed up, thanks in large part to Ryan Mathews. The former San Diego Charger picked up 104 yards on the ground, and also caught two passes for 23 yards and a score.
Unfortunately, the passing game still looks like a work in progress. Sam Bradford took a few more shots deep, but was still frustratingly inconsistent. He finished the day 14-of-28 for 118 yards and 8.4 yards per attempt. Bradford was often staring down his primary receiver, and still failed to look like the accurate quarterback we saw in preseason.
And that's to say nothing of the second half offense, or lack thereof. Bradford and company weren't able to sustain drives, and the Jets were able to crawl their way back into the game. With the offense functioning as a one-dimensional unit, the New York defense was able to slow down Mathews. That can't happen against teams with more potent offenses.
The Eagles offense revolves around the offense, so in that respect, it was good to see things get going. But if the Eagles want to string together some wins, the passing attack simply must be better.
Give credit where it's due - the Eagles defense won this game. They forced three interceptions, nine deflected passes and a fumble. And of those three interceptions, two came thanks to rookies: cornerback Eric Rowe had a gorgeous interception in the end zone, and Jordan Hicks came up with a timely turnover that came compliments of a Brandon Bair tipped ball.
But perhaps the best news defensively came in the secondary. While the Jets were able to come up with 283 yards through the air, the Eagles' defensive backs were active and physical, and were able to make plenty of big stops to get the ball back to the offense. It was an encouraging performance from a unit that has unquestionably performed better than the offense this season.
Special Teams: B+
Darren Sproles broke five tackles and took a punt 89 yards to the house. Period, end of sentence. The only reason this grade isn't higher is because of Cody Parkey's inconsistent kickoffs.
Parkey did hit a 30-yarder in the first quarter, but his kickoffs were shaky and he cost the team field position when he gave the ball to the Jets on the 40 yard line after kicking a ball out of bounds. But otherwise, it's hard to complain about the play of Dave Fipp's crew.