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Eagles vs. Jets, Winners and Losers: Philadelphia defense steps up to earn much-needed win

At 0-2, the Eagles needed a big win. And on Sunday, several key players stepped up.

Steven Ryan-USA TODAY Sports

Facing the prospect of an 0-3 start that would essentially mean the end of their season, the Philadelphia Eagles responded in a big way Sunday. The defense played another stellar game, the offense had some nice moments and Darren Sproles made another big play en route to a big 24-17 win over the New York Jets.

Let's take a look at who showed up, and who could have done more:


Darren Sproles: The diminutive Sproles proved once again why he is the perfect player for a Chip Kelly offense. It was a vintage performance: his numbers weren't stellar (he ran for 11 times for 17 yards, caught four passes for 19 yards), but he made the play of the game anyway. With the Eagles offense sputtering early, Sproles scored a huge 89-yard punt return touchdown.

When the Eagles have needed a spark over the last two years, more often than not it's been Sproles who provides. That continued again Sunday.

Malcolm Jenkins: Speaking of former Saints, Jenkins has been money since joining the Eagles last year. For the third week in a row, Jenkins put on an impressive performance. he finished the game with eight tackles and a pass defensed, and continued to show up on big third down stops.

Jordan Hicks: The rookie linebacker out of Texas made his first career start against the Jets, and looked more like a confident veteran than a third-round pick. He led the team with 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and an enormous fourth quarter interception that killed a New York drive. Hicks likely showed enough on Sunday to give the coaching staff confidence in starting him, should Kiko Alonso or Mychal Kendricks miss extended time.

Ryan Mathews: With starting running back DeMarco Murray out with a hamstring injury, Mathews made his first start as an Eagle. And boy did he make the most of it. Mathews displayed a strong running style, breaking tackles on inside runs and showing success bouncing it to the outside as well.

He finished the day with 25 attempts for 108 yards --an Eagle's first 100-yard rushing game since Thanksgiving Day last year-- and a lost fumble. He also contributed 20 yards through the air and a receiving score.

Do the Eagles have a running back controversy? It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff divides up the carries next week if Murray returns from his injury.

Byron Maxwell: Jets receiver Brandon Marshall's numbers were not bad Sunday: 10 catches, 109 yards and a touchdown. But those stats don't tell the whole story. Maxwell played his best game as an Eagle, helping to contain the Jets passing attack that was admittedly without wide receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Geno Smith.


Sam Bradford: This can't be quite what Chip Kelly had in mind when he traded for Bradford. The former Ram had his moments, including a beautifully thrown pass to Ryan Mathews for a touchdown, but otherwise looked ineffective. He finished the day a pedestrian 14-of-28 for 118 yards and a touchdown, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

Bradford was often locked into his primary receiver, and frequently checked the ball down to Darren Sproles. What's worse, Jordan Matthews was the only wide receiver to catch a pass in the game. The Eagles were able to hang on despite his performance. But we still haven't seen anything close to the Bradford that torched the Packers in the preseason. And it's probably about time to stop expecting that Bradford to come back.

The Eagles' second-half offense: After scoring 17 points in the first half, the Philly offense became stagnant. The Eagles didn't score a single point after halftime, and were barely able to put together any meaningful drives. The Eagles' longest drive of the second half was 21 yards, and the most time consumed during any drive in the second half was 2:34 - and that was to end the game.

E.J. Biggers: He didn't play much, but he did get toasted for a Jeremy Kerly touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Biggers rarely sees the field, and that ugly play is likely why.

The Dallas Cowboys: The Eagles played a solid game and the Cowboys lost. There's never a bad time to call the Cowboys losers.

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