Instant Observations: Eagles vs. Jets

Eagles show signs of life against the Jets.

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ much-needed 24-17 Week 3 win over the Jets:

*A key fourth-quarter interception by rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks helped seal the win. The Jets had whittled the Eagles’ lead down to 10 and had a chance for more midway through the fourth after Ryan Mathews coughed up the ball on a first-down run. With New York set up at the Eagles’ 30-yard line, Brandon Bair got a paw on a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass and Hicks came up with the pick to thwart the drive. Hicks racked up 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in his first NFL start. Not bad.

Walter Thurmond added an interception minutes later. The Jets got within seven on a long Nick Folk field goal, but the Eagles were able to hold on.

*The defense was pitching a shutout until Fitzpatrick found Brandon Marshall in the end zone with six ticks remaining in the opening half. Billy Davis‘ unit came up with a turnover earlier in the quarter when Marshall tried to lateral the ball to tight end Jeff Cumberland while being tackled. Instead, the ball bounced off Connor Barwin‘s helmet and was recovered by Hicks, who has 17 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in two games.

*Fellow rookie Eric Rowe also impressed in his NFL debut. Playing on the outside in dime situations when Chris Maragos exited with an injury, Rowe came up with a pass defensed and a key third-quarter interception while defending the speedy Devin Smith deep.

*Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll performed admirably against Marshall. They got help from Barwin at times, as the outside linebacker came out to give the receiver a shove at the line of scrimmage on occasion. Otherwise it was the corners lining up tight on Marshall, playing physical press coverage that we hadn’t seen much of in the first two games.

*With Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso sidelined, the Eagles leaned on their sub-packages quite a bit. E.J. Biggers slid into nickel when Maragos exited, replacing Malcolm Jenkins in that role. 

*Darren Sproles with an incredible 89-yard punt return early in the second quarter. Originally pinned near the left sideline, he weaved his way through traffic, forcing at least five Jets defenders to miss. It was the second-longest punt return in Eagles history behind Damaris Johnson‘s 98-yarder in 2012.

He added a one-yard TD plunge late in the half to extend the Eagles’ lead to 24.

*Sam Bradford finished 14-of-28 for 118 yards (73.2 rating). He connected with Ryan Mathews on a wheel route down the right sideline with 4:57 left in the half for a 23-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 17-0.

His performance otherwise left something to be desired. He was unable to connect with a well-covered Miles Austin in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal on the opening drive, forcing a field goal attempt. He failed to lead Austin on a pair of third-down passes in the second quarter, resulting in incompletions. Overall, just not on-point.

*Drops again were an issue. Though he made up for it on the TD, Mathews had a pair — including one along the right sideline that would have been a big-gainer if caught. Same for Sproles had he come up with the catch late in the third quarter after shaking loose on a wheel route. Nelson Agholor was unable to corral one in the first quarter as well.

*The running game showed signs of improvement. Mathews, who shared the load with Sproles in place of the injured DeMarco Murray, broke off a 27-yard gain off the left end on the Eagles’ first drive. The ground game racked up 123 yards on 39 carries (3.2 avg.). Mathews led the way with 25 carries for 108 yards.

*After connecting on a field goal to open the scoring, Cody Parkey booted a kickoff out of bounds, putting the Jets offense at the 40. It led to poor field position that the Eagles struggled to fight out of until Sproles busted one.

*Andrew Gardner exited with a foot injury late in the half and did not return. He was replaced by Matt Tobin at right guard. Jason Peters left the game late. Tobin slid out to tackle and Dennis Kelly came in at right guard for the final moments. Maragos (knee contusion) also did not return.