PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — There were many encouraging things the Eagles could take from what NFL usually deems “The final dress rehearsal” on Thursday night in the Eagles’ 31-21 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mark Sanchez continues to look good, the defense looked surprisingly good against Pittsburgh’s starters and Jeremy Maclin, starting for the first time coupled with Riley Cooper, appeared to coming back to his old form.
Maclin caught a team-high six passes for 43 yards, and survived a scary moment with 10:00 left in the second quarter. Maclin was running down field and untouched, when he took an awkward step, hyper-extending his right knee and hitting the ground holding it in pain. It’s the same right knee Maclin tore his ACL last summer. He walked off the field on his own—and returned.
“When [Maclin] was down, I was hoping he was okay, and he was,” Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly said.
The first half, with the ones, was incredibly encouraging. The Eagles went into halftime with a 17-0 lead, and racked up 251 yards of total offense (72 rushing, 179 passing). More importantly, the Eagles got off the field defensively, holding Pittsburgh to 3 of 7 on third-down conversions (while the Eagles were an efficient 5-for-8 converting third downs).
Foles was 19 of 29 in the first half, throwing one touchdown and an interception.
Against the Steelers’ starting defense, Sanchez directed a 10-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard Matthew Tucker run. Sanchez went 7 for 9 for 85 yards and a 106.0 quarterback rating.
Kelly has seen his offense improve from the time the Eagles played Chicago to the Pittsburgh game.
“Obviously in the Chicago game we didn’t a very good offensively, and I thought defensively, we did a better job,” Kelly said. “I just think [the offense] is not shooting ourselves in the foot, and they’re executing the way they’re capable of executing. I thought we ran the ball fairly well. We got a good mix. We spread the ball around to different receivers. Obviously, our tight ends were instrumental for us. We got the ball out wide and having Coop back obviously helped. I see improvement.”
Running backs Tucker and Henry Josey made strong bids in making the team, while kicked Alex Henery better watch himself. The fourth-year kicker made a 36-yarder in the second quarter, but missed a 31-yarder wide right in the third quarter. Cody Parkey, who the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, may get a closer look, considering how inconsistent Henery has been.
Nolan Carroll, who’s looked strong the entire training camp, played for the first time this summer in a game. Carroll, slowed by a groin strain, made a second-quarter interception and may challenge Bradley Fletcher for one of the starting corner positions.
LeSean McCoy left the field with a right thumb injury, but x-rays were negative as to any breaks.
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