By Joseph Santoliquito

HOUSTON, TX (CBS) — The Eagles were fortunate on Sunday. Against another team, against possibly any other quarterback than Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Eagles would have fallen in a rather ugly, forgettable showing against the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

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Somehow the Eagles are 6-2 and sitting atop the NFC East after a 31-21 victory over the inept Houston Texans, despite the Birds equaling a season-high four turnovers—three that resulted in all of Houston’s points.

The Eagles one saving clemency was a ground game that pounded Houston for 190 yards, behind a patchwork offensive line without guard Todd Herremans, lost during the game with an elbow injury. LeSean McCoy plowed away, gaining a game-high 117 yards on 23 carries. Chris Polk supplied a big push, finish with 50 yards, including a game-clinching, one-yard fourth-down conversion with less than four minutes to play.

The Eagles slowed the Houston pass rush in the second half with 124 yards—70 coming on four successive running plays that gave the Eagles a 24-14 lead. McCoy ripped through the Texans for a 14-yard gain, followed by a 26-yard carry. Polk was next, running angry for 22 yards and then going straight up the middle for an 8-yard score with 2:40 left in the third quarter.

“I think we wore them down a little bit with our tempo,” Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly said. “We had four runs for 70 and a touch, and you can see the cumulative effects of it. I thought all three running backs ran really hard today. There wasn’t a lot of dancing going on there. I thought they hit the hole and I thought Brent Celek did a really, really good job of blocking.”

Jeremy Maclin was excellent again. He caught six passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, one a 59-yard TD reception and another for an 8-yard score.

“It’s the reason we resigned Jeremy, he’s an explosive player and we had some really good shots at him,” Kelly said. “That’s what we’re coming to expect from Jeremy.”

The Eagles wrapped the game up on a 15-play, 80-yard drive, which chewed up 8:01 of the clock, the longest time-consuming drive in Kelly’s two-year tenure.

Mark Sanchez came on to replace the injured Nick Foles in the second quarter, completing 15 of 22 for 202 yards, a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions, one was his fault.

Turnovers continue to plague the Eagles. They’re minus-10 in giveaway-takeaway ratio (4 INTs, 7 fumble recoveries takeaways; 12 INTs, 9 fumbles lost).

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The Eagles and Texans were engaged in a shootout. Three of the five touchdowns were for over 50 yards.

Foles left after the first quarter. He came down hard on his left shoulder when he was sacked by Houston’s Whitney Mercilus with :07 left in the opening quarter.

Sanchez came on and promptly hit Maclin with a 52-yard completion with his first pass, and strung together three-straight completions in directing the Eagles on a six-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a great throw from Sanchez to rookie receiver Jordan Matthews for an 11-yard touchdown.

Sanchez’s first incompletion was a pass that should have been was caught by Josh Huff, but bounced off his hands and right to Houston cornerback Jumal Rolle.

“I think Mark did a really good job,” Kelly said. “The one interception I think hit Huff in the hands was tipped, besides that, he had a really good command of what we were doing. Since Day One here, you know what type of professional he is. He’s in early. He takes copious notes. I’ve said since Day One you better have two quarterbacks in this league. We were fortunate that when Nick did go down that we could bring Mark in. I don’t think we missed a beat offensively.”

The Rolle interception, the Eagles’ second turnover in the first half, wound up turning into a 56-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick to Arian Foster, who beat Eagles’ linebacker Connor Barwin.

Sanchez finished the half 7 of 9 for 111 yards. Foles was 10 of 13 for 124 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, which Texans’ cornerback A.J. Bouye returned for a 51-yard touchdown. What was hard to take was it seemed no Eagle was around Bouye, as he zigged and zagged up the field, in a questionable effort tackling him.

By halftime, Maclin had three catches for 122 yards, including a 59-yard TD reception from Foles and the 52-yard strike from Sanchez.

BOX SCORE

GALLERY

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