By Kevin McGuire
A week after letting a win slip through their hands in Arizona, the Philadelphia Eagles were back on the road on Sunday to take on the Houston Texans. This week the Eagles never let a lead escape them for long and the Birds never once trailed in the game against the Texans. Considering the team lost starting quarterback Nick Foles and defensive leader DeMeco Ryans to injuries, the fact the Eagles never trailed and returned home with a win (and the top spot in the NFC East), this was a pretty resilient victory to celebrate.
Nick Foles had to leave the game early due to a shoulder injury. Before he left the game for medical treatment, Foles completed 10 of 13 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, and he was intercepted once. Without Foles, the Eagles offense continued to play well with Mark Sanchez coming off the sideline to take control. Sanchez played admirably by completing 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, although one may not have been his fault. Despite being a back-up to Foles, Sanchez proved worthy of running Chip Kelly’s offense and proved to be a valuable addition to the team in this game. Grade: B+
Turnovers prevented the Eagles from slamming the door shut on the Houston Texans, but despite having four turnovers on offense the Eagles still managed to thrive. The Eagles moved the first down markers 30 times, and di so with some even distribution (15 passing first downs, 12 rushing and three more due to defensive penalties). Foles and Sanchez each played well, but the running game combination of LeSean McCoy and Chris Polk took advantage of the passing game opening up the playing field. McCoy rushed for 117 yards and Polk added another 50 and a rushing touchdown. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the star of the afternoon for the Eagles with 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles also were happy to see Darren Sproles back on the field to help open things up. The Eagles were perfect in the red zone, scoring 21 points in three red zone trips. Results like this helped overshadow the four turnovers in the game. Grade: B+
The Eagles defense was tested at times by a Houston offense with some good talent across the field, but Houston was held to just 300 yards of offense in the game, and just 15 first downs. The Eagles defensive line combined for four sacks and brought some good pressure on Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for much of the afternoon. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans recorded the long-awaited interception by the Eagles defense, but he ended the play by losing a fumble on the return. He was also injured and left the game for the rest of the day. Mychal Kendricks led the team with 12 tackles, including one sack. The defense also held Houston to a short field goal attempt inside the red zone during the third quarter that ended up being no good. The Eagles secondary played a better game from start to finish, but still was suspect to some big plays at times. Most notable was the 56-yard touchdown down the right sideline to Arian Foster in the second quarter. Grade: B
Once again, Philadelphia Eagles kicker Cody Parkey proved why he should be in consideration for a Pro Bowl spot, if it is not too early to make that suggestion. Parkey only had to be called upon once for a field goal attempt, but he nailed it from 45 yards out at the end of the first half. He continues to be an incredible player to depend on coming through. Punter Donnie Jones also handled his job well with three punts seeing two be downed inside the 20-yard line. Sproles handled punt duties, with two returns for 27 yards. No big plays this time from Sproles, but the threat is always there if he is healthy. Grade: A
Back In First
With the Eagles winning in Houston and the Dallas Cowboys falling at home without Tony Romo to the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles returned to Philadelphia with first place in the NFC East all to themselves. The offense looked to play well despite having a new quarterback take over, which should be a bit of a confidence boost considering the skill of the defense the Texans tend to offer. The Eagles have now won three of their last four and prepare for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home next Monday night.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.