By Kevin McGuire
It was only fitting that in a place that has been home to so many memorable Eagles punt returns that Sunday’s game serve up a special teams spark from the Eagles. Darren Sproles’ punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter ignited a big second quarter push from the Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) and helped the team pick up its first win of the season. The Eagles 24-17 victory over the New York Jets (2-1) made sure the Eagles remained perfect (10-0) against the Jets all-time, although they had to hang on for the win a bit more than the first half would have suggested. Either way, a win is a win and the Eagles now have some positives to build on heading into next weekend’s game.READ MORE: Philadelphia Commerce Director Michael Rashid Resigns After He Reportedly Made Anti-Semitic Remarks, Verbally Abused His Staff
The Eagles made the decision to hold out running back DeMarco Murray from the game before kicking off after Murray went down in practice this past week with a hamstring injury. That meant Ryan Matthews would have to be the top running back against the Jets, and he made the most of the opportunity. Matthews rushed for 108 yards and Darren Sproles got in the mix too with a touchdown run. Matthews had a solid afternoon, although he did lose a fumble. The offensive line played better to help set up some running lanes, which was a nice step forward for the line that has struggled in run blocking in the first two games.
Quarterback Sam Bradford did not have a great afternoon, completing just half of his 28 pass attempts for 118 yards and a touchdown. Bradford was not intercepted, but there were a number of passes that were off the mark that could have resulted in some nice gains. Bradford completed passes to just four different receivers, with Jordan Matthews catching six passes for a team-high 49 yards. Zach Ertz caught two passes for 30 yards while Miles Austin and Nelson Agholor each failed to catch a pass despite being targetted four times each.
The Eagles seemed to skim back the offensive play calling, and getting back to basics seemed to be a welcome adjustment for the offense as a whole. There was still plenty of room for improvement though. The Eagles converted just four of their 15 third down attempts and the offense managed just 231 yards of offense. The Eagles were also shut out in the second half and struggled to sustain drives after halftime, allowing the Jets to creep back into the game.
With the offense still trying to find its form, the Eagles defense and special teams came up with plays when needed to keep the Jets grounded. On defense, the Eagles forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Walter Thurmond III, Jordan Hicks and Eric Rowe each picked off a pass. Up front the Eagles were solid in shutting down the Jets running game. Bilal Powell rushed 10 times for New York and managed just 31 yards, and Zac Stacy was limited to three yards on two carries.
There were some moments that were not as pretty though. Byron Maxwell was caught at least once looking to make a strip rather than a tackle, and it was a somewhat half-hearted effort on instant replay. Jets receiver Brandon Marshall was tough to stop, picking up 109 receiving yards on 10 catches and a touchdown, although the Eagles defense used some heads-up play to capitalize on Marshall’s boneheaded decision to lateral as he was being tackled.READ MORE: Temple University Parents To Rally Over Safety After Samuel Collington's Death
Jordan Hicks led the Eagles with 10 total tackles, including nine solo tackles.
Special Teams: A+
Any time the special teams can add to the scoreboard, your team should be in good shape. That was the case for the Eagles on Sunday, as Darren Sproles returned a punt 89 yards to the house in the second quarter. Sproles was limited to fair catch two other punts, but he showed once again he has the dangerous ability to break a big play any time he steps back to field a punt.
Cody Parkey had another solid performance, kicking the football with a 30-yard field goal attempt and three clean extra point attempts clearing the uprights. That was six points from the kicker, his second solid outing after missing a key field goal in the opener and a shaky preseason.
Punter Donnie Jones had a busy afternoon, punting the football nine times for a total of 440 yards. Two of his punts landed inside the Jets 20-yard line, and he averaged a solid 48.9 yards per punt.
Chip Kelly said after the game he had his team get back to basics on offense, and it worked. Without DeMarco Murray and given the serious concern about the offense after the first two games of the season, Kelly needed to make some adjustments to his approach to the game and he did. It worked for one half, but Kelly got caught not making enough or any adjustments in the second half other than slowing things down and working some clock in the fourth quarter. If Kelly is going to lead the Eagles to great things down the road, the ability to make adjustments after the opposing coach makes his at halftime will be important.
Next up for Kelly and the Eagles is a road game against NFC East rivals from Washington. Washington will have a couple of extra days to prepare for the Eagles after playing on Thursday night. They are coming off a road loss against the New York Giants and will be 1-2 when the Eagles drive south next Sunday.MORE NEWS: A Century In The Making: Philadelphia Resident Rose DiLemmo Celebrates 100th Birthday
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.