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Bird Watching: Eagles At Jets – You Ain’t A Beauty. But, Hey You’re Alright.

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Bird Watching Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets – 2015 Week 3

Eagles 24 – Jets 17

A preseason of efficient, if not dominating football had Eagles fans wondering if there was anything Chip Kelly’s team couldn’t do. Two weeks of sloppy, confused, muddling and, frankly, horrendous regular season football had those same fans wondering if Kelly’ Birds could do anything?

At the other end of the New Jersey Turnpike, former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had brought his New York Jets out of a tumultuous preseason to a 2-0 start featuring impressive wins behind journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and a staunch defense.

Both teams were notably wounded. The Eagles had lost LB Kiko Alonso (knee) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), as well as DT Cedric Thornton (hand) during last week’s loss to Dallas and RB Demarco Murray (hamstring) during training this week. The Jets were without WR Eric Decker (knee) and RB Chris Ivory (quadriceps), who dressed and tried to go, but did not see the field.

History was on the Eagles side. Entering the game, Philadelphia had not started 0-3 since 1999 and had never lost to the Jets in their history (9-0-0).

1st Quarter
After a Zack Stacy kick return set them up at their own 18, the Jets opening drive was sabotaged by rookie receiver Quincy Enunwa’s False Start on 2nd and 7. After a short completions on 2nd and 3rd downs, the home team had to punt.

From their own 29, Darren Sproles started with 5 up the middle. On 2nd down, Sam Bradford made a terrible decision, trying to force a pass to Riley Cooper, resulting in what should have been an interception. It didn’t matter, because on the play, the Jets were flagged for Defensive Holding and the Eagles had an early first down. Ryan Mathews then broke through tackle attempts by DeMario Davis and Antonio Cromartie as he worked his way to the near sideline for a 27-yard gain into Jets’ territory. On 3rd-and-13, Bradford hit Jordan Matthews in a soft spot of the Jets’ D for a 20-yard catch. Sproles went for 5 and Mathews for 6, giving the Birds 1st-and-Goal at the 9. But, the New York defense stiffened and the Eagles settled for a 30-yard Cody Parkey field goal. Eagles 3, Jets 0

In spite of Parkey’s kickoff rolling out of bounds and giving the home team excellent field position, the Philadelphia front 7 seemed intent on taking the Jets’ rushing attack out of play and forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to check down to short passes. Again, it worked as Byron Maxwell stopped Brandon Marshall on 3rd and 4 after a 2-yard catch. PUNT TEAM!!

Ryan Quigley’s punt checked up perfectly and was downed at the 2. On 1st down, Bradford didn’t like what he saw and threw the ball away to the far sideline. After a short gain on 2nd down, the high speed, up-tempo offense was unable to get the ball snapped in :25 and was flagged for Delay of Game. Sproles took a check down on 3rd down and scooted for a 9-yard first down. The undersize veteran out of Kansas State then ran left and was buried for a 4-yard loss on 1st down. A 3rd down throw went through the arms of the rookie Nelson Agholor. Which wouldn’t have mattered since a Holding call on Allen Barbre would have brought it back. The Jets declined and the Eagles had to punt.

After earning their first 1st down of the day on a 3rd down pass to TE Jeff Cumberland, the Jets found themselves in a 3rd-and-17, compliments of Malcolm Jenkins who threw Marshall for an 8-yard loss after a 2nd down catch. When it came time to punt, Quigley again pinned the Eagles inside of their own 10.

The Eagles moved the chains with a 5-yard run by Ryan Mathews and an 8-yard catch by Jordan Matthews before the first quarter came to a close.

Eagles 3, Jets 0

2nd Quarter
After a 9-yard catch by Zach Ertz, Sproles lost two on 2nd down and Bradford missed Austin on 3rd. Donnie Jones 53-yard punt was returned to the Jets’ 33 by Jeremy Kerley.

On 2nd-and-8, Fitzpatrick took his first shot down field. Nolan Carroll defended the play perfectly and the Jets would eventually go three-and-out and punt again.

This time Quigley’s booming punt was fielded by Sproles at the 11 yard line along the left sideline. The speedy return man broke the tackles of five Jet defenders and ran away from the other six for an electric 89-yard touchdown return, the sixth of his career. Parkey nailed the PAT. Eagles 10, Jets 0

For the second time, the Eagle defense backed up a score with a stop as New York ran three plays and punted again. Sproles opted for the fair catch at his own 25.

On 2nd-and-9, Ryan Mathews found a vacuum in the Jets defense. With Mathews wide open in the right flat, Bradford’s pass was offline, forcing the back to spin against his momentum and drop the pass. An accurate pass there may have gone for a TD as Mathews had nothing but open real estate in front of him. Another 3rd down miss for Austin meant another Donnie Jones punt.

This time, the Jets appeared to have a first down on an eye-popping, one-handed catch by Kerley. But, the 5th-year receiver out of TCU was ruled out of bounds and replay confirmed it on a failed challenge by Bowles. As a nice change of pace, the Jets punted.

The Eagles next drive began with an 11-yard run by Mathews. Then, Bradford rolled to his right and found Ertz for 21 yards on 2nd-and-10. After a short run by Sproles and a 5-yard throw to Matthews, they went back to Sproles for a 12-yard run and a first down. On 2nd-and-10 from the Jets 23, Bradford hit Mathews in perfect stride on a wheel route along the right sideline for the score. Parkey added the point after. Eagles 17, Jets 0

Clearly tired of running three plays and punting, Marshall took it upon himself to change things up. After a solid pitch and catch from Fitzpatrick, the veteran receiver was hit and wrapped up. As he fell to the ground, he attempted to toss the ball backward to Cumberland. Instead, it hit the facemask of Connor Barwin, who was late arriving on the play. Rookie Jordan Hicks picked it up and the Birds were set up in Jets’ territory.

From the Jets’ 36, it took only six plays to move down to the goal line. On the seventh play, Sproles found paydirt, squirting through the left side on the line. Parkey’s conversion was good. Eagles 24, Jets 0

In the Two-Minute Drill, the New York offense finally started to make some plays. Fitzpatrick hit Enunwa for a 26-yard catch and run that moved them into Eagles’ territory. Then, with only :12 remaining, he found Marshall in the end zone to put the Jets on the board. Nick Folk’s PAT was good. Eagles 24, Jets 7

The Birds opted to kneel and take their 17-point lead up the tunnel.

Eagles 24, Jets 7

3rd Quarter
After a DPI on the Jets and a short pass to Matthews gave the Birds a 1st-and-10 near midfield, Bradford was sacked on 2nd down for a 10-yard loss and the opening drive stalled. Donnie Jones punt was fair-caught at the 12.

Looking to build on their momentum from the end of the first half, the Jets started with a 16-yard pass play to rookie Devin Smith and a 16-yarder to Marshall. Out of the shotgun on 1st down, Fitzpatrick was looking to his left for Cumberland when his throwing motion was abruptly halted by the outstretched paw of Brandon Bair. The ball fluttered impotently to the ground as the 3rd year DT out of Oregon introduced himself to the Jets. On 3rd-and-10, Fitzpatrick decided to test Eagles rookie DB Eric Rowe. The 2nd round pick (47th overall) had seemed lost in preseason and had not seen much action thus far. But, he received a battlefield promotion when Chris Maragos pulled up lame with a hip injury. Rowe positioned himself well and ran stride for stride with the speedy Smith, breaking up the play with the confidence of a 10-year veteran. Quigley’s ensuing punt offered little option for Sproles and he stepped out of bounds at the 10.

After an innocuous 5-yard pass to Matthews, who was the only Eagles wideout to catch a pass in the game, Bradford missed on two pass attempts and Jones punt was returned to midfield by Kerley.

Bilal Powell picked up five yards off right tackle before Barwin’s Neutral Zone Infraction put the Jets in a 2nd-and very short. After missing Marshall on 2nd down, Fitzpatrick moved the chains with a keeper on 3rd. Then on 3rd-and-5, they tested Rowe again. Once more, the rookie from Utah was positioned well alongside Smith. This time, he was able to intercept an underthrown pass and thwart New York’s drive as he tumbled into the endzone for a touchback.

At this point, Kelly seemed to decide that, leading 24-7 halfway through the 3rd Quarter, it was time to run the football and try to shorten the game. With how desperately he needed this win, who could blame him? Unfortunately, as even he alluded to in his post-game presser, this team needs to get better at running when everyone knows they are going to run. They could only muster two yards before Jones returned to the field.

From their own thirty, the Jets started with a screen to Stacy that was diagnosed and destroyed by Brandon Graham for a 4-yard loss. Badly off schedule, they were unable to do much with 2nd and 3rd down. Quigley punted, yet again.

Still committed to salting the game away, the Eagles managed only a handful of yards before another Jones punt.

Starting from their own 19 with less than three minutes remaining in the 3rd Quarter, the Jets started to play with some purpose. Passes to Smith and Marshall and runs by Powell and Fitzpatrick moved the ball to midfield as the 4th Quarter began.

Eagles 24, Jets 7

4th Quarter
New York continued to march, aided by a Holding call on Maxwell and a short pass to Cumberland. But, the key play was on a 2nd-and-15 after a D’Brickashaw Ferguson false start. Marshall settled into a soft spot in the zone coverage and Fitzpatrick hit him with a 20-yard strike at the 17-yard line. Five plays later, Kerley was open in the back of the endzone when Marshall drew the safety away with an underneath route. Fitzpatrick’s throw was on line and Kerley snatched it for the six. Folk’s PAT was true. Eagles 24, Jets 14

New York had cut the lead to 10. But, it cost them more than 8 minutes of the dwindling clock.

Still committed to the run, the Birds picked up 13 yards on first down with Mathews busting around the left end. They gave it back to Mathews for runs of 9 and 2 yards for another first down. Feeling the momentum building Kelly dialed up his free agent running back for the fourth straight play and again he found running room off the left side. This time Jets LB David Harris lined up Mathews and popped the ball loose with a thunderous hit. The Jets recovered at the Eagles’ 41, as the mood in MetLife Stadium began to change.

The Jets started with a short pass to Powell that went for 11 yards to the 30. But, on 2nd-and-10, Bair reintroduced himself to the Jets by once again getting a hand on a pass. This time, it floated toward Graham and rookie LB Jordan Hicks. The kid from Texas came down with it and the Birds dodged a bullet.

With a two-score lead and 6:28 remaining, it was clear that a solid, time-consuming scoring drive could salt the game away. Unfortunately, all the Eagles could manage were two short runs and an incomplete pass that ran the clock to 4:48.

Desperation was becoming a factor for the Jets as Fitzpatrick connected with Enunwa, Marshall and Powell to move to the Eagles 37. On 2nd-and-10, he looked to his favorite target, the usually dependable Marshall. As he leaped to make the catch on the left sideline, Marshall seemed to tense for contact. This created an ‘Alligator Arms’ situation as the ball skipped off his retreating fingertips. Walter Thurmond floated in behind him and deftly dragged his toes in bounds as he made the interception.

Again in position to erode the last 3:38 off of the clock, the Birds went three-and-out. Each stop was punctuated by a Jets time out. So, New York got the ball back at midfield with 3:02 to go.

A 13-yard catch and run by Powell took the Jets to the edge of Folk’s range, they managed only three more yards before calling on the veteran kicker out of Arizona to cut the lead to 7. His 53-yard try was perfect. Eagles 24, Jets 17

Knowing that he had only the Two-Minute Warning to stop the clock, Bowles opted for an onside kick attempt rather than giving the ball back to the Eagles. Folk’s kick never took the high hop that kickers look for and the ball skipped into the waiting hands of Seyi Ajirotutu.

Once more, the Eagles needed only to run the ball with some measure of success. Instead, they were caught with 12 men on the field for a 5-yard Illegal Substitution penalty and a False Start by Ertz that cost another five yards and prohibited the clock from running. Before you knew it, it was 3rd-and-16 and the Jets had a legitimate shot at getting the ball back with enough time on the clock to make things interesting. Kelly played the clock and ran with Mathews for no gain. On the play, OLB Quinton Coples over-zealously drove his left hand into the face of Eagles lineman Matt Tobin. The resulting Illegal Use of Hands penalty resulted in the automatic first down that put the Eagles into ‘Victory Formation’. Bradford knelt the remaining 1:10 off the clock as Philadelphia finally put a mark on the left side of their ledger.

Eagles 24, Jets 17

Thoughts
While it was far from perfect and far from pretty, this was a huge win and provided a few undeniable bright spots. The defense was tremendous, holding the Jets to 47 yards rushing, orchestrating six 3-and outs and creating four turnovers. Mathews averaged 4 yards a carry in going over 100 yards for the first time as an Eagle. But, Bradford’s decision making and accuracy, the two great selling points we were presented with when he was brought here, both need to improve … drastically. Jason Peters, the veteran tackle who has dropped significant weight in order to retain his quickness, does not appear to be the same dominant force he has been in his career. As was noted earlier, Jordan Matthews was the only Eagles wide receiver to catch a pass. This seemed due to a mixture of a few drops and Bradford’s accuracy issues.

All things considered, this one deserves a deep breath, a single fist pump and a hopeful look to the horizon.

Looking Ahead
The division rival Washington Slurs (1-2) are next for the Birds. Second-year head coach Jay Gruden has relegated Robert Griffin III, the self-proclaimed ‘best QB in the NFL’, to ‘Featured Spectator’ status in favor of Kirk Cousins. Results have been mixed. After a Week 1 loss at home to Miami, they rebounded to beat the St. Louis Rams. But, Cousins was intercepted twice on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium as Washington was thumped by the previously winless Giants. Historically for the Eagles, games against Washington are rarely easy, the Slurs lead the all-time series (82-73-5). But, every game seems to be tight. So, look for another emotionally draining grinder as the Birds head down I-95 to renew acquaintances with DeSean Jackson and his new friends in DC.

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