To a man, the Eagles swore they were not going to take Jets lightly. To a man, they said they were going to play like it was a championship game. There would be no letdown after knocking off the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field 10 days earlier.
The Eagles defense kept their collective word, the offense, not so much.
Carson Wentz and the rest of his unit did just enough to pump out a 31-6 win over the New York Jets (0-4), a team that was again without its starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, who has missed the last two games because of mononucleosis. He was diagnosed after the Jets’ season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Jets backup Trevor Siemian lasted all of one quarter the next week against the Cleveland Browns before a late-hit ankle injury knocked him out for the season.
The Jets have been stuck with Luke Falk behind center since then. Falk was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has spent most of his time in the NFL hurt or on the sidelines.
The Jets offensive line going into the season looked so bad, new general manager Joe Douglas somehow talked All-Pro center Ryan Kalil to end his brief retirement and sign a one-year deal with the Jets.
It hasn’t been pretty.
The Eagles defense ran over, around and through the Jets offensive line almost at will, drilling Falk for 10 sacks on the afternoon before putting in David Fales in the fourth quarter and end the torture. Fales was not listed on the roster flip card…it was that bad. How bad?
The Birds (3-2) became the first team in NFL history to record 10-plus sacks, a fumble recovery touchdown and a pick-six in the same game.
Two relative unknowns, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Nate Gerry, scored on those turnovers.
Gerry, now in his third NFL season, all with the Eagles, scored on a 51-yard interception return. It was his first touchdown since high school.
“Incredible.” Gerry said, describing his feelings at his locker after the game. “Like I was telling them (teammates) earlier, I had 15 (interceptions) in college and never scored on one of them so it was nice to finally get one in the end zone.”
Scandrick, a 12-year veteran out of Boise State, scored on a 44-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter. It was recorded as a strip sack for the 32-year-old.
“I was just finishing the play and not being satisfied with the sack,” Scandrick said. “I wanted to finish it, and the first thing towards finishing the play is forcing the fumble, then once the fumble is out, just to put points on the board as a defense. I’m so happy to be back. Like I said, it was a humbling experience just being at home for those four weeks. I’m just happy we won.”
Gerry, a former standout safety at Nebraska, talked about how his big play unfolded.
“Once I saw the running back (Le’Veon Bell) take off, I knew that’s where the ball was going,” the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder said. “Like I said earlier, we knew how they were going to attack us on short yardage, especially on third and fourth down. We knew how they were going to try and attack us so we just found a play. We had a blitz call and just made a play on the ball.”
Kalil talked about the problems the Jets’ pass protection has had over the first four games, giving up 22 sacks.
“Just executions, one-on-one blocks,” Kalil said at his locker after the game. “Good pass rushers on the other side. We just have to be better technique-wise. It doesn’t matter if it’s a quick game or holding them back longer, we just have to outwork them and finish longer.”
The five-time Pro Bowl player and three-time All Pro, who had spent his previous 12 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, talked about fixings things for next week when the Jets face the Dallas Cowboys, at MetLife, hopefully with Darnold behind him.
“In the NFL, you’re always fixing everything,” Kalil said. “We just have to continue to work, look at what’s not working, look at who’s not getting the job done and who is, and fix up the stuff that could be better and that’s it. That’s all you can do is just control what you can control.”
The Eagles offense did not dazzle. The unit scored just 17 points. It can be said coach Doug Pederson may have used a vanilla playbook knowing he was facing an inferior opponent and that he was taking his team on a brutal three-week road trip against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys and Bills.
Still, Pederson was happy to get the win, not happy with offensive production.
“Well, one, the penalties,” Pederson said at his post-game news conference. “You saw on offense how sort of average we played. We would take, for instance, a first-down run for eight or nine yards and we’d have a holding penalty, or a pass and either give up a sack or a holding. The penalties just put us in too many long situations today, second and long, third and long. I haven’t looked at the stat book yet, but I bet you many of those were second-and-long and third-and-long plays that it’s hard to overcome in this league. And that’s a good defense, now, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good defense. That’s a good front. But no, we offensively didn’t play good enough to — we have to look at it and make corrections.”
The Eagles’ next three opponents have a combined record of 10-5. The Birds will need to reach into every corner of their playbooks on offense and defense if they want success. Pederson will need to make every correction count. It’s going to be that tough. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii