As far as Jeremy Maclin and Chip Kelly were concerned Sunday, it was only a matter of time.
It was only a matter of time until the offense clicked. It was only a matter of time until the Eagles took the lead over the Jaguars. And it was only a matter of time until Maclin broke free for a long reception.
In his first regular season game since 2012, the veteran wide receiver finally found paydirt with just under seven minutes to play and the game tied, 17-17. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles dropped back and launched a high, arching throw that found Maclin wide open for a 68-yard touchdown. The score gave the Eagles a seven-point lead, the team's first advantage of the day and a lead they would not relinquish.
According to Maclin and Kelly, they had been looking for that play all afternoon.
"Yeah, about five times," Kelly said with a laugh when asked if they had tried the play earlier in the game. "We finally got it. If you watch film we were just running the vertical package against a single high safety, and they lean towards one of the vertical routes and the second vertical route down the field was [Maclin]. Nick spotted him and we hit him, and we were down the field."
The entire Eagles offense faced resistance in the first half, failing to notch a single point despite what felt like a number of opportunities to do so. With 1:04 to play in the first half, Foles tossed to Maclin in the back right corner of the end zone, but the Jaguars' pass coverage was just tight enough to break the pass up.
Foles targeted Maclin eight times in the first half, yielding just two receptions for 21 yards. Rather than succumbing to frustration, however, Maclin and the Eagles' offense persevered and kept pushing.
"You've just got to be patient," Maclin explained after the game. "I thought early in the second half there were about two or three opportunities I'd like to have back.
"The thing about this offense is that we can score fast, and we can score a lot."
His touchdown certainly was fast -- the first play of the drive, it took 11 seconds for the Eagles to find the end zone. From there the Eagles added another field goal and a defensive touchdown to seal the 34-17 victory and Maclin's first win since Dec. 9, 2012 – another game in which he scored the game-winner.
Maclin said after the game that it felt great just to be on the field with his teammates in this environment.
"Just being able to play football was what I was looking forward to on its own," Maclin said. "I'm blessed, I'm fortunate."
But he quickly reminded himself and the gathered press that he and the Eagles were far from perfect Sunday, and that he's eager to get back to work.
"Like I said we've got a lot of room to improve," Maclin asserted, "and we need to get better."
Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who made his regular season NFL debut Sunday, said being a part of Maclin's return to the field was a special experience.
"It's the return of the Mac, right?" Matthews joked with a sly reference to the 1996 Mark Morrison song "Return of the Mack," before lauding his fellow receiver's inspiring work ethic. "He's always hungry, always coming out in practice and making sure he goes out there and makes plays."
The rookie said he told Maclin a big play was going to come to him as the game progressed, and when it finally happened he knew Maclin would finish it off.
"I couldn't be happier for him, a guy like that," Matthews said. "Everybody knows about the adversity he's gone through, missing football for a year. To be able to come back like that, scoring the winning touchdown, it's almost poetic."
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