No frills: Swarming defense, early offense carry Eagles in 31-6 rout of Jets

If the win at Lambeau Field two games ago was one that got the Eagles “back on track,” as safety Rodney McLeod suggested, the deconstruction of the visiting New York Jets on Sunday was about as business-like and as matter-of-fact a victory as you’ll ever find. Philadelphia won it 31-6, riding a 14-point first quarter and a defense that produced 10 quarterback sacks and two returns for touchdowns. The Eagles now head on a three-game road trip having upped their record to 3-2 knowing a critical October schedule awaits.

“Last week we were on a roll and we kind of had to pick up the defense and this week it was the opposite,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who contributed five receptions, 57 yards and his first touchdown of the season. “That’s why football is the ultimate team game. It takes all three phases and at the end of the day, it’s a win.”

Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t particularly pretty. At times, it was downright ugly. The Jets were as inept as advertised, unable to get anything going offensively with an attack led by backup quarterback Luke Falk. Brandon Graham racked up three quarterback sacks for the first time in his career and talked about the defense "having a party" at the expense of Falk. The only stress came early in the fourth quarter when punt returner Corey Clement – in for an injured Darren Sproles – muffed a punt that the Jets recovered and turned into six points one play later.

Otherwise, it was an easy-breezy kind of day. In many ways, it had the feel of a preseason game as the Eagles played it close to the playbook, using the running game to establish the line of scrimmage on the game’s first drive and then scuffling for the remainder of the game. That first drive, though, was a beauty.

After holding the Jets to a three-and-out offensive series, the Eagles ran the ball three times – Miles Sanders for a loss of 1 yard, Darren Sproles for a 5-yard gain, and then, with a Jets offsides penalty mixed in, Jordan Howard ripped off a 15-yard gain to convert a third-and-1 situation and gave the Eagles a first down at New York’s 29-yard line. A defensive holding penalty moved the ball to the 24-yard line and a few plays later Carson Wentz completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to give the Eagles a first down at New York’s 6-yard line. An incomplete Wentz pass and a 5-yard gain from Howard put the ball at the 1-yard line and then Howard powered the football in from there as the Eagles scored on their first possession for just the second time this season.

“You always want to score early. It changes the way the defense is able to play the game and we saw that. Our defense really got after it today,” center Jason Kelce said. “The first drive was important. We came out and set the tempo. They made some adjustments after that and we didn’t do the things we wanted to do, but scoring early was big.”

Linebacker Nathan Gerry picked off Falk on a fourth-and-1 pass intended for running back Le’Veon Bell and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown on New York’s ensuing possession to put the Eagles ahead 14-0 in the first quarter. Those 14 points were more than the Eagles’ output in the first quarter of the previous four games combined (10 points).

More highlights? There wasn’t a whole lot more to emerge from a game just didn’t sizzle, at least from an offensive standpoint. The Eagles weren’t at their best. Still, you take wins in the NFL any way you can get them, and the Eagles are now 3-2 and maybe on a little bit of a roll.

Or, maybe not.

“This win makes us 3-2,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “That’s all this win says about us. We’re 3-2. I think we’re a good team, but we’ve got to continue to improve, continue to get better, and go compete on the road. Nothing we did today carries over into next week.”

No question the next three games are critical and all of them are going to be tough tests. The Eagles have to play a whole lot better in Minnesota to beat the Vikings than they played on Sunday to defeat the Jets. They know it. They’ll be ready for it.

A strong October would put this team in an enviable position heading into the stretch run of the season.

“It’s one game at a time for me,” Kelce said. “I know we play Minnesota next week but I don’t know who we play after that. No idea. I haven’t even thought about it. It’s one week at a time in this league.”

Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' Week 5 matchup against the Jets.

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