The Eagles moved to 3-2 by defeating the New York Jets, 31-6, Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Here are five reasons for the victory.
What does the boss of a sack-starved defense do when he’s going up against an immobile, deer-in-headlights quarterback making just his second NFL start?
He blitzes the hell out of him. That’s what he does.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz put aside his general dislike for blitzing Sunday and sent extra rushers after the Jets’ Luke Falk on 16 of 36 pass plays. He also ran a half-dozen zone blitzes, dropping linemen into coverage and sending linebackers and defensive backs after the confused Falk.
The Eagles, who had just three sacks in the first four games, had 10 Sunday. Eight actually came with four-man rushes. But both of Falk’s interceptions, including the one in the first quarter that Nate Gerry returned for a touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 14-0, were on blitzes.
For the first time this season, Schwartz also moved defensive end Brandon Graham inside on passing downs for more than a cameo appearance, and it paid big dividends. Graham had a career-high three sacks. All three came on third-and-longs. All three came when he lined up inside.
He beat Jets right guard Brian Winters for a sack on third-and-9 on the Jets’ first possession, forcing a punt. He notched a second-quarter sack when he ran a stunt with tackle Fletcher Cox on third-and-6. And he added his third sack in the third quarter when he beat Jets center Ryan Khalil on third-and-8.
Graham’s pressure on Falk on the Jets’ second possession forced a hurried pass to running back Le’Veon Bell that Gerry intercepted and returned 51 yards to the end zone.
To have any chance of beating the Eagles on Sunday, the Jets needed to get their ground game going, and that never happened.
The Eagles continued their dominance against the run, holding the Jets to 67 yards on 19 carries and limiting their $52 million running back, Le’Veon Bell, to 43 yards on 15 carries.
Bell averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in the first three quarters before notching his one and only double-digit-yard run of the game, a 13-yarder, in the fourth quarter after the Eagles were up, 24-6.
Nineteen of the Jets’ 67 rushing yards, and their only touchdown, came on a gimmick play: a fourth-quarter end-around by wide receiver Vyncint Smith following a muffed punt by Corey Clement.
Schwartz’s defense hadn’t been very good on third down the last couple of weeks. The Lions and the Packers converted 12 of 25 third-down opportunities against them, including way too many third-and-longs.
The Packers converted four third downs of 6 yards or more. The Lions turned third downs of 10 and 11 yards into first downs.
But the Jets aren’t the Lions or the Packers, and Luke Falk isn’t Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford.
The Jets were just 3-for-14 on third down against the Eagles. Eight of those third downs were 6 yards or more. The Jets failed to convert any of those eight third-and-6-plus chances.
Five of the Eagles’ 10 sacks, including all three of Graham’s, came on third down. Falk completed just 3-of-7 third-down pass attempts for 34 yards, two first downs, and an interception.
The Eagles weren’t a very good first-half team in their first four games. They had been outscored in the first quarter, 27-10, and in the first half, 70-44. They had held a first-quarter lead just once (10-7 against the Lions) and a second-quarter lead once (21-20 vs. Packers).
The defense had given up a total of 37 points to opponents on their first two possessions, and the offense had managed to score just 10 points on its first two possessions.
Against the Jets, though, both the offense and defense answered early wake-up calls. The defense forced a three-and-out on the Jets’ first possession when Graham notched the first of his three sacks on a third-and-9 play.
Then the offense, mixing “11’’ and “12’’ personnel, drove 53 yards on nine plays and scored its first first-possession touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run by Jordan Howard.
Graham and the defense came up big again on the Jets’ next possession, when the defensive end hurried a poor fourth-and-1 throw from Falk that Gerry intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown.
An 11-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to tight end Zach Ertz late in the second quarter gave the Eagles a 21-0 halftime lead. It was the first time they had led by 21 or more points at the half since Week 12 of the 2017 season, when they had a 24-0 lead on the Bears on the way to an easy 31-3 win.
While rookie Miles Sanders might have a bigger ceiling than Jordan Howard, Howard has been the Eagles’ most productive runner in the first five games, including Sunday’s win.
Howard leads the team in rushing yards (248 yards), rushing average (4.7 yards per carry), first-down rushing average (4.3), rushing touchdowns (4), rushing first downs (16 on 53 carries) and runs of 10 yards or more (9).
Against the Jets on Sunday, he had 62 yards on 13 carries, almost all of them between the tackles and most of them right up the middle.
Howard isn’t flashy, but he’s a tough, physical downhill runner, who has the benefit of running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.
He had three of the Eagles’ five rushing first downs Sunday, including two on their first touchdown drive, which was capped by his fourth rushing TD.