It had been nearly three years since Darren Sproles had as many carries as he did Sunday against the Jaguars. But one rush in particular ignited the trailing Eagles and helped turn a 17-point deficit into a 17-point win.
Faced with a fourth and 1 at the Jaguars' 49, the offense hustled to the line. Center Jason Kelce said the defense didn't look set, and when Sproles got the handoff in an inside zone read play, he ran through a giant hole.
Kelce had the key block, and Sproles scampered virtually untouched into the end zone. "We [saw] that they were getting tired, so we tried to hurry up and catch them like that," Sproles said. The next time the Eagles got the ball, Sproles returned a punt 22 yards, setting up another third-quarter touchdown.
"He's just a big play waiting to happen," said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who also was Sproles' teammate with the Saints. The last time Sproles had as many carries in a game - he finished with 11 rushes for 71 yards - was on Oct. 23, 2011, when he ran 12 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.
"It's actually been a while," Sproles said. "I like it."
Sharing the load
Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis had promised to use more of his personnel, and he did against the Jaguars, inserting reserves Nolan Carroll and Earl Wolff at various points in the game.
Carroll came in for cornerback Bradley Fletcher, and Wolff spelled safety Nate Allen. Carroll was also the sixth defensive back the few times Davis called on his "dime" unit.
The Eagles played the most defensive snaps in the NFL last season, and Davis vowed to get starters like linebacker DeMeco Ryans more breaks. Ryans was off the field in the dime defense, but an injury to Najee Goode (pectoral muscle) probably canceled plans to give Ryans even less playing time.
Up front, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, and Brandon Bair were the second-unit line, and Brandon Graham was the first outside linebacker up and played both sides behind Trent Cole and Connor Barwin.
Rumbling for a TD
The Eagles had the game all but sewn up, but Trent Cole's forced fumble sack and Fletcher Cox's recovery for a touchdown provided the exclamation point.
Cole rushed off the edge and clobbered quarterback Chad Henne just before he was about to release the ball. Cole has 10 sacks in his last 10 games dating back to last season. Cox, who was a force all game, scooped up the ball and ran 17 yards for his first career score.
Bair's big block
With the Eagles trailing by 17 points in the second quarter, Bair kept the deficit from growing when he blocked Josh Scobee's 36-yard field-goal attempt. Bair, who is 6-foot-6, is a key part of special teams who also was involved when the Eagles blocked a field goal in the preseason.
"I believe that some portion of the team has got to step up when somebody is struggling," Bair said. "Our offense was struggling at the beginning, and we needed anything we could get. We were doing great on that field-goal block unit, and it was just a matter of time before somebody got their hands on it. It just happened to come my way."
Cary Williams also came close to blocking the kick on the edge.
A keeper at kicker
Rookie kicker Cody Parkey showed why the Eagles kept him when he connected on a 51-yard field goal to tie the score in the fourth quarter. Parkey hit two 50-plus-yard field goals in the final preseason game, and he is 2 for 2 this season. The 51-yarder matched former kicker Alex Henery's career long.
"I don't try to kick it any harder just because it's a little longer," Parkey said. "I have hit that kick a million times in warm-ups, so I know I had plenty of leg. I just aimed right through the uprights and put it through."
Hurns breaks free
Jaguars rookie Allen Hurns caught four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Hurns beat Williams for one of the touchdowns. Williams also was involved in coverage on a 46-yard pass to Hurns down the left sideline.
Hurns is an undrafted rookie from Miami who started in place of the injured Cecil Shorts. Williams complimented Hurns but said he did not think his statistics told the whole story.
"We gave him a lot of things, and that's the bottom line," Williams said. "He's a good player, definitely is an NFL player, but not the caliber of player that . . . I made him look like today. . . . It was more of a mental situation. It wasn't all him. Trust me."
Darren Sproles came up big for the Eagles on Sunday in several areas. Here is how he delivered in his first game with the Birds:
11 carries for 71 yards, 1 TD (49 yards)
4 receptions for 14 yards
4 for 62 yards (15.5 avg.), long of 22