After going into the locker room down 17-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Eagles came roaring back with a 34-17 Week One win at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles gained 281 yards in an utterly dominant second half, with no turnovers, compared to 129 yards and three cough-ups in the first thirty minutes.
In that first half, Nick Foles looked suddenly mortal against the Jaguars pass rush, appearing confused, and hesitating before a handful of throws. Going in at the half, Foles only completed 12 of 24 passes for 139 yards, losing two fumbles and throwing an end-zone interception.
In the second half, Foles found his groove, going 15 of 21 for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
As much as Foles' adjustments had a big part in the win, it was the play of Darren Sproles that opened up the first gash, running for 49 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-one early in the third quarter. Sproles ran unhindered up the middle on a play that was absolutely necessary.
Sproles finished the day with 71 yards on 11 carries, and also shined on punt returns. LeSean McCoy ended the day with 21 carries for 74 yards, having difficulty running the edges.
Sproles' 49-yard TD run is the longest run of his nine-year career. Jason Kelce deserves credit for springing him with a block.
Foles' two touchdown passes were diametrically different in terms of difficulty. Zach Ertz followed up Sproles' dash with a 25-yard turnaround scoring grab, going to the ground, and barely crossing the goal line. That made the score 17-14.
After tying the game in the fourth quarter with a 51-yard Cody Parkey field goal, the Eagles untied it with a 68-yard bomb to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin, with no safety presence. It was the easiest touchdown that Maclin will ever score. For the day, Maclin led all Eagles receivers with four catches and 97 yards.
The Eagles offensive line was decimated in the first half, losing Evan Mathis for the day with a lower left leg injury. Allen Barbre came off several plays later, noticeably limping. Their losses were evident when Mathis' replacement, Andrew Gardner, got badly beaten by Roy Miller, who sacked Foles, and nearly drew the third lost fumble.
Jags rookie wideout Allen Hurns caught his first two passes for touchdowns, the first player to achieve this since Charles Rogers did so in 2003. The coverage seemed confused at times, with late safety help over the top.
Overall, in the first half, the Eagles appeared rusty, slow, and bewildered. Any burst of momentum was immediately nullified by a critical mistake.
The second half, as indicated, was a whole other ballgame.
Once Philadelphia stopped turning the ball over, Jacksonville could no longer find momentum. Their third-down percentage for the day was a miserable two of 14, while running back Toby Gerhart was relegated to 2.33 yards a carry. Jacksonville as a team averaged 2.56 yards on the ground.
The Eagles' pass rush only generated three sacks on 46 Chad Henne dropbacks, but the last one, by Trent Cole, proved to be the clincher. Fletcher Cox scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for a backbreaker touchdown, although at the time, the spine was already sufficiently cracked.
Neither man garnered a sack, but Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham deserve much credit for the defensive turnaround. Barwin was effective on the edge, knocking down several passes, while Graham memorably crunched Gerhart in the backfield for a considerable loss.
Two years ago, the Eagles struggled with another presumed easy opponent on opening day, as they barely held off the Cleveland Browns 17-16.
This season opener, things seemed far worse until the Eagles reeled off that second half to remember.
The Jaguars averaged a mere 4.30 yards a play (306 yards, 71 plays) compared to the Eagles (420 yards, 82 plays).
BIGGEST STAR: Darren Sproles, whose second-half jaunts both out of the backfield and on punt returns not only sparked the comeback, but rejuvenated a dying crowd. Once the fans were at full volume, Henne had to burn most of his second-half timeouts early.
STAT OF THE DAY: Despite giving up 14 first downs through the air (many of which were early on), the Jaguars were held to a mere two first downs running.