EAST RUTHERFORD: The Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive with their 33-18 win over the rebuilding New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in front of thousands of Eagles fans who made the trip up the Jersey turnpike.
It wasn’t officially announced until Sunday morning that Jalen Hurts was not going to play and that Gardner Minshew was the starter.
Minshew stepped in and put on a quarterback clinic in the first half going 14 of 15 for 188 yards and two touchdown passes, both to tight end Dallas Goedert.
The third-year signal caller didn’t throw on interceptions. His QB rating was a perfect 158.3. His one incompletion was a spike to avoid a sack.
How hot was he? Minshow completed his first eleven passes. In games earlier this season, Hurts always talk about getting off to good starts. The 25-year-old defined what a good start can be like.
“It was really great,” said Minshew, who finished 20 of 25 for 242 yards, two touchdowns, sacked twice, but no turnovers and a quarterback rating of 133.7. “It was a testament to a lot of things. We were running the ball well, we protected well, Nick (Sirianni) and Shane (Steichen) called a great game. A lot of things went into [the QB stats].”
While Minshew and the offense cooled off in the second half, he was 6 of 10 for 54 yards, no touchdowns, the lack of touchdowns in the second half didn't seem to dimmer Minshow's enthusiasm.
He was seen after the game getting emotional while sharing hugs with his father outside the locker room.
The Eagles offense scored on its first seven possessions: Three touchdowns followed by four consecutive Jake Elliott field goals.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder talked about how he was able to forge a chemistry so fast with Goedert.
“This was my first week to throw to Dallas,” Minshew said during his postgame interview. “He’s really good. It was pretty comfortable throwing to him. Anytime you’ve got a player like that. He had a great game today. I was really happy to find him.”
Goedert said he knew that, regardless of which quarterback was playing, he was going to be getting the targets. He caught six passes for 105 yards and the to TDs.
“There was definitely a lot of stuff I liked in the game plan for today,” Goedert said. “Anytime it’s called you get pretty excited, and you want to make it work. I think we did that as an offense. Everybody played really well. It’s great to have going into a bye week.”
Goedert would not say the offense was better with Minshew under center. But he did pay him a few compliments for his big day.
“I thought Gardner did a really good job stepping in,” Goedert said. “He’s been preparing really hard all year, ready for his opportunity when and if it came. I think he showed everybody today the things that he can do. It was everything I expected from him.”
Miles Sanders carried the load running the ball rushing the ball 24 times for 120 yards.
The former Penn State standout left the game in the fourth quarter after re-injuring the ankle that has bothered him all season. Sanders said he will “absolutely” be ready to play when the Eagles host Washington on Sunday, December 19.
“Everybody is dealing with injuries,” Sanders said at his postgame interview. “I’m just trying my hardest to stay out there. That’s all I can really say. Doing my best to stay out there and provide for the team each and every week.”
With questions coming to him about his ankle, Sanders defected the situation because so many players are dealing with injury issues.
“Everybody is dealing with stuff throughout the league,” said Sanders, who caught three passes for 22 yards. “I don’t know what they’re doing for it, but I’m trying to get back each and every week no matter what happens during the game. I’m not going to let this set me back. I got a bye week, got an extra week, so get right and get ready for the next game."
DESPITE INJURIES, THE OFFENSE KEPT CRANKING
The offensive line did its thing again. The Birds rushed for 185 yards as a team. There was sone hints that without Hurts contribution to the running game, the numbers were bound to be a little down.
The Eagles are still the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL for both total yards (2080) and yards per game (160).
Lane Johnson was asked about getting off to a good start especially since the Jets scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and three total touchdowns by halftime.
“The first two touchdowns were to Dallas, especially the first one, that was really a good tone-setter,” Johnson said. “After that, we just kept attacking the line of scrimmage, run, do some play-action. But really that first touchdown to Dallas early really set the tone,”
Jets kicker Alex Kessman - playing in his first NFL game – missed both extra-piunt kicks in the first quarter. The two-point conversion attempt on the Jets third- and last- touchdown was no good.
Jets first round pick Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall out of BYU) was 23 of 38 for 226 yards, two touchdown passes and an interception. He was sacked twice.
Of course, when the backup quarterback comes in and plays well, there is going to be chatter about who should be the starter, especially when the starter is unproven.
Asked if Hurts was his starting quarterback once he is healthy, Sirianni didn’t hesitate. “Yes of course,” he said.
The rookie head coach indicated the Jets game plan was set for either quarterback.
“Coming into this game, we knew Jalen was banged up. We didn’t know Jalen wasn’t playing until today. We weren’t going to have a big quarterback run game today [anyway]. That was with whoever it was going to be.”
Sirianni said he and Steichen have plays set for all the quarterback regardless of who is under center at the moment.
He said they already had plays they like to call for Minshew. So, it wasn’t a difficult transition.
“It’s always about what the quarterback’s comfortable doing,” Sirianni said. “Obviously there are going to be differences. We put a plan together based on what we think our guys can do, what our receivers can do, our tight ends, and our running backs. Ultimately, the way the play gets called is the one the quarterback is comfortable with, because he’s the one with the ball in his hands every time. So, obviously you some differences there based on the likes of the quarterback. It’s always going to be a little different for everybody.”
DEFENSE WAS A TALE OF TWO HALFS
The Eagles defense allowed the Jets to score touchdowns on their forst three drives.
The first was tough for the Eagles defense. The second half was a different story.
Jets kick returner Braxton Berrios took the opening kickoff at the goal line and returned it 79 yards to the Eagles 21-yard line.
Five plays later Wilson hit rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore with a three-yard touchdown pass to go up 6-0.
After the Eagles answered with a 36-yard Minshew-to-Goedert TD, Wilson drove 68 yards on 11 plays and scored on a one-yard quarterback run to go up 12-7.
Then after the Eagles answered again with a nifty 25-yard TD pass to Goedert from Minshew, Eagles led 14-12.
But Eagles Nation were certainly getting worried when Wilson answered again with a 75-yard nine-play drive then ended with another Wilson TD pass, this time one yard to tight end Ryan Griffin to go up 18-14.
But Minshew put the Eagles up to stay when he drove the team 94 yards on eight plays ending with an 18-yard run by Kenneth Gainwell.
All the Eagles fans who made the trip tp take over MetLife and at home had to be wondering when they'd see at least one stop in the first half. Six touchdowns scored with 4:30 left in the second quarter.
They would after Josh Sweat caught Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for a 10–yard sack.
That was it for the Jets for the day.
NOTES: Linebacker Patrick Johnson (back) and cornerback Steven Nelson (shoulder) left in the first quarter and didn't return. All Pro center Jason Kelce left the game in the fourth quarter with what look like a painful knee injury.
The Eagles were already without running back Jordan Howard who injured his knee against New Orleans Saints.
But on Monday, Sirianni said he had good news regarding all these players. All should be back for the Giants game.
“With Jason -- obviously, everybody holds their breath when something like that happens to Jason,” Sirianni said. “Got good, positive news back on him today. So, I'm not going to put a timetable on anybody, as you guys know, but we're hopeful after the bye, he'll be ready to go.
Same thing with Jordan Howard. Again, not going to put a timetable on anything, but we're hopeful. We know that his rehab is progressing and he's doing better each day.”
All Pro guard Brandon Brooks has been out for most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Sirianni again was unable to give any information about Brooks who was scheduled to be back weeks ago.
“And, again, I'll have more information after the bye week there with Brandon Brooks.”
For these Birds, the bye came at just the right time.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii