The opening half of the season opener was a punch to the gut. The anticipation and excitement built up for this Sunday afternoon was gone in a hurry.
Two fumbles and an interception were the focus of the first half, a half filled with mistakes that allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to open up a 17-0 lead.
The Nick Foles in at quarterback was the same quarterback that couldn’t find a rhythm against the Cowboys last season. The Eagles team on the field was making the same mistakes that put them into a 3-5 hole halfway through last season.
But that was only the first 30 minutes. The second 30 minutes featured the team that has potential to make big things happen.
Where do you begin with the Eagles first half struggles? It certainly starts with Foles.
The quarterback’s first start in his second season was ugly in the early stages. Foles held onto the ball too long. When he did throw it, he missed his targets. When he didn’t, he was hit hard and twice fumbled, leading to two Jacksonville scores.
The play call in the redzone on Foles interception was questionable as well. A corner route pass on first down from five yards out was foolish. Chip Kelly acknowledged the frustrations felt throughout Lincoln Financial Field during the first half.
“I think everybody was frustrated. I heard a few fans that were frustrated too,” Kelly said. “They had every right. I was booing myself.
“Not very good in the first half with the offense. I thought our defense and special teams played really, really well. I told them after the game at some point in time we're going to have to rely on everybody to win games, and those guys kept us in it because it could have been a lot worse.”
The Eagles did play very well defensively throughout the half. Two defensive lapses on both touchdowns to Jaguars rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns were the only blemishes on a strong first half and a game that featured several disrupted plays at the line. The defense also came through in the clutch, holding the Jaguars to a 2-for-14 3rd-down conversion rate.
Defensively, Connor Barwin had a strong game and the front seven all played a significant role in silencing the Jaguars offense. But the player that shined the most was Brandon Graham.
Graham had four tackles but led the way with two for loss. In previous years, it was easy to notice Graham’s faults. There were no faults on Sunday. He was simply everywhere.
Offensively, when the Eagles did turn things on in the second half, they ultimately took advantage of a Jaguars defense that could no longer keep up.
Similar to the Eagles season-opening win in Washington a year ago, the Eagles wore out the defense and forced mistakes. Look no further than the Jaguars missed coverage on Jeremy Maclin’s go-ahead score.
There were many positives to the Eagles win. The defense was solid. The special teams coverage was nearly perfect and kicker Cody Parkey was flawless.
That said, there is no way to sugarcoat the offense’s struggles. They were horrible in the first half and honestly, Foles didn’t improve that much in the second half.
One big run by Darren Sproles – the best play call Kelly made all game – turned the tables on this game. That sparked Foles connection with Zach Ertz for a 25-yard touchdown – perhaps Foles best pass of the day – and the rest of the 34-point onslaught the Eagles brought in the second half.
“I think it was the first score by Sproles,” Barwin said. “I think that really started it. Maragos made a huge play, and then the touchdown were the two things that kind of sprung us. So we never looked back after that.”
If anything, what was seen on Sunday was the Eagles ability to rally around each other. Offensively, their quarterback was struggling and the offensive line was short-handed. The defense was holding up their end. So was special teams. That kind of resilience is what championship teams are made of.
“There are going to be a lot of corrections,” Foles said. “When you face adversity, what are you going to do? How are you going to respond?
“There was a lot [of adversity] in the first half. There was a ton. But the big thing I take from this is that I have a great team, great teammates and great coaches. We’re going to stick together throughout it and we’re going to finish this game. We’re going to play together and that’s what we do.”
There is plenty of work to be done. The potential is there. On the forefront, a resilient team showed up in the second half.
The Eagles have the players offensively capable of making things happen and scoring. Even in the worst performance, they scored 27 points on the offensive side of the ball. Imagine what they could do once they fine-tune this?
Better things are to come from the Eagles. The best thing to see in Week 1 was not a fine-tuned performance, but a team playing for each other and giving a total team effort to erase a horrible half with a strong half.
It took several weeks for the Eagles to become a well-oiled machine last season. Fans won’t have the patience for ironing out these problems week after week.
Winning cures all. Sunday wasn’t the Eagles best performance, but it was a win. That was all you could ask for out of the season opener.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.