EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Miles Sanders had his first 100-yard rushing game in nearly a year, Dallas Goedert had a career-high receiving and touchdown, and kicker Jake Elliott just kept piling up points, but it was the backup quarterback who kept the Eagles’ playoff hopes flickering.
Gardner Minshew played a near-perfect first-half then managed the offense from there, helping the Eagles beat the New York Jets 33-18 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Eagles scored on their first seven possessions, marking the first time they have done so since at least 2001. The win kept them perfect in their all-time series against the Jets, one that began in 1973, moving to 12-0 against them.
Minshew stepped in for Jalen Hurts, who was ruled out prior to the game with a sprained left ankle suffered in the second half of last week’s loss to the New York Giants.
Something about backup quarterbacks and the Eagles.
Nick Foles won a Super Bowl in relief of injured Carson Wentz in 2017.
This time it was Minshew stepping up big in an important spot.
A loss would have been devastating for the Eagles. As it was, they will head into their bye week at 6-7 with three home games in their final four coming out of it, including their only back-to-back home set of the season, starting with Washington followed by the Giants.
"It was huge (to get a win), especially after last week (in 13-7 loss to Giants at MetLife)," said RT Lane Johnson. "The way we felt leaving this building and we wanted to fix that.
"Obviously, we’re not where we want to be, but this is a big step to stay in the conversation. We got the bye week, get rested up, then four big-time games for us."
It’s not the Super Bowl, of course, like what Foles brought to Philadelphia, but the Eagles needed perfection out of Minshew after the way their defense got off to a slow start.
And Minshew delivered to near perfection. He finished the game 20-for-25 for 242 yards and two scores.
"He played a great game," said head coach Nick Sirianni of Minshew. "He got the ball to the backs on checkdowns when there wasn’t something there. He hit some chunks in the pass game. ...I think our message to Gardner was, ‘Go out and be yourself, protect that football, you have a good supporting cast around you.
"You have a good offensive line. You have good receivers, you have a good tight end, you have good backs, you have a good running game, you have good defense, go out there and be yourself and that’s going to be enough.’ And, he did. He played a really outstanding game. I’m really happy for Gardner and the game he played
The Eagles' defense picked things up as the game went along. After allowing 18 points on the Jets' first three drives, they pitched a shutout.
Safety Marcus Epps had his first pick of the season and Josh Sweat notched 1.5 sacks and now has five on the season. Javon Hargrave had a half of a sack and added to his career, which now sits at 7.5 on the season.
Offensively, Sanders gave his QB a big lift out of the backfield, rushing a career-high times for 120 yards. He added three catches for 22 yards. Sanders, however, suffered an ankle injury late in the game and did not return.
Sanders feels like he will be ready to play in two weeks against Washington.
"Everybody’s dealing with injuries," he said. "I’m just trying my hardest to stay out there. That’s all I can really say – just doing my best to stay out there and provide for the team each and every week.
"I’m just ready for whatever. The way I train, I just expect for the most (carries), and I feel like it paid off (Sunday). The way I practice, I take it very seriously. Just whenever my number is called, I gotta be ready."
The Eagles’ top-ranked rush offense, averaging nearly 160 yards per game, picked up 185 yards on 41 rushes despite the absence of Hurts, their leading rusher.
Rookie Kenny Gainwell added an 18-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the season and fifth overall. Gainwell picked 54 yards on 12 carries.
Goedert was a big target in the first half, which saw the Eagles take a 24-18 lead. The tight end had touchdown catches covering 36 and 25 yards. He had a career-high 105 yards on six receptions. His two touchdowns in one game were also a career-high.
"I think the first two touchdowns were to Dallas, but that first one was a good tone-setter," said Johnson. "After that, just tried to keep attacking the line of scrimmage, run, do some play action, but really I think that first touchdown to Dallas early set the tone."
On the first score, Goedert said that he had to absorb a shot in the back and hold onto the ball.
"We knew that if we went in this formation, when I motioned over, that the MIKE would have to carry me deep down," he said. "So I just ran at him and released and kept it vertical. I was the primary on that, for sure.
"Any time the ball was in the air that long, I knew someone would be coming, so I wanted to make sure I high-pointed it. He hit me in the back and gave me some acceleration into the end zone. It was cool. It was a fun way to start the game."
The score gave the Eagles a 7-6 lead.
Quez Watkins was a big target on third down. One of his catches went for 28 yards on third-and-10, another was good for 22 yards on third-and-18. Both plays kept alive field goal drives. Watkins ended the game with three receptions for 60 yards.
Speaking of field goals, Elliott was perfect once again. The reigning NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November booted four of them 31, 32, 43, and 46. He also kicked all three of his PATs, giving him 15 points in the game.
The Eagles topped 30 points for the sixth time this season and are now 5-1 in those games. They didn’t score 30 points in any of their 16 games in 2020.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.