PHILADELPHIA — Next to nothing has gone according to script for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. And as the regular season winds down, their division title hopes are not being fully and officially extinguished quite as expected, either.
The Eagles remained in the running for what would be the unlikeliest of NFC East championships when they raced to a big early lead and coasted from there to beat the New York Jets, 45-19, Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles upped their record to 6-8 in a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations created by bold roster moves, then gave way to the harsh reality of eight losses in the first 12 games. Thanks to the New York Giants’ loss Sunday to the Washington Redskins, it remains possible that the Eagles could win the NFC East with a record of 8-8. They are two games behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys and a game in back of the second-place Giants with two games left.
“It feels good to still have a chance to even be considered in the playoff race,” Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. “We’ve been through a lot and this team is very resilient.”
The Eagles, who play Saturday at Dallas, were eliminated from NFC wild-card contention. But they could win the division, thanks to the tiebreaker, if they finish in a three-way tie at 8-8 with the Cowboys and Giants. That would require the Eagles to beat the Cowboys next weekend and the Redskins in the regular season finale, while the Giants would have to lose to the Jets next weekend and then beat Dallas in the finale.
“I don’t know all the scenarios,” Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “I don’t know. But we’ve been getting some help and it’s good to still have a chance with two weeks to go, after the slow start. It’s crazy, and everyone is excited.”
The Jets had a three-game winning streak ended and their record dropped to 8-6, tied for the second wild-card playoff spot in the AFC. They would reach the playoffs for a third straight year under Coach Rex Ryan if they win their final two games.
The Eagles led, 28-0, just more than five minutes into the second quarter. They started with a touchdown by their defense on a return of a fumble recovery. Vick threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and tailback LeSean McCoy added a touchdown run.
McCoy provided a pair of second-half touchdown runs as well, and tight end Brent Celek finished the day with five catches for 156 yards and a touchdown. Reserve quarterbacks Vince Young and Mike Kafka split most of the fourth-quarter playing time, as Vick exited the game with the Eagles comfortably ahead after absorbing several jarring hits. Defensive end Jason Babin had his second straight three-sack game for the Eagles, bringing his total for the season to 18.
The Jets scored 13 straight points to draw within 28-13 at halftime but didn’t overcome their early deficit. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had two touchdown passes for the Jets but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble before giving way late to backup Mark Brunell. Each team had four turnovers. Seven of the eight turnovers came in the first half.
“It does count just for one game,” Ryan said. “But obviously that was about as bad as it gets. . . . It was just a terrible performance, obviously.”
The Eagles could have been eliminated from the NFC East race before the kickoff of their game if the Giants had beaten the Redskins. But the Redskins won at the Meadowlands, keeping the competitive portion of the Eagles’ season going.
Philadelphia jumped to an early lead when wide receiver Santonio Holmes lost a fumble after a catch on the Jets’ opening possession. Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker picked the football off the turf and ran 47 yards for a touchdown.
The Jets caught a break later in the first quarter when they recovered the ball at the Philadelphia 14-yard line on a mistake by the Eagles on a punt return. The ball deflected off the Eagles’ Curtis Marsh as he tried to block.
But Sanchez threw an interception when the ball went through Holmes’s hands and was grabbed by Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel on the carom. The Eagles took advantage, driving to a touchdown on Vick’s 26-yard pass to Celek. They made it 21-0 early in the second quarter on Vick’s 11-yard sprint to the end zone.
Sanchez lost a fumble on a scramble, giving the Eagles possession of the ball at the New York 17-yard line. That led to a nine-yard touchdown run by McCoy.
The Jets finally got on the scoreboard on a field goal by kicker Nick Folk and, after the Eagles’ Dion Lewis lost a fumble on the kickoff, Sanchez delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass to Holmes.
The Jets got the ball back on a fumble by McCoy and added another field goal by Folk. Vick threw an interception on a desperation throw toward the end zone as time expired in the first half. But a 73-yard completion from Vick to Celek set up McCoy’s one-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and McCoy ran for a 33-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We’re fighting,” Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. “At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for in a team.”