The best thing that can usually be said about final games of the preseason is that they're in the books and now it's on to the regular season.
But while you're at it, you might as well win the game. And that's what the Jets did tonight. It wasn't pretty and it was nearly a defeat, but the Jets held on to down the Philadelphia Eagles, their opponents in their last 17 preseason finales, by 16-10 at MetLife Stadium.
The victory, which evened the Green & White's preseason record at 2-2, was built on Christian Hackenberg's second touchdown pass in two games, to TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, plus three field goals, and plays by a nice variety of Jets defenders new and old — especially in the final minute (see below).
The Jets, meanwhile, gained 181 offensive yards on their first five drives, then 37 on their next 11 drives and punted 11 times on the night.
Here are five takeaways from the game, the Jets' ninth win in their last 10 home games against the Eagles:
1. No Quit in McCown
Bowles didn't announce Josh McCown as his starter but certainly left enough hints that No. 15 might play in this one, including naming him one of his four gameday captains. Sure enough, McCown was under center for the first offensive snaps of the game. His first series was a safe 3-and-out, one short pass. He opened the second series as well — the first time a Jets opening-day starter played the first two series of the preseason finale since Chad Pennington in 2004.
McCown was shaken up on a hit by LB Joe Walker right as he was completing a 20-yard pass to Seferian-Jenkins, but he wasn't ready to exit so after Christian Hackenberg took one snap, McCown returned to finish the red zone drive to Chandler Catanzaro's 28-yard field goal for a 3-0 Jets lead.
"We had some assignments we wanted to work on," Bowles said of playing his first offense. "You get better at football playing football, so we put them out there."
2. Red Zone Trend
It's hard to know what to make of some preseason trends. For instance, the Eagles, with a short field, drove to the Jets 15 early in the second quarter. But the Green & White's second defense stiffened against QB Matt McGloin and forced a Caleb Sturgis field goal to tie it at 3-3. The Jets' red zone defense this preseason has been strong, allowing just two touchdowns on the opponents' first eight drives inside their 20. But no way to tell if it will hold up once the regular season begins in 10 days.
3. Eli's Running
Hackenberg's second touchdown throw in three drives was a beautiful 12-yarder to Seferian-Jenkins heading toward the back of the end zone. And the score was set up masterfully by the running of rookie Elijah McGuire, who ripped off runs on the 82-yard drive of 11, 11 and 34 — easily the Jets' longest carry of the preseason and in fact the longest since Bilal Powell had a 37-yarder in the '13 preseason. McGuire ended with 56 yards on five carries in less than a half of work.
4. The New Defenders
The first defense, or at least the first back seven, which saw just the first series against the Birds before yielding to the twos and the threes, who spread the wealth while keeping the Birds at bay with the exception of one fourth-quarter TD drive.
Two new arrivals made several plays. DL Kony Ealy roared in on QB Matt McGloin for a strip sack recovered by Patrick Gamble at the visitors' 37 and leading to Martin's field goal. And S Terrence Brooks, an Eagle until the trade with the Jets for CB Dexter McDougle, closed fast to stop Byron Marshall for no gain on a third-and-1 toss, broke up a pass on the next drive, and added two special teams tackles.
Two more plays of note: LB Frank Beltre flew in to sack rookie QB Dane Evans en route to yet another punt, then on the next drive rookie CB Derrick Jones struck with an interception of Evans at the visitors' 19, leading to the hosts' third FG of the night and a 16-3 lead.
Top Photos from the Final Game of the 2017 Preseason
5. Hanging On
The Jets offense nearly gave this one away when Christian Hackenberg and Marcus Murphy botched a handoff and the Eagles recovered the fumble at the Jets 33 right after the two-minute warning. The visitors drove to first-and-goal at the 6. But rookie LB Corey Harris, who on the previous series made a remarkable downfield PD on a long ball for WR Rashard Davis, made a tackle for a 3-yard loss, and Evans was sacked by Claude Pelon and Gamble sandwiched in between two incompletions, the last on fourth down finally ending the suspense and the preseason.