These fourth preseason games are always so bittersweet. As usual, the Jets and Eagles kept virtually all of their front-liners on the sideline for tonight's preseason finale at the Linc in South Philadelphia. Many of the men who did play in the game will be looking for work by Friday at 9 p.m. ET, the NFL's final-cutdown deadline.
And so the Jets set out to end their winless summer, and their touchdown-less streak and their two-minute drought as well, with mostly those names on their roster who are household names only in their own households.
In this case, two out of three will have to do.
The Jets lost to the Eagles, 28-10, to finish 0-4 and with a winless preseason for the first time since 1993. But with Greg McElroy at the offensive controls, they scored their first touchdown of the preseason and executed their first successful two-minute drill.
"I'm glad we got it," head coach Rex Ryan said of scoring that first and only six-pointer of the summer. "I would've liked to have saved it to tack on next week. But it's good to score. We moved the ball well in the first half. That was good to see.
"I'd much rather be 4-0. I hate to lose at anything. But they start counting for real next week and we'll evaluate the team then."
The TD-less stretch came at the end of a long drive and was finally quenched on McElroy's rollout 6-yard touchdown flip to rookie RB Terrance Ganaway on a rollout with 8:55 left in the second quarter. That made the length of the dryspell 13 quarters and 201 minutes, 5 seconds of clock time. Good riddance.
"It was just great play-calling by Coach [Tony] Sparano," Ganaway said. "And I thought it was executed well, obviously. That's why we're in the NFL, to make plays. ... I think it was just a sigh of relief. We're just trying to get the snowball rollin'.
Then to end their two-minute shortcomings, the Jets turned to McElroy's clock management and Nick Folk's monster 58-yard field goal that got the Green & White within 14-10 at the half.
"I thought we had two really good drives, I thought," said McElroy, who finished 12-for-17 passing for 90 yards and a 102.6 passer rating and added 33 yards on five carries. "And that two-minute drive was pretty good, too — although we could've gotten it closer for Nick. But he really bombed it."
Matt Simms came on for his first game action as a Jet with 8:52 left in the third quarter. Prior to this, the undrafted rookie's one claim to fame as a Jet was throwing the TD pass to Raymond Webber that ended the Green & White scrimmage back on Aug. 4.
Simms didn't move the team with three three-and-outs on his first three series, but the Jets dodged a bullet between the first two series when Alex Henery was wide left on a 38-yard field goal try with five minutes left in the third frame.
However, old Bill Trent Edwards responded after the second three-and-out with a 13-play, 77-yard march that he put the crowning touches on with a 26-yard scramble to the Jets 11 to convert third-and-24, followed two plays later on a roll right for his second TD pass of the Philly night, a 7-yard touchdown strike to TE Brett Brackett that made it 21-10 with 12:13 left in the game.
That TD — in fact, Edwards' passing in general (22-for-32, 197 yards, 105.9 rating) — plus Chris Polk's 3-yard TD run with 2:33 to play had a lot to do with the Eagles improving to 4-0 in the preseason for the first time since 1995. Meanwhile, the Jets bused back up the New Jersey toll roads without a preseason win for the first time in 19 years and with no other option but to look forward to Sept. 9, the Buffalo Bills, and the start of the regular season.
Ryan remained bullish on his team despite the dearth of wins, yards and points this preseason.
"I'm certainly confident and I believe our team is confident," he said. "I think this team is a lot better than others. I believe in this team and I believe in this coaching staff."
A Different Kind of First Half
The Eagles opened with hot rookie Nick Foles at QB and drove into Jets territory. But on third-and-2 at the 38, DE Quinton Coples, one of the few "Jets household names" on the field, made another big play, a tackle of RB Bryce Brown for a 5-yard loss, and the Birds punted.
McElroy then proceeded to lead the Jets into Eagles territory, scrambling three times for 29 yards on the 10-play, 44-yard march. But this was not going to be the drive to end the Jets' TD-less stretch, so on came waiver pickup Spencer Lanning for his first punt as a Jet. His drop punt was fair-caught at the Birds 9.
Coples then got his team-leading fourth sack of the preseason, one in each game, as he chased Foles out of bounds for a zero-yarder. This forced a second punt by the hosts and McElroy got Drive No. 2 going at the Jets 23.
And this is where the Jets scored their first touchdown.
McElroy led the offense on a drive that covered 14 plays, 77 yards and 8:04 of clock time to his play-action rollout and short toss to rookie RB Terrance Ganaway, who took it over for the 6-yard score. On the drive Joe McKnight carried four times for 33 yards, McElroy rolled out for a yard to convert a fourth-and-one
Philly, with Edwards under center, responded with a monster drive of their own — 11 plays, 84 yards and 5:40 — to tie it up at 7-7 on Brown's 2-yard sweep around the defense's right side.
Another Lanning punt and the Eagles were back in business moving toward the red zone. They never got there because Edwards launched a ball for the end zone that WR Mardy Gilyard caught in the end zone, with Jets CB Julian Posey overrunning the coverage, giving the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
But Gilyard's post-catch celebration was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, so the Jets started with fairly good field position after Jordan White's 22-yard kickoff return to the 35. :Lo and behold, McElroy led the offense to two first downs and the Jets' first successful two-minute drive of the August games.
However, it took a prodigious Folk field goal to make it a success. He dropped a 58-yarder over the crossbar as time ran out on the half. "I told Coach [Mike] Westhoff that was about my range tonight," Folk said.
That kick was the longest of his career, bettering the franchise-long 56-yarder that he nailed at Denver in 2010. And it was possibly the second-longest field goal in any game in franchise history, trailing only John Hall's 59-yarder, also at Philadelphia at the old Vet 11 years ago tonight, on Aug. 30, 2001.
McElroy (108.9 passer rating on 10-of-14 passing in the first half) had five previous preseason appearances for the Jets in 2011-12. His offenses scored three TDs and five FGs in 28 drives. ... New Jets tackle/blocking TE Jason Smith came on at the start of the second quarter and played for almost a half. ... T.J. Conley got his first punt of the game, a 40-yard gross and net, late in the third quarter after Lanning got the first four punts and finished with a 37.0 gross and a 34.6 net on five punts.
Coples added a half-sack for zero yards to finish the preseason with 4.5 sacks, the most by a Jet since at least 2000. ... LB Garrett McIntyre posted a game-high seven tackles, all solos. ... CB Isaiah Trufant notched five tackles and recorded a game-high three pass defenses. ... The Jets' 7-0 lead after the Ganaway TD was their largest first-half lead in their last eight meetings with the Eagles (six preseason, two regular-season). ... Jets-Eagles is a summer/fall tale. The Jets came into this game 19-10 in the preseason series, including 9-1 in their last 10 meetings. The Birds are 9-0 all-time in the regular season.