The Philadelphia Eagles produced a stirring comeback victory in their season opener despite losing a pair of offensive linemen to an already short-handed group.
With Robert Mathis suspended, the Indianapolis Colts’ defense failed to generate much pressure while dropping the first game and now likely won’t have the NFL’s reigning sack leader for the rest of the season.
With their retooled offensive line, the Eagles will try for a rare 2-0 start Monday night when they visit a Colts team attempting to avoid its second 0-2 start in 16 seasons.
Philadelphia’s prospects for a victory didn’t appear promising this past Sunday when it trailed 17-0 at halftime to visiting Jacksonville. The Eagles were also forced to play the second half without All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis (knee) and right tackle Allen Barbre (ankle), who was filling in for a suspended Lane Johnson.
Replacements Andrew Gardner and David Molk provided enough protection for quarterback Nick Foles’ quick turnaround from a lackluster first half in a 34-17 victory. Foles fumbled twice and had an interception in the first 20 minutes, nearly matching his four turnovers from last season.
He went 12 of 24 for 139 yards in the first half before completing 15 of 21 throws for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final 30 minutes. Foles’ 68-yard TD in the fourth quarter to Jeremy Maclin, making his return from a torn right ACL that kept him out in 2013, gave Philadelphia the lead for good.
The Eagles will try to use the momentum from that victory for their third 2-0 start since 1993. They won their first two games in 2012 and their first seven in 2004.
Philadelphia, though, won’t have Barbre for the rest of the season and Mathis for at least eight weeks. Johnson is suspended for three more games due to a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Last season, the Eagles had the same offensive linemen for 17 games, including a playoff loss. They helped LeSean McCoy rush for a franchise-best 1,607 yards and the team to multiple records in coach Chip Kelly’s first season.
Philadelphia signed former Pro Bowl guard and 11-year veteran Wade Smith on Tuesday and elevated tackle Kevin Graf from the practice squad. It’s unknown, however, what the line will look like Monday night.
Dennis Kelly, inactive in Week 1, might start at left guard. Backup tackle Matt Tobin could remain out with an injured ankle.
“All the guys that are active have a chance to play, and we could make a roster move again,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur told the Eagles’ official website. “So we’ll just sort it out as we go. Anybody that’s active can start, so that’s the way we’re going to take it.”
The Eagles weren’t going to have to face Mathis, who had a career-high 19 1/2 sacks last season, because he’s serving a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Now, the rest of the league likely won’t have to as well after he tore his Achilles tendon during a private workout in Atlanta.
The Colts, who totaled 42 sacks in 2013 to tie for 11th in the NFL, confirmed Thursday that he’s out for the season.
Without Mathis last Sunday, Indianapolis got one sack on Peyton Manning in a 31-24 loss in Denver. His replacement, 2013 first-round draft pick Bjoern Werner, had no quarterback pressures and three tackles.
“We knew we were going to be without Robert for the first four games, but this is really a devastating blow for Robert and his family and this organization,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “This one stings.”
Indianapolis could have even more trouble getting pressure on an up-tempo Eagles offense as its seeks to avoid its second 0-2 start since 1998. The Colts dropped their first 13 games in 2011 and got a chance to draft quarterback Andrew Luck, who had 370 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against Denver.
Luck will play his first game against Philadelphia, and the Colts are facing the Eagles for the first time since a 26-24 road loss Nov. 7, 2010, which snapped their four-game win streak in the series.
The Colts have won two of three home meetings since relocating from Baltimore, including 45-21 in the most recent one Nov. 26, 2006.