If any Eagles fans were rejoicing in the parking lots late Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, it was likely because the preseason is finished. The Eagles will be on the same field in one week hanging a Super Bowl banner. The fun begins then.
But the Eagles still made Thursday's preseason finale dramatic with a go-ahead touchdown with 18 seconds remaining for the 10-9 win over the New York Jets, their first victory of the preseason. Joe Callahan connected with Matt Jones for the 4-yard score, the most memorable moment in an otherwise forgettable game. That's because the Eagles sat most of the players who will be employed at 4 p.m. Saturday, when the team must pare the roster from 90 to 53. The night was devoted to roster hopefuls.
"I know the feeling that goes on the next 24 to 48 hours or so," coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a little uneasy for players sometimes. …But I challenged the players the last week, especially the ones who played in this game, to make it hard on us as coaches, as personnel staff. Give everything they have for one more opportunity. And I also tell them, they're competing for our roster, but there's 31 other teams that are also looking at everybody's roster. We have some good players. And we have to make some tough decisions."
It wasn't just starting players whom Pederson decided to keep out Thursday. Some notable reserves remained shelved, including third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld. There was no better evidence of the caution Pederson exercised than the fact that he played only his No. 4 and No. 5 quarterbacks.
Of course, Sudfeld entered the game with an NFL-high 74 preseason passes. He also led the NFL with 524 yards through three games and tied for the league lead with five touchdown passes this summer. The Eagles already saw what they needed to see.
That meant Callahan, an Absecon, N.J. native, started for the Eagles. Christian Hackenberg, the former Penn State passer, replaced him in the second quarter.
There was intrigue about Hackenberg – or as much interest as one can muster for the preseason finale – considering the once-ballyhooed prospect made his Eagles debut against the team that selected him in the second round in 2016.
Hackenberg flamed out in New York, and he didn't do much better for the Eagles. He proved to be a capable tackler, which was learned only after Hackenberg threw his second interception of his first three drives.
The first might have shared fault with wide receiver Rashard Davis, who appeared to stop his route short. The other appeared to be a poor pass from Hackenberg. He finished 7 of 16 for 69 yards and two interceptions with 66 rushing yards and a fumble. His passer rating was 16.9. Callahan returned to the game in the fourth quarter and finished 18 of 26 for 164 yards for one touchdown and one interception, with the turnover coming while the Eagles tried to take a fourth-quarter lead.
Callahan was given one more chance and brought the Eagles on an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive. Jones, who struggled earlier this preseason, came alive in the fourth quarter with 54 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards.
"It's a great feel to get a chance to drive the thing down there at the end, it's something you really look forward and live for as a quarterback," Callahan said.
>> GALLERY: Photos from the Eagles 10-9 win over the Jets
Hackenberg rebounded from his early interceptions by almost leading the Eagles on a scoring drive at the end of the half. A drive that started at the Eagles' 1-yard line with 90 seconds left in the quarter went into Jets territory and approached field goal range, where Hackenberg decided to scramble on a first down from the 39-yard line.
Hackenberg ran 19 yards, except the Eagles had not timeouts. He couldn't get the snap off quick enough to spike it. The half ended with no points. It was not the most prudent time management from the quarterback.
He had another turnover in the third quarter when, instead of sliding, Hackenberg decided to drop his shoulder at the end of the rush. The ball popped loose.
"Overall evaluation, there's a couple plays obviously I'd love to have back, but there are some things that I did good," Hackenberg said. "I felt like I placed the ball pretty well for the most part. Just continuing to build off of that, build off the wins, build off the little things that I thought went well and then learn from the things that didn't. But just get back in the flow of things, I think was the big thing for me, and that felt great."
The Eagles clearly wanted to see Hackenberg, although his only hope of remaining in Philadelphia would be a practice squad spot.
There were players with shots at the 53-man roster who had extended looks.
Josh Adams, the rookie running back from Warrington, started the game and finished with 13 carries for 27 yards. DeAndre Carter, an underdog who could land a spot as the sixth receiver, finished with two catches for 37 yards.
The Eagles defense had another strong outing, although it was mostly from players who will be cut during the next 48 hours. They stymied the Jets with an impressive goal line stand in the second quarter after Hackenberg's second interception. Aziz Shittu made a key fourth-down stop at the 1-yard line. Chandon Sullivan thwarted a Jets scoring drive with an interception. Steven Means had three sacks and a forced fumble.
For those who played Thursday, it was an opportunity to provide film for the Eagles – and 31 other teams. But a good chunk of those on the Eagles sideline already have their sights on the Atlanta Falcons. The same could be said for those watching.
"Great way to finish the preseason, with a touchdown drive," Pederson said.
Now that the preseason is finished, the clock for next week can begin. The Eagles will make their roster cuts Friday and Saturday. The team will return to practice Sunday, when the bulk of the practice work will be allocated to either Carson Wentz or Nick Foles.