A healthy Jeremy Maclin vital for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- The injury is behind him. At least that's what Jeremy Maclin claims.

It has been more than a calendar year since the Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver tore his anterior crucial ligament for a second time. Maclin missed the Eagles' first season under head coach Chip Kelly, when the team ranked No. 2 in the league in total offense. Instead, Maclin was relegated to the lonely monotony of rehab, rehab and more rehab, while the Eagles won the NFC East and hosted a playoff game.

So when Maclin scored the go-ahead touchdown Sunday in Philadelphia's season-opening 34-17 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field, Maclin's teammates mobbed him in the end zone. It was a huge moment for the team, which had trailed 17-0 at halftime. But everyone knew it also was huge for Maclin, even if he wasn't willing to admit it.

"As much as you come back -- preseason and training camp and everything like that -- none of it matters until it's the season, and you get to do it for real," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "The fact that he was able to have such a big play when we needed it most and go out and prove that he was the same old guy, it felt great for us, and I'm sure it felt great for him."

Quarterback Nick Foles looked for Maclin throughout the game, but nothing was clicking in the first half. On the final drive before halftime, Foles twice went deep to Maclin. On the first, Maclin was double covered. On the second, he couldn't get a hand on the ball.

But with the game tied 17-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Maclin ran a go route. The corner bit on a play-action fake, and Foles hit Maclin in stride for a 68-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead.

"Obviously everybody was excited," Maclin said. "I think that came at the right time. I think it kind of sucked a little bit of life out of them, so it was big."

Maclin finished with a team-high 97 receiving yards on four catches. He also showed that, while not as fast as former teammate DeSean Jackson, he can provide the Eagles with a downfield threat. That, too, is huge for a team that wants to take the next step in Kelly's second year.

"Just being able to play football was what I was looking for on its own," Maclin said. "I'm blessed. I'm fortunate. But like I just said, we've got a lot of room [to improve], and we need to get better."

As for his surgically repaired knee, Maclin said: "I wasn't really worried about it. I was going out there and playing football. The knee is behind me now, so I am looking forward."