Matt Simms might have answered at least one part of the New York Jets' quarterback question.
The starter and backup are still uncertain. But Simms proved he deserved to be No. 3.
Simms, competing for the third-string job, led four scoring drives, and Kahlil Bell ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns as the Jets topped the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 on Thursday night in the teams' preseason finale.
"Yeah, it was a lot of fun," Simms said. "To go out there and play like that, it's just tremendous. Your dream finally comes true. It was everything and more."
Rookie Geno Smith, the Jets' possible Week 1 starter, and the injured Mark Sanchez sat this one out as both Rex Ryan and the Eagles' Chip Kelly rested their starters.
That meant Michael Vick also remained on Philadelphia's sideline after winning the Eagles' competition last week, earning the job ahead of Nick Foles while looking comfortable and effective running Kelly's up-tempo offense.
Smith, the Jets' second-round draft pick, was in uniform but was told Wednesday he wouldn't play anymore in the preseason.
"In our current situation with Mark being down, you just can't take any risks," Smith said.
Sanchez injured his right shoulder in the fourth quarter of the team's 24-21 overtime win over the Giants last Saturday night and is uncertain to start the season.
Ryan's decision to play Sanchez, who appeared to win the starting job after Smith threw three interceptions and stepped out of bounds for a safety, was highly criticized during the past few days.
Ryan said he wouldn't have put Sanchez out on the field if it wasn't "important," but Smith might have earned the season-opening start by default.
"Business as usual," Smith said when asked if he was approaching things as if he'll start. "That's something I always do and whether or not I am (starting), I will always approach it the same way."
The Jets have said only that Sanchez is "day to day" with the injury, but it's very possible Smith could be under center against Tampa Bay on Sept 8.
Ryan had no update on Sanchez after the game, and the quarterback left MetLife Stadium without addressing the media.
Simms, whose father Phil had plenty of big games against the Eagles in his days with the Giants, had his own Meadowlands moment.
He finished 33 of 44 for 285 yards while playing almost the entire game; newly signed Graham Harrell took a knee to end it.
Greg McElroy, whom Simms has been competing with, didn't play with an injured knee.
"We really wanted to get a good look at Simms, we really did," Ryan said. "I think he's earned that right. ... Matt jumped in and made the most of his opportunity."
Antonio Allen appeared to seal it for the Jets (3-1) when he intercepted Matt Barkley and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown with 1:57 remaining in the game.
But the Eagles (2-2) had one more chance after Zach Rogers dropped a fair catch of a punt with 45 seconds left. Matthew Tucker ran it in from 1 yard moments later to make it 27-20 with his second TD of the game for Philadelphia.
The ensuing onside kick attempt by the Eagles went out of bounds, sealing it for the Jets.
Foles was 6 of 17 for 63 yards in two quarters, before being replaced by Barkley to start the second half. Barkley was 13 of 27 for 134 yards and the interception.
"I don't think we protected (Foles) very well," Kelly said. "A lot of times, it was a four-man rush that was in his face. He didn't really have time to set his feet. We had some protection issues with the second O-line."
After Barkley led a tying touchdown drive for the Eagles, Simms went to work — and the Jets stayed on the field a while. Bell capped a 19-play drive over 80 yards that ticked 10:19 off the clock with a 2-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.
"He's been playing phenomenally all season," Bell said of Simms. "The kid's been coming out and slinging it."
Simms was sacked seven times in the first half, and the first came 2:21 into the game when he was taken down by Brandon Graham in the end zone for a safety that gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
The Jets got the ball back quickly, though, by forcing a turnover on second down when Ricky Sapp sacked Foles and forced a fumble that was recovered by Antonio Garay.
Simms then led a five-play scoring drive that included a defensive holding penalty and was capped by an 8-yard run by Bell, who took a direct snap in the wildcat formation.
Dan Carpenter, signed Tuesday to compete with incumbent Nick Folk, kicked a 45-yard field goal with 4:01 left in the opening quarter to make it 10-2.
Philadelphia took advantage of a fumble recovery by Colt Anderson late in the first half after Konrad Reuland lost the ball and put the Eagles deep in Jets territory. Alex Henery kicked a 38-yard field goal moments later to make it 10-5 with 2:34 left.
Barkley led a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive on the Eagles' second possession of the second half, capped by a 3-yard run by Tucker. The undrafted free agent out of TCU then took a handoff up the middle for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 13 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
"I've kind of been all over the place," Barkley said. "It's a different kind of rhythm you have to try and get in to. It's kind of bits and pieces. I think I've managed to do as best a job as I can. I'm learning as much as I can."
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