In a game that changed momentum in great, sweeping waves, the ending was absolutely surreal, improbable, magical.
Jake Elliott, signed two weeks ago after placekicker Caleb Sturgis suffered a hip injury the opening-day win at Washington, kicked a franchise-record 61-yard field goal on the game's last play to give the Eagles the winning points in a 27-24 win over the New York Giants on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I looked up and saw that the kick had a chance," Elliott said just as he was carried off the field and into the tunnel on the way to the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field. "I hit it clean and it was just an incredible feeling."
It was an incredible football game. The Eagles owned it for three quarters, leading 14-0 thanks to an airtight defense that rose to the occasion with a stirring goal-line stand at the end of the first half and an offense that got the running game in gear and scored two touchdowns in two trips to the red zone.
Up two touchdowns on a Giants team that hadn't scored 20 points for eight games? This one was in the bag, right?
The defense couldn't get off the field early in the fourth quarter, giving up a 55-yard touchdown drive, a 33-yard touchdown drive set up by a Zach Ertz fumble, and then a 77-yard Eli Manning-to-Sterling Shepard touchdown catch-and-run. The depleted Eagles' defense, which had already ruled out defensive backs Rodney McLeod (hamstring), Jaylen Watkins (hamstring), and Corey Graham (hamstring) before kickoff, lost middle linebacker Jordan Hicks to an ankle injury and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox with a calf injury in the first half.
"We just hung in there after a few bad plays," safety Chris Maragos said. "We didn't give up and we came back and got some stops when we really needed them."
The offense answered after the Shepard touchdown with a 75-yard scoring drive, aided by a 36-yard pass interference penalty against the Giants' Eli Apple and finished off by a 15-yard Corey Clement touchdown run, the first of his career, and the game was tied 21-21 with 5:40 remaining in the game.
New York put together another scoring drive and took a three-point lead with 2:17 remaining and then quarterback Carson Wentz and the running game – Wendell Smallwood had 29 yards on two carries and LeGarrette Blount picked up 6 yards on a run – set up Elliott for a 46-yard field goal to tie the game with 51 seconds remaining in the contest.
The defense forced a three-play possession by the Giants, and punter Brad Wing, perhaps haunted by late-game Giants punts against the Eagles from the past, shanked his kick. The 28-yarder went out of bounds at the Philadelphia 38-yard line with 13 seconds left.
On first down, Wentz threw incomplete for Smallwood, a play that ate six seconds off the clock. On second down, Wentz completed a 19-yard pass on the sideline for Alshon Jeffery, who scooted out of bounds with 1 second left on the clock.
Then it was Elliott's time.
"It was an unbelievable kick," Ertz said. "As I see that thing going, I'm like, 'This thing really has a chance.' It kept going and going and when they signaled that it was good, I was shocked."
Lincoln Financial Field erupted, and the Eagles' sideline flooded the field and, feted Elliott with hero status. The come-from-behind win was the very first from Wentz in the final seconds of a game. So, among other things, the young quarterback proved his mettle late in a very tough game played in temperatures in the upper 80s.
said. "We lost a lot of close football games last year (the Eagles were 1-6 in one-score games in 2016) and if we can keep sneaking out ones that are close this year, it can be the difference between a playoff team and a team that's not making the playoffs.
"It's always big when you win close ones especially in the division against a team like that."
Some takeaways from this game:
- Yes, Virginia, the Eagles can run the football. They dominated the Giants up front with 193 rushing yards on 39 attempts. What was extremely noticeable was the effort and the physicality with which the backs played. Smallwood broke tackles all day, as did Blount. Those two combined for 24 carries and 138 yards and a touchdown. Clement added 22 yards on six carries. Darren Sproles left with a worrisome wrist injury.
- The Eagles were 3-of-3 in the red zone after a 2-for-5 performance last week. It means all the difference in the world. The Giants were 2-of-5 on Sunday. As far as key stats go, touchdown efficiency in the red zone is huge.
- Ertz caught a touchdown pass a play after dropping one and he had eight catches and 55 yards. Jeffery had four catches and 56 yards and also drew a pass interference penalty that led to a touchdown.
- Stefen Wisniewski replaced Chance Warmack, who stepped in for Isaac Seumalo, at left guard early in the game. Wisniewski is the team's best option there right now. "We ran the ball, and we were physical and our protection was pretty good," said Wisniewski. "I thought we did some good things. The plan was for me to rotate in, so that's what we did. I stayed sharp and was ready when they called me."
- With Hicks out, the Eagles used Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks in nickel personnel. Bradham had eight tackles and Kendricks had seven with two passes defensed, one leading to an interception, in the win. "We just stepped up," Kendricks said. "It took everyone out there to get it done. We were down a lot of guys."
- Rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas started and had his first interception, a leaping grab down the sidelines on a throw intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. "My coach (defensive backs coach Cory Undlin) said I was going to have a high-point interception on a ball down the sidelines," Douglas said. "He called it. That's exactly how it happened. It was exciting."
- All that talk about how the Eagles would dominate New York's offensive line? It didn't quite happen that way because the Giants wouldn't let it happen. Manning got rid of the football quickly and the Eagles had to limit sending any extra pass rushers because of all the injuries on the back end. Manning was not sacked and was really knocked down only one time.
- The Eagles have now won six of the last seven games in the series against the Giants, who fell to 0-3 on the season.