LOS ANGELES –This is why they play four quarters in the game of football. The Eagles' defense had few answers for the powerful Los Angeles offense for the better part of three-plus quarters on Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but a pair of late-game stands turned the tide in a 43-35 Eagles win.
First, Chris Long beat Rams right tackle Darrell Williams, who replaced an injured Rob Havenstein, and reached out and stripped the football away from quarterback Jared Goff. Rodney McLeod recovered and the Eagles had a first down at the Los Angeles 25-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, trailing 35-34.
"It feels great to have a chance to make a play in that situation," Long said. "I felt I was close before that, and this time I just kept working and got home. Then the ball started bouncing all over the place and we got it and turned it into points."
After the Eagles took the lead on a Jake Elliott field goal, the defense forced a three-and-out offensive series and gave the ball back to the Philadelphia offense, which ran the clock all the way down to :01.
"We stepped up when we needed to," Long said. "They have a great offense. We needed to make a stand and we did to close it out."
Well, not quite. The Rams, looking for some last-play magic, tried to hook and ladder their way down the field, but defensive end Brandon Graham caught a lateral attempt by receiver Tavon Austin and returned the ball 16 yards for the touchdown.
"I didn't know what to do when I scored," Graham said, laughing. "I was so hyped. The crowd was going crazy and so was everybody on the sideline. It was a great win."
And it wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. The Eagles knew they would see a lot of running back Todd Gurley, and they did. Gurley had 13 carries for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added three catches for 39 yards. Gurley accounted for 135 of the Rams' 307 total net yards, carving up the Eagles between the tackles, getting to the edge and turning on the speed and catching passes and making defenders miss in the open field.
Gurley entered the game with 1,502 total yards from scrimmage, best in the NFL. He's that good.
Along with Gurley, the Eagles just didn't have answers for the Rams' offense through three quarters. If it wasn't Gurley hurting the defense, it was Goff getting the football out quickly in the screen game and in the short passing game. The Eagles pressured Goff with some intermittent pressure, but for the most part he had a clean pocket, as well as the ability to get away from pressure and move to open spaces to buy time.
A key drive in the game was the Rams' first after halftime, with the Eagles holding a 24-14 advantage. Los Angeles came out with the football and drove right down the field. A Gurley run on first down gained 17 yards, then he picked up 5 more yards and then Goff threw to Gurley on a well-conceived screen that gained 20 yards. Goff went to rookie Cooper Kupp for 23 yards to the Eagles' 6-yard line and two plays later trimmed the deficit to 24-21 on a 1-yard throw to wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Later in the third quarter, after a Carson Wentz touchdown pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery gave the Eagles a 31-28 lead in the third quarter, the Rams came right back with another touchdown drive, moving 75 yards on seven plays and scoring on a Gurley 1-yard run. Gurley had four carries for 34 yards on the drive.
But it all changed late in the game, when it mattered most. The defense rose to the moment, stuffing Gurley for losses on his final two carries and pressuring Goff, forcing a turnover and then a three-and-out series.
"Defense wins on the road. It wins everywhere," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We showed up at the right time today."
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and clinched the NFC East.