LANDOVER, Maryland – Three points down with four minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, quarterback Carson Wentz was thinking one thing: We're going to score and win this football game.
Eleven plays and 75 yards later, Wentz was in the end zone celebrating with wide receiver Greg Ward, who only a moment earlier had made a leaping, contested catch of a perfectly thrown rainbow from Wentz in the left corner of the end zone to give the Eagles a lead with 26 seconds remaining, and the defense stepped up with a perfectly timed Avonte Maddox blitz that forced a fumble recovered by Nigel Bradham, who rumbled 47 yards for the icing-on-the-cake touchdown.
Final score: Eagles 37-27 at FedEx Field in front of a crowd that was easily 80 percent Eagles fans.
"It was a win that we had to have and I just happened to make that play," said Ward, who had seven receptions for 61 yards on nine targets. "Carson made a perfect throw. My job was to get open. I knew the ball would be there and I was just thinking, 'Make the catch.' It's a great feeling for this football team."
Wentz completed all eight of his passes on the final drive, using the short passing game to move the chains and once connecting with tight end Dallas Goedert, who made an amazing one-handed grab, for 20 yards on a throw down the right side. As he did the previous Monday leading the Eagles to a comeback win against the Giants, Wentz was in command throwing to players thrust into action because of injury. Instead of Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, Wentz utilized Ward and the Eagles interchanged tight ends Goedert (5 catches, 55 yards) and Zach Ertz (5-61, touchdown) across the formation. Instead of Jordan Howard in the backfield, the Eagles mixed in Boston Scott (6 rushes, 26 yards; 7 receptions, 39 yards) with rookie Miles Sanders (19-122-1 rushing, 6-50-1 receiving). With right tackle Lane Johnson sidelined, Halapoulivaati Vaitai stepped in and played the entire game.
The Eagles rolled up 415 total net yards, converted 11 of 16 third downs, scored touchdowns three of four times inside the Washington 20-yard line, and had the football for 36 minutes, 57 minutes.
"We've been clicking and I have to give Carson a lot of credit," Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks said. "I think he's gotten a little bit of a bad rap this year, but he's played great football no matter who's been on the field. He's stepped up. He's a big-time leader and quarterback."
The Eagles needed every bit of Wentz and Sanders and Co. because the defense had trouble with a Washington offense that ranked last in the NFL coming into the game, averaging 14.5 points per game. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins wasn't sacked, was pressured very little, and completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one a 75-yard catch-and-run by rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin. Twice the Eagles took leads in the second half – 17-14 on a brilliant Wentz spin-out-of-trouble move and bullet throw to Sanders in the right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and another time after the offense scored on a Wentz-to-Ertz pass from 2 yards out – and each time the defense gave up points on the ensuing Washington offensive drive, a 75-yard touchdown drive and a 20-yard drive that ended with a field goal.
After Wentz fumbled late in the fourth quarter and Washington turned it into a field goal and a three-point lead at 27-24, Wentz and the offense went back on the field for a final time with only one thing in mind.
"We were going to score," Sanders said. "We were moving the football all game. We had a lot of confidence in each other, in Carson. We were going to find a way. That was the mindset."
A team that was 0-7 in games in which it trailed in the fourth quarter has now won two straight games when trailing in the fourth. Wentz is the primary reason why, as he's been able to thrive with a constantly changing cast of characters catching the football.
"It's a huge testament to the resiliency of this football team," Ertz said. "Obviously, we understand that every week something is at stake, and that's the postseason. Obviously, this game coming up (Dallas) is only important because of what we've done the past two weeks. It's a testament to the guys. It doesn't matter how we start. We've just got to find a way to finish, find a way to be successful.
"I feel like Carson's done a great job trusting everyone. The coaches have done a great job putting guys in position to be successful. The running game has picked up the past couple of weeks. Miles is playing his butt off, adding a spark. Boston, the same thing. I feel like we're hitting our stride at the right time, but obviously no bigger game than this week."
It's Dallas Week, with first place in the NFC East on the line. Sunday means everything. The Eagles have overcome their own misfortunes and missteps and injuries and here they are, in late-regular-season playoff games.
"Every game is a playoff game," Brooks said. "That's how we're treating it. We're battle-tested now."
Ward, who caught the game-winning pass and clutched the football all way back home to Philadelphia, did his post-game media tour, including an interview with NBC Sports' Peter King, and remained levelheaded. There is more football to be played.
The goal the Eagles set at the beginning of the season, winning the NFC East, is within their grasp.
"That's what it's all about," Ward said. "We have guys stepping up all over the place and that's why we've won the last two weeks. We have to keep it going. I'm already over this game. I'm thinking about Dallas. It's a big one for us."
Ah, yes it is.
Dallas and the Eagles tangle Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. With everything that has happened this season, it comes down to this for the Eagles, a team that has stretched the limits of the roster like in no other season.