Jake Elliott felt some nerves, he admits. A big kick, game on the line ... and he was watching his television, like all of us, on Saturday as the NFL's postseason marched on. Elliott experienced something he doesn't feel when he's on the field lining up a big kick for the Eagles.
"It's a lot more nerve-wracking watching than actually doing it, if that makes any sense," Elliott said on Sunday morning as he reacted to game-winning field goals on Saturday by Cincinnati rookie Evan McPherson and then San Francisco veteran Robbie Gould. "I almost feel more comfortable out there doing it myself. I was excited, just like any other fan is in that situation. I'm excited for the kick and hopefully a positive outcome. It was a lot of fun watching both of those guys get it done. Those two were two huge kicks in huge games. Situations don't get much bigger than that, so it was a lot of fun to watch for me.
"Those are the situations you dream of and those are the situations that you want to be in. That's why you want to be a kicker in the NFL, to be able to be put in those situations and to walk off and to be a so-called hero. You've got to really love those situations. Those two guys are two of the best in the league right now and I'm glad it came down to them."
Saturday's playoffs again reminded us how important it is to have good special teams and placekickers who can deliver, and the Eagles are fortunate with Elliott, who finished his fifth season in Philadelphia. Elliott was tremendous in 2021, making 30 of 33 field goals – his 90.9 percent success rate set a franchise record – and converting all 44 of his PAT kicks to score a career-high 134 points. He was 3 for 3 beyond 50 yards and Elliott's kickoffs were right where he wanted them to be.
In all, it was the best season of his career. Elliott is just hitting his prime and the Eagles are fortunate to have someone who is so consistent, who has a big leg when needed, and who steps up at the biggest moments. He knows all about walk-off field goals like the 52-yarder McPherson had as the Bengals upset Tennessee and the 45-yarder in the wind and snow and cold like Gould had as the 49ers shocked Green Bay at Lambeau Field. It was Elliott who boomed a 61-yard field goal in 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field to defeat the Giants and ignite a nine-game Eagles win streak in the Super Bowl Championship season. During that playoff run, Elliott made all seven of his field goal attempts and was 7 for 9 on PATs as the Eagles brought home the Lombardi Trophy.
In the Super Bowl LII win over New England, Elliott made field goals of 43 and 46 yards, the longest in NFL history by a rookie, and the clutch 46-yarder that came with 1:05 remaining in the game provided the final margin for victory in the 41-33 win.
"I feel like I've always been really comfortable in higher-pressure situations and those are the situations that I really thrive in and enjoy being in," Elliott said. "I hope we have a lot more opportunities for me to make big kicks in the postseason in the future. I feel really good about where we're going as a team."
As for admiring his fellow placekickers on Saturday night, Elliott called McPherson "a stud. He's got a great leg, a lot of poise, he's confident. He strikes the ball really well. He does a lot of things right, especially as a rookie coming in and stepping up on those big stages. It's cool to see. He's going to have a really long and really good career." As for Gould, Elliott has long been a fan. Gould kicked with Chicago from 2005-15 and Elliott, who was born and raised in La Grange, Illinois, took notice.
"Growing up in Chicago, I got to watch him playing for the Bears and he was always kind of an idol to me," said Elliott, who was an all-state placekicker in his senior year at Lyons Township High School. "Watching him still have success while I'm well into my career now is pretty remarkable that he's still doing it. He's definitely one of those guys that I've looked up to for a while. I have a lot of respect for him."
Elliott, the fan, imagined what it was like for Gould on the field.
"There are no gimmes from 45 yards in those conditions. You almost have to connect perfectly, and he did and won a huge game for them," Elliott said. "The field was frozen and slippery and the play clock is ticking away and he is trying to clear a little path for himself. It was just a remarkable kick at a pressure moment."