Two weeks ago, Eagles fans did not know who kicker Jake Elliott was. Heck, some may not have known about him at 1 p.m. this afternoon, just before kickoff against the New York Giants.
At 4:27 p.m., though, Elliott's praises were being sung as he was carried off the field by linebackers Kamu Grugier-Hill and Mychal Kendricks after the kicker's game-winning and franchise-record 61-yard field goal slipped inside the right goal post as time expired to give the Eagles a 27-24 win over the New York Giants.
The field goal was also the longest by a rookie in NFL history, and it earned Elliott the honor of being the first player, by my recollection, to be carried off the field at the Linc.
"It's kind of all a blur to me," Elliott said. "I don't really know, all I know is that the ball was in the air for a really long time and really close to that right upright."
Typically after an Eagles game, head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz address the media in a press conference setting, while the rest of the players talk with reporters inside the locker room. After the monumental kick, the demand to hear from the hero warranted its own press conference.
"It's a little surreal. It's the life of a kicker though," Elliott said. "You have your ultimate ups and ultimate downs and just trying to enjoy it and we'll move on."
Elliott was a fifth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals out of Memphis back in April. Elliott was an All-America selection and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation's top kicker, in 2015. He set records at Memphis for most career points (445) and the longest field goal (56 yards). In fact, Elliott has four of the five farthest successful field goal tries in Tigers history.
He battled through some growing pains in the preseason and eventually lost the kicker job to Randy Bullock, but the Bengals kept Elliott on the practice squad. The rookie was signed by the Eagles after Caleb Sturgis injured his hip in the Week 1 win over Washington. Sturgis was placed on Injured Reserve. The Eagles hosted veteran kickers in a tryout and decided that Elliott was the best candidate to take Sturgis' roster spot. Even though the Bengals drafted him, Elliott didn't hesitate at the opportunity to sign with Philadelphia.
"Very, very hectic. That's for sure," Elliott said of the transition. "You're in one city – I just got an apartment back in Cincinnati and got it all furnished – and I get a phone call about two weeks later and then I'm moving to a new city and getting to know a new group of guys. The adjustment has been super smooth. The guys here are great. (Holder) Donnie (Jones) and (long snapper) Rick (Lovato) do a heck of a job, and I'm super thankful for that."
Last week in his NFL debut in Kansas City, Elliott was 2-of-3 in field goal attempts but also executed the first successful onside kick for the Eagles since 2012.
On Sunday, Elliott missed his first attempt, a 52-yarder, with 9:25 left in the third quarter. There was plenty of leg, but the ball hooked slightly to the left. He returned for his second try with 51 seconds remaining in the game. The Eagles had a 14-0 lead entering the final quarter before the Giants caught fire. New York led 24-21 as Elliott eyed up a 46-yard attempt that went through the uprights with no problems whatsoever to tie the game.
"I kind of approach every miss the same way and every make the same way," Elliott said. "I just have a one- to two-minute rule. It's something that I learned to do in high school. You miss a kick and you've got one minute to get over it and bounce back. You make a kick, enjoy it, and bounce back. I don't dwell on it for too long, but you know, it's definitely one that I wanted back, and I'm glad I got another opportunity."
The Eagles' defense forced a quick three-and-out then a bad punt by the Giants' Brad Wing gave the offense a sliver of a chance. Quarterback Carson Wentz's first-down pass to running back Wendell Smallwood was incomplete. But on second down, Wentz hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffery along the right sideline. Jeffery gained 19 yards and got out of bounds with just one second left with the ball at the Giants' 43-yard line.
Elliott lobbied for the chance to win the game for the Eagles. The Giants called their final timeout to try and ice the rookie. Last week in Kansas City, Elliott put a 30-yard attempt through the uprights but the Chiefs called timeout first. Lovato made sure not to snap the ball this time to preserve the kicker's leg. Adding to the pressure, the Giants sent out Odell Beckham Jr. to potentially catch a short kick and return it. Beckham already had two touchdown receptions on the day.
Elliott wasn't fazed by the moment as he crushed the ball giving it plenty of distance. The ball seemed to flirt with the right goal post before dancing inside the upright and sending the fans at Lincoln Financial Field into pure delirium.
Jones, an All-Pro punter who is in his 14th NFL season, ranks Sunday's win as an unforgettable one.
"That's probably in 14 years of playing football that's probably one of the greatest moments if not the greatest ultimate team victory I've ever been around," Jones said.
Elliott admitted that he will allow himself a few extra moments to relish in the accomplishment.
"We'll give it a day. Twenty-four hours," he said.
On this Sunday, the 5-9, 167-pound Elliott proved to be a giant when it mattered most.