Before two weeks ago, Jake Elliott was a name few, if any, Eagles fans had heard of. Heck, players and coaches didn't know who he was. Elliott had a good college career at Memphis and was drafted by the Bengals, but lost out in a kicking competition this summer. Elliott just wasn't going to be on your radar Unless you are a kicking enthusiast or a Memphis alumnus.
Elliott went from "Who?" to hero.
That's the beauty of the NFL. Games involve so many players and have such meaning that anyone can become a hero. Elliott nailed the longest field goal in team history and helped beat the Giants. It was a day when things had started well but went wrong late in the game. Elliott got a chance to redeem himself after missing an earlier field goal and he did so in spectacular fashion, earning a place in Eagles history. He will forever be the guy who hit the 61-yarder to break the hearts of the G-Men.
The Eagles were less than 100 percent from a health standpoint going into the game and only got worse after kickoff. Playing without two of your top three safeties would be tough enough, but then losing Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, and Darren Sproles made matters worse. Head coach Doug Pederson always talks about "next man up" and that certainly was the case on Sunday. The Giants came into Philly as a team desperate to save their season and it took a total team effort to beat them.
Think about the big plays. Elliott kicked the field goal. Quarterback Carson Wentz hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffery with a perfect pass to set up the kick. Rookie Corey Clement ran for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie the game up. That's an unusual combination of players. You had Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski rotating at left guard. The running game got going, with better blocking from the line and the tight ends. The running backs were terrific all game long. LeGarrette Blount was a 250-pound sledgehammer who the Giants didn't seem so keen on tackling. Wendell Smallwood led the team with 71 yards on the ground and he made some terrific blocks as well.
The defense had contributions from all over. Defensive end Vinny Curry used a hard inside move to stuff running back Orleans Darkwa on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. That kept points off the board. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks played a lot with Hicks out. Kendricks deflected a pass that cornerback Patrick Robinson picked off. Rookie Rasul Douglas had perfect coverage on a deep ball and picked off a pass at the 5-yard line. He showed amazing ball skills on that play.
That game wasn't a thing of beauty. The Eagles got out to a 14-0 lead, but then quarterback Eli Manning got red hot and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. started making key plays. Without him on the field, the Giants probably score 10 or 14 points. With him, they put up 24 in one quarter. That's the power of a great player.
Cornerback Jalen Mills battled Beckham all game long. Mills gave up catches, but limited yards. Beckham's long play of the game only covered 14 yards. There were also some drops and incompletions. Mills was credited with breaking up two passes, but he was a thorn in Beckham's side all game long. He just missed getting to the ball on a few other throws. Mills made Beckham work hard for every yard. He did play off coverage a lot, but broke on the ball multiple times and generally tackled well. Just because Beckham had a free release didn't mean he was making easy catches over and over.
The Giants were able to negate the Eagles' pass rush by having Manning get the ball out incredibly fast. Manning took a beating the first two weeks. The Giants' coaches knew they couldn't magically fix the line so they focused on the one area they could control. That meant getting the ball out as fast as possible. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said that 34 of the Giants' pass attempts were out of Manning's hand in fewer than two seconds. The Eagles focused on staying back and tackling receivers, trying to limit yards after the catch. This worked great for almost three quarters, but things got dicey in the fourth quarter.
A 14-0 lead turned into a 21-14 deficit. That's when Wentz and the Eagles' offense woke up and got going. The Eagles went on a 13-3 run to finish the game and win 27-24. Wentz can finally say he led the team from behind to win a game in the last minute. The Eagles kept getting close last year but lost. Things were different on Sunday.
There was some sloppy play for part of the second half. Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard got loose for a long touchdown after a short catch over the middle. Tight end Zach Ertz fumbled a ball away and set up a Giants score. Elliott missed a field goal. Douglas missed a tackle that gave the Giants first-and-goal. Jeffery was called for a facemask penalty. Mills was caught off-guard on a quick snap and Beckham got behind him for one play, forcing safety Malcolm Jenkins to tackle him and give the Giants a big pass interference penalty.
The Eagles also made the clutch plays when they had to. They marched right down the field when it was 21-14 and scored the tying touchdown. The Eagles got a third-down stop late, forcing the Giants to punt the ball that was shanked and only went 28 yards. The Eagles took advantage of that with a well-executed pass play that set up the game-winning field goal attempt. Also, don't lose sight of all the parts of the winning field goal. Long snapper Rick Lovato fired back a perfect snap and Donnie Jones got the ball down smoothly. It is easy to forget about the snapper and holder.
You have to give a lot of credit to the scouts and the personnel department for building a roster full of players who all helped the Eagles win. They found Elliott. They found Clement. They found Douglas. They signed Torrey Smith at a time when other teams had questions about him. They signed Robinson at a time when not many teams were interested in him. It seemed like every Eagle contributed on Sunday.
Give the coaching staff credit for getting everyone ready to play. When there are so many new faces in the lineup and the team still manages to win, that tells you the coaches did a great job of getting everyone prepared.
Give Pederson credit for the way he handled the game. He was aggressive throughout. He went for it on fourth down three times. The Eagles converted two of those and scored touchdowns on both drives. Pederson could have become conservative at the end of the game. Instead, he went for the win. Be honest. Didn't you get nervous for a second when you saw Beckham sitting underneath the goal post? If that kick is short and he takes off, who knows what is going to happen. Pederson showed faith in his new kicker and Elliott rewarded him.
The Eagles are still a work in progress. There are new faces in the lineup and injuries have complicated things beyond that. Give the team credit for finding a way to win. That victory keeps them at the top of the division and buried the Giants at 0-3.
There have been some amazing finishes in the Eagles-Giants rivalry over the years. Jake Elliott is now up there with Herm Edwards, Brian Westbrook, and DeSean Jackson as Eagles heroes in what might be the NFL's craziest rivalry.