LOS ANGELES – Magic? Maybe. Something was different about this Eagles team on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The energy, the urgency … an offense that moved the ball with a perfect mix of the run and the pass, taking chances down the field, playing with aggressiveness and confidence. The defense, undermanned still, playing with so much heart. The Eagles won one of those games against the Rams, reviving the “Underdog” theme just like 2017 and pulling out a 30-23 heart-stopper behind the play of starting quarterback Nick Foles and a team effort – offense, defense, and special teams – that we hadn’t quite seen this year.
Now 7-7 and very much in the thick of the NFC playoff picture, the Eagles return to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to play Houston.
“I think this was a good statement win for us to come on the road and show that we have confidence, for Foles to do what he did, it was a great win for our team,” said defensive end Michael Bennett, who was part of a defensive effort that limited the Rams and star running back Todd Gurley to 82 rushing yards on 18 attempts, forcing the Rams to be one-sided offensively. “We’ve got two more big games coming up, starting with the Texans next week. Right now, though, we’ll enjoy this one.”
It certainly was one to enjoy. The Eagles and Rams went back and forth in the first half, punching and counter punching. Foles played as Foles plays – resourcefully, at times not particularly artistic, but effective and daring. The Eagles and Rams ended the first half tied, 13-13, and one thing was certain: The Eagles showed they could move the football against the Rams both on the ground and in the air.
Philadelphia outscored the Rams 17-0 in the third quarter – moving 59 yards on a Foles-to-Alshon Jeffery 50-yard pass and then scoring on Wendell Smallwood’s spinning 9-yard run to go up 20-13, following that with a 10-play, 52-yard drive that ended with Jake Elliott’s 40-yard field goal, and then, in a crazy sequence, turning a Corey Graham interception and 16-yard return to the Los Angeles 12-yard line into a second Smallwood touchdown run from 4 yards out – to lead 30-13 after three quarters.
“We felt that, with our offensive line, we could run the ball and we could throw it on them,” said Smallwood, who led a 111-yard rushing effort by the Eagles with 48 yards on 10 carries. “I watched the film of this game last year and Jay (Ajayi) was running hard, breaking tackles. That’s the approach I took and it worked out for us.”
The Eagles held on in the fourth quarter as Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw incomplete on the final play of the game – from the 18-yard line he threw to the right side for Josh Reynolds, and the pass was incomplete – and the Eagles had the win they absolutely needed to have to stay in the playoff hunt.
Of course, the biggest of the big stories was the play of Foles, who completed 24 of 31 passes for 270 yards in the game. Foles made one critical mistake when he threw an interception in the red zone with the Eagles ahead 30-13 and that play changed the momentum of the game in the fourth quarter, but for the most part Foles played his kind of game. He was calm and poised and touched very little as the offensive line did a superb job working against the Rams’ dynamic pass rush. Foles connected with Jeffery eight times for 160 yards and also spread the ball around to seven pass catchers.
“Nick was great out there. That’s what we expect from him,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who had three receptions for 22 yards. “It was a team effort, one that we needed. We knew how important this game was for us.”
As much as the offense and defense led the way, the special teams also sparkled. Cameron Johnston averaged 52.3 net yards on his three punts. The coverage teams were outstanding and, late in the fourth quarter, recovered a muffed punt that allowed the offense to eat time off the clock. Jake Elliott was then short on a 53-yard field goal attempt, but he had earlier nailed kicks from 51 yards, 34 yards, and 40 yards.
All of it, every bit of it, was needed on this night, in this setting, in front of a national television audience.
The Eagles didn’t back down and they didn’t allow adversity to alter their course. They needed this game. They had to have it.
“It’s a great win. It feels great,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We had to pull this one out and we did it.”
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' game against the Los Angeles Rams.