By Tucker Bagley
Nick Foles has had some great performances in an Eagles' uniform. He threw seven touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders in 2013. He put up 38 points against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Oh, and he also delivered the city of Philadelphia its first Lombardi Trophy after out-lasting Tom Brady in an all-time shootout.
And despite all of that success, it's still shocking to see him put together a game like he did yesterday, leading the Eagles to victory behind four touchdown passes and a franchise-record 471 passing yards. Seriously, how could someone like Foles do something like this?
Nick Foles misses one play after the big hit by Jadeveon Clowney on the Alshon Jeffery reception, but leads the Eagles down the field for the game-winning field goal. Eagles win it 32-30! pic.twitter.com/WM3NszqaWc— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) December 23, 2018
That completion sparked a 72-yard drive to set up a game-winning field goal, sending fans home happy and the Eagles into Week 17 with their playoff hopes still intact, but it wasn't at all easy.
Foles fumbled inside the Eagles 10-yard-line in the first half, setting up a Deshaun Watson's second touchdown run of the game. Foles then opened the second half with an interception at midfield, but the ensuing Texans drive yielded zero points. From there, Foles simply took over.
The Eagles tied the game with a field goal on their next drive, then Foles hit Nelson Agholor for an 83-yard score and Zach Ertz for his second touchdown of the game to build a seemingly insurmountable lead. Of course we know, that wasn't the case. Josh Adams fumbled, the defense struggled to contain Watson and DeAndre Hopkins and suddenly that 13-point advantage became a one-point deficit with just two minutes remaining.
But that didn't seem to faze Foles. Seriously, what could surprise this guy? He'd been benched, traded and cut before considering retirement. Since then, he's 9-2 as a starter in Kansas City and Philadelphia. Attempting a comeback to save the season? No problem.
"It’s emotional, I love playing in Philly," Foles said following what could be his last home start at Lincoln Financial Field. "I knew there was a chance this could be it. I don’t think about the future, but I am aware of that because this city means a lot to me, this team means a lot to me, wearing that jersey means a lot to me."
It seemed like a proper send off for Foles, should this be it. It wasn't pretty, it didn't make a whole lot of sense and it left everyone more mystified at how this guy can continue defy logic and expectations on a weekly basis.
The odds of another parade up Broad Street are long as are the Birds' chances of just making the playoffs, but St. Nick delivering 17 weeks of relevant football is a damn good present.
Did not play: Sidney Jones (hamstring), Carson Wentz (back)
Jason Peters: Peters suffered a quad injury early on the Eagles' opening drive and never returned. Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced him at left tackle and struggled mightily against Jadeveon Clowney. Vaitai allowed just one sack, but he was flagged for a couple holding penalties, including one that negated a touchdown by Josh Adams. For Peters, this marks the fourth time in 2018 he's had to miss extended time in a game. The veteran has said he wants to play beyond this year, but his body is starting to fail him.
83: Foles' 83-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor was the first 80-yard completion by an Eagles quarterback since Michael Vick hooked up with Desean Jackson for a 91-yard score in 2010.
3: Since returning from injury, Darren Sproles has been a huge boost to the Eagles offense, scoring three touchdowns in four games and coming up big in clutch situations. He converted a fourth down on his touchdown on Sunday and his other two scores have either tied the game or given the Eagles a lead. After spending 10 weeks nursing a hamstring injury, it is incredible to see the 14-year veteran play like this.
31: According to FiveThirtyEight.com, the Eagles have just a 31-percent chance of making the playoffs following yesterday's action. The Eagles are eliminated from NFC East contention with the Cowboys' win over the Buccaneers yesterday, but can still qualify for the final wild card spot, should they defeat Washington next week and the Minnesota Vikings lose to the Chicago Bears.
History Tells Us...
The Eagles are 8-7 for the second time in franchise history. They finished 9-7 in 1978 before falling to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the playoffs. In NFL history, 146 teams have started a season 8-7, but only 44 of them qualified for the postseason. The 2011 New York Giants are the only one who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Up: Lane Johnson
Johnson wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl and his frustration helped him turn in his best performance of 2018, per Sheil Kapadia:
Lane Johnson told a few of us that he drove to NovaCare at 2:30 a.m. the night Pro Bowl bids were announced and he didn't make it.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) December 23, 2018
"Slept up there. I’m not joking. I swear to God. I slept in the locker room. Woke up around 7:30 to get breakfast and go to meetings.”
Johnson was pumped with how he played against J.J. Watt.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) December 23, 2018
"I want to show what I can do against HOF guys, a guy that’s (got) 14.5 sacks. Go watch the tape, man. There is no chips, there’s no nothing. It’s 1-on-1. So hopefully I won’t get (f’d) out of some other votes coming up." https://t.co/ip4ltZbn3X
Johnson held JJ Watt to zero sacks and nary a quarterback hit on the afternoon. After struggling with injuries earlier in the season, it seems the former All Pro is finally healthy and dominating again.
Down: Josh Adams
Adams seemed to have a stranglehold on the Eagles starting running back job, but he's struggled these past two weeks, rushing for 49 yards on 26 carries. The rookie has seemed hesitant at times and hasn’t found the holes he was finding earlier in the year. To cap it off, his fumble in the fourth quarter kick-started Houston's comeback bid and was the catalyst for the Eagles losing their 13-point lead. The Texans boast one of the best run defenses in the NFL, so there isn't much shame in struggling against them, but the Eagles now have a huge question mark at running back.
Up: Chris Long
Long has played 10 percent more snaps in 2018 and his effectiveness has waned with the increased workload. However, he was downright dominant on Sunday, finishing with two sacks, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. On a day where the Eagles pass rush was supposed to dominate an inferior opponent, Long was the only one who showed up.
Down: Michael Bennett
Bennett has been the Eagles best defensive end this season, but he failed to make an impact on Sunday. The veteran failed to record a solo tackle or a quarterback hit. To be fair, Fletcher Cox didn’t fare much better, but he had a quarterback hit and recovered a fumble.
1. Zach Ertz dominated early on, catching four passes on the Eagles opening drive and picking up a pair of first downs as well. But his afternoon became historic in the third quarter when he caught an 11-yard pass to set the single-season receptions record for tight end. Ertz even had a big catch on the Eagles final drive to set up Jake Elliott's game-winning field goal. It feels like we waited a decade for Ertz to finally become a star, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this kind of production from the former second-round pick.
2. The Eagles defense continues to struggle in the fourth quarter, as they allowed 14 points to the Texans and failed to protect their two-possession lead. The Eagles have allowed 7.1 points per game in the fourth quarter this season, good for 20th in the NFL. Fatigue, injuries and the failure to force turnovers have been just some of the issues the Eagles have faced on the defensive side of the ball, but the inability to get stops in crunch time is a direct cause for at least three of their losses in 2018 and almost sank their season yesterday.
3. Football players are a different breed than us, Example 132:
You want to know what mental toughness is?? Early in 3rd quarter Cre’von LeBlanc broke a finger on his right hand.. it was at a 90 degree angle. Bone sticking thru the skin. They popped it back in place. Taped it up. He played the rest of the game. #truegrit— Derrick Gunn (@RealDGunnNBCS) December 24, 2018
The Eagles will fight for their lives once again on Sunday at 4:25 when they play the Washington Redskins. The Eagles dispatched Washington earlier this year and the Redskins are now down to their fourth-string quarterback after benching Mark Sanchez.
The other game worth watching is the Bears-Vikings game which will be going on at the same time. For the Eagles to make the postseason, they need the Bears to win and, luckily, Chicago has something to play for, so the Vikings won’t be handed an easy victory and playoff berth.