Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Fourth-quarter madness ends with Eagles atop NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles
23 Oct 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

What did you text your friends during the course of Thursday's game against the Giants, one that meant so much to the Eagles in the NFC East? First drive, Eagles score a touchdown and it's like, "We are rolling!"

By the middle of the fourth quarter, it was more along the lines of, "What in the heck is this team doing?????"

And then, erasing an 11-point deficit in the final seven minutes of the game, the final big play from quarterback Carson Wentz, it was "OMGGGGGGGGGGGG" as running back Boston Scott hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead points and defensive end Brandon Graham had a strip-sack of New York quarterback Daniel Jones and ... it ... was ... over.

Final score: Eagles 22, Giants 21.

A season saved.

"It was an ugly game, it was an ugly game. We left a lot of points out there, a lot of plays," said Wentz, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns, along with one interception. Wentz also had seven carries for 14 yards and a touchdown. "But to stay in it, to keep believing, keep fighting, and pull it out, I'm proud of these guys.

"This was a huge one for us."

Oh, yes it was.

This was a maddening game, no doubt about it, and the Eagles aren't going to win any style points. It doesn't matter. The Eagles are 2-4-1 with a mini-bye weekend ahead and then another prime-time game a week from Sunday against Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field. It appeared as if the Giants drove a stake into the Eagles' NFC East Division hopes after a 15-play, 97-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Sterling Shepard made it 21-10 with 6:17 left in the game.

But hold on. Wentz wasn't yet finished. A four-play, 78-yard drive highlighted by a Wentz 59-yard completion to wide receiver John Hightower ending with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Ward trimmed the deficit to 21-16 after a failed two-point conversion.

New York picked up a pair of first downs on the next possession, but then a third-down pass from quarterback Daniel Jones landed on the fingertips of tight end Evan Engram, who dropped the perfect throw. A catch there would have ended the game. A drop kept the Eagles alive. And they made the most of the final chance to win a must-have game.

The Eagles sent out DeSean Jackson to return the ensuing punt and he caught Riley Dixon's punt at the 14-yard line and returned it 2 yards before being tackled. New York's Corey Ballentine was penalized for initiating contact with his helmet and the Eagles had the football at their 29-yard line with 2:02 remaining in the game. Jackson was helped by trainers to the sideline before being carted off to the locker room. Head Coach Doug Pederson didn't have an update immediately after the game. Two completions to tight end Richard Rodgers gained 41 yards to the New York 30-yard line. A defensive pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 21-yard line. Scott gained 12 yards and then 4 yards, to the New York 5-yard line. Another defensive penalty, a holding call, moved the ball to the 3-yard line.

And then .. craziness. Center Jason Kelce was penalized 15 yards for a face mask, moving the ball to the 18-yard line. First-and-goal from the 18? Nothing less than a touchdown would do. And Wentz made it happen with a perfect throw on the right side to Scott, working against safety Jabrill Peppers.

Perfect throw. Perfect catch, just inside the pylon, and the Eagles had the lead.

"There's a lot of emotions there. It was kind of a big, exciting moment, but a big kind of sigh of relief because we know we left a lot of plays out there," Wentz said. "But the way we battled and found a way at the end of the game was huge for us."

Wentz added that Scott wasn't the primary read on the game-winning touchdown.

"I stepped up in the pocket and the guy had pretty good coverage, but you know giving Boston the chance there to make a play and he did," he said. "I mean he plays bigger than whatever he is 5-7. He plays bigger than that. And then he made a great play and I was pretty surprised we pulled it off when I threw it, I thought I was a little high, but like I said, he plays bigger than he is."

Graham finished it off and, well, the Eagles sit here today on this Friday in first place in the NFC East at 2-4-1. The season is alive.

This one wasn't pretty. The Eagles were only 3-of-8 in the red zone with a Wentz interception, a Jake Elliott missed 29-yard field goal, and a stop on fourth down at the 3-yard line when Wentz threw a jump ball to tight end Hakeem Butler that, in all honesty, should have been another defensive penalty on the Giants. They converted just 4 of 13 first downs. Philadelphia missed two two-point conversion plays.

It was, as Wentz said, ugly.

But a win is a win is a win. And Wentz completed 5 of 7 passes for 121 yards on the final two drives, averaging 17.3 yards per pass with two touchdowns for the 10th fourth quarter or overtime comeback win in his career.

The Eagles have a lot to unpack after this win - they welcomed back right tackle Lane Johnson and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and neither of them finished the game - and they will do so over the weekend. Wentz, for example, has scored 34 points in the last two fourth quarters - the loss against Baltimore and the win over New York.

The offensive line started Sua Opeta at left guard and Nate Herbig at right guard and Wentz took a beating as he was sacked three times (two of them coverage sacks) and hit another 10 times. The running game inside the 10-yard line was not effective. The defense allowed 160 yards rushing to a Giants offense that averaged less than 90 per game this season and the 97-yard touchdown drive after the failed fourth-down attempt was painful to watch.

But ...

"First place in the NFC East," defensive back Jalen Mills said. "That's all that matters."

That's the truth. Warts and all, the Eagles found a way to win. And all of those messages to your friends and fellow Eagles fans? At the end of a very long night, before falling to sleep, you knew the season was still alive. The Eagles, a puzzle in so many ways, put the pieces together to win another classic game against the Giants. They will enjoy every bit of the long weekend ahead.

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