The magic of Saint Nick reappeared Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, helping the Philadelphia Eagles capture a 30-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams in one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The drill is quite familiar by now: Nick Foles steps in for Carson Wentz, the public doubts Foles’ ability to lead the charge and the team responds by rising to improbable heights.
That story began to unfold at this very stadium this time last year. Wentz was lost to a multiligament tear in his left knee, Foles took over at quarterback and the Eagles started a ridiculous run that included three postseason wins as underdogs on the way to a Super Bowl championship — the first in the organization’s history.
Despite all that, the oddsmakers moved the point spread from as low as 7.5 points to 13.5 points when the news of Wentz’s back injury hit this week, putting Foles and the Eagles as two-touchdown underdogs.
“It was really emotional,” Foles said of this week. “You hate for your teammate to get hurt. I’ve said it before. I feel really bad for Carson. We’re tight in that QB room. … You go through the human emotions. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past — it doesn’t matter once you step onto that field. It’s a new day. It was really just dealing with the emotions, prepping as hard as I could and then realizing I wasn’t alone. I have great teammates out there.”
Foles finished 24-of-31 for 270 yards and an interception. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. The offense came to life under Foles, hitting the 30-point mark for just the second time all season. Alshon Jeffery caught all eight of his targets and finished with a season-high 160 receiving yards.
“Nick just did a hell of a job just finding me, just throwing the ball, and did a heck of a job just making plays,” Jeffery said.
As 13.5-point underdogs, it was the second-largest upset of the season behind the Buffalo Bills’ 27-6 toppling of the Minnesota Vikings (favored by 17) in Week 3. It was Philly’s largest upset win since 19985.
The defending champs still have life at 7-7. Their chances of making the playoffs jumped to 29 percent, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index projections. A loss would have dropped those odds to 5 percent.
The Rams nearly erased a 30-13 deficit, but a bobbled JoJo Natson punt return was knocked away by the Eagles’ Tre Sullivan and recovered by teammate D.J. Alexander late in the fourth, giving possession back to Philly. One final rally by L.A. ended as Jared Goff’s pass to the corner of the end zone fell incomplete.
The Eagles are at their best when being counted out. Their mentality was evident pregame when injured safety Rodney McLeod came out of the tunnel holding a ski mask, signaling the team’s intention to steal the game.
“They’ve already got the script written, apparently,” he said.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins agreed with the sentiment.
“Where we are right now, if we want to continue to play, we’ve got to go take it,” Jenkins said. “And so for us, it’s kind of that season where we’re going to go steal everything we’ve got. Whether it’s the ball, whether it’s the game, our chance to go play in the postseason, we’ve got to go take it.”
The defense intercepted Goff twice and suppressed a high-octane Rams offense for the first three quarters. It was the first home loss of the season for the Rams, who had been averaging 38 points per game at the Coliseum.
It was revealed Friday that Wentz has a stress fracture in his back that could take three months to recover from, according to Eagles coach Doug Pederson. Wentz has been seeking medical opinions on his injury outside the team. While he hasn’t been ruled out for the season, there’s a good chance this is Foles’ show the rest of the way.
It not only gives Foles an opportunity to make more money — under his restructured contract, he gets an extra $250,000 for every game in which he plays at least 33 percent of the snaps, and another $250,000 if the Eagles win that game — but sets up intrigue heading into the offseason.
Foles’ contract includes an option for 2019 that both parties would have to be on board with to exercise. The base salary in 2019 is scheduled to be $20 million.
Wentz, meanwhile, is eligible for a new deal after this season.
There is plenty to watch when it comes to the Eagles’ quarterbacks in the coming weeks and months. But there are more pressing matters.
The visitors left L.A. hearing the chants of “Let’s go, Eagles!” from the Philly-friendly crowd. They head home to play the 10-4 Houston Texans on Sunday, before finishing the regular season at the Washington Redskins.
Meaningful football remains, thanks in part to Foles and the spark he provided Sunday night.
“We don’t get into a comparison game of who’s doing what, but right now, Nick is the quarterback, and he had a hell of a game that helped us win the game,” Jenkins said. “We know that we have that in Nick. And so for us, we’ll go through the week, and who we’re going into the game with, that’s who we’re going to try and win with. And we have wholehearted belief in everybody that puts those pads on.”
SOURCE: ESPN, by Tim McManus