The defending Super Bowl champs are not done, yet.
To stay alive, they had to turn to their reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and he delivered. Foles threw for 270 yards to lead an improbable 30-23 victory over the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night at the L.A. Coliseum. With Carson Wentz out with a stress fracture in his back, Foles assumed command of the team again – just like he did in Week 13 last week in, ironically enough, L.A., and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl LII championship.
The Eagles were double-digit underdogs to the Rams, but found a way to capture their third win in their last four games. Now 7-7, the Eagles are a half-game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the sixth and final wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs.
“Our backs are against the wall,” head coach Doug Pederson told reporters at his postgame news conference in L.A. “Our guys came out aggressively and we were fortunate enough to go away with a win and move on to the next one.”
The next one for the Eagles is their final home game on Sunday against the Houston Texans, who lead the AFC South and are currently the No. 2 seed on the AFC playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Rams are staggering now. They have lost two in a row and dropped to 11-3. More importantly, they are in deep trouble when it comes to trying to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. L.A. trails the New Orleans Saints in that race to be the home team throughout the postseason, and the Saints (11-2) play at Carolina on Monday night. New Orleans hold with s the head-to-head tiebreaker earned by beating the Rams earlier this year in the Superdome.
Foles did his part, but so did the Eagles’ defense, picking off two Jared Goff passes and their special teams forced and recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles missed a chance to seal the game after that special teams fumble recovery by linebacker D.J. Alexander when Jake Elliott missed a 53-yard field goal with 1:08 to play.
Handed good field position after Elliott’s miss, the Rams drove deep into Eagles territory but a pass into the end zone fell incomplete as time expired and with Eagles rookie Avonte Maddox in tight coverage.
Maddox had one interception of Goff. Corey Graham had the other.
Graham’s pick was gift from Goff, who stumbled dropping back from center then, for some reason, just tried to flip the ball up. It landed in Graham’s arms – his second game with an interception. He ran a few yards to set up the Eagles at the Rams’ 12 late in the third quarter.
Wendell Smallwood scored his second rushing touchdown of the night, this one a 4-yard burst from there to cap a 17-point outburst that turned a 13-13 halftime tie into a 30-13 lead with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
Goff didn’t look comfortable all night with Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox throwing L.A. lineman around like they were middle schoolers. The Rams were only able to convert four of 13 third downs.
Foles, though, took center stage. He was back in the saddle kept the Eagles’ rocky ride to the playoffs on track. It’s still a road fraught with deep ruts and sharp drop-offs, but he has given his team hope.
His favorite target in his first game since Week Two was Alshon Jeffery, who made eight catches for a season-high 160 yards. His 49-yard catch set the Eagles up at the L.A. 9-yard line. On the next play from there, Wendell Smallwood raced in for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 20-13 lead.
In addition to his two touchdowns, Smallwood had 48 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Eagles ran the ball 30 times for 111 yards and are now 7-0 when they record 27 or more rushes.
“I thought all the backs did a nice job,” said Pederson. “Wendell, I’ve always had a lot of confidence in Wendell, and he did nice job tonight. I thought our offensive line did some nice things controlling the line of scrimmage at times, opening up a few of those gaps and lanes.”
The ability to run the ball made life a bit easier for Foles, though he did absorb some vicious hits from Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh after hanging in the pocket to the last possible second to deliver the ball.
The quarterback completed 24 of 31 throws with one interception and on touchdowns.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caight three passes to go over 100 for the season. He now has 101 and is trying to set the NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end set by Jason Witten, who made 110 in 2012.
Goff was 35 of 54 for 339 yards and two picks. Running back Todd Gurley had 12 carries for 48 yards and two rushing touchdowns and added another 10 catches for 76 yards.