This has been a strange season for the Philadelphia Eagles, and perhaps the oddest twist came on Sunday.
There’s probably no cause-and-effect in play, but when Nick Foles filled in for Carson Wentz on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles finally looked like the championship team we saw last season. Foles, who won Super Bowl MVP last season, led one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this season, as Philadelphia beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-23. The Eagles are 7-7, not in great shape in the playoff race but still alive with two weeks to go. The 8-6 Seahawks and the 7-6-1 Vikings have the NFC wild-card spots for now. The Eagles are still in range, and only trail the NFC East-leading Cowboys by a game too.
The Rams, who started 11-1, looked bad for the second straight week in a loss. The upset loss was a severe blow to their chances of getting the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The second half was a stunning display of futility, with Jared Goff stumbling to the ground and throwing a back-breaking interception, a fake punt that fell incomplete and not a lot of fight from the defense.
When the Rams showed some signs of life, punt returner JoJo Natson simply dropped the ball and the Eagles recovered the unforced fumble with 2:51 left. That gave the Rams little time after a missed field goal, and Todd Gurley couldn’t get out of bounds on a key play in the final seconds, bleeding precious time off the clock. Then a final pass into the end zone fell incomplete. The Rams, considered the NFL’s best team through 13 weeks of the season, were mostly a mess on Sunday night.
And on the other side, the Eagles had their Super Bowl-winning quarterback back in the lineup, and looked like a championship-level team for the first time since February.
Nick Foles to the rescue again
Foles has had a strange career. He’s capable of getting hot and playing as well as anyone, often for weeks at a time. He’s also capable of looking like an overwhelmed backup. We saw the best of Foles in the Eagles’ last two playoff games last season. That didn’t carry over to his starts in Weeks 1 and 2 of this season, when Wentz was still healing from a torn ACL.
Wentz came back for the Eagles’ third game, and never looked quite right. We found out this week he had a stress fracture in his back. While the Eagles briefly put on an act like Wentz had a shot to play against the Rams, everyone knew Foles would get the start.
Good Foles showed up on Sunday night. Foles completed 24-of-31 passes for 270 yards. He was willing to take shots downfield, and that led to a huge night from Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery had 160 yards. The running game showed signs of life. The Eagles defense played great most of the night against a Rams offense that has been one of the best in football. Foles didn’t have much to do with the defense clamping down on the Rams, but it was easily the Eagles’ best team performance of the season.
The Eagles are not yet dead in the playoff race, shockingly enough. They will need some help, even if they win out, but the defending Super Bowl champions are still alive. Maybe Foles has another crazy magic act left to go. He has surprised us before.
Rams take a damaging loss
The Rams lost last week against the Bears, and they looked awful against the Eagles, aside from a rally in the final minutes. The offense is out of sync. The Eagles, who gave up 576 yards against Dallas last week and have been hammered with injuries at cornerback, took away the deep play from the Rams. The Rams never really adjusted. It’s not an offense that functions at its best having to dink-and-dunk all the way down the field.
The Rams’ loss is potentially enormous in the NFC playoff picture. The Saints need to win only two of their remaining three games to clinch the top seed in the NFC. It will be hard for the Rams or anyone else to win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in January. Thanks to the Rams loss on Sunday, the road is wide open for the Saints to get home-field advantage through the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Eagles still have some hope. Maybe it’s a slight hope, but that’s more than anyone figured they’d have after playing at the Rams without Wentz. The most unexpected storyline of the Eagles season would be Foles coming to the rescue and saving them. Again.
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