Eagles Stay Alive with Walk-off Win over Texans
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Perhaps fortune favors the bold and while Bill O'Brien was trying to old-school his way into an AFC South title and a potential first-round bye, Doug Pederson was coaching with a sense of urgency resulting in Philadelphia walking off with a 32-30 win when Jake Elliott buried a 35-yard field goal as time expired.
O'Brien was playing it safe with a 16-13 advantage, turning a short field into a quick three-and-out with conservative play-calling and then eschewing a 4th-and-2 near midfield in favor of flipping the field, something that quickly resulted in the longest passing play of Nick Foles' and Nelson Agholor's lives, an 83-yard bomb that stole the will of Houston for a bit.
"Nick made a check at the line for that coverage," Agholor said. "I can't say enough about that ball. He threw a beautiful ball and gave me a chance to run under it and that was it."
When Zach Ertz rumbled in from 23 yards out with just over 10 minutes to go the Eagles had scored 16 consecutive points and the Texans planning the bus ride to Philadelphia International.
An ill-timed Josh Adams fumble gave Houston life, however, and Deshaun Watson was brilliant leading the Texans to two consecutive touchdowns.
That was only the setup for the latest Nick Foles storybook win, a script made even more dramatic when the Super Bowl MVP hung in with Jadeveon Clowney bearing down, resulting in a 19-yard reception to Alshon Jeffery and another 15 yards tacked on when Clowney got flagged for nearly decapitating Foles.
Referee John Parry wasn't exactly the most popular person in Philadelphia during the game but made up for it there as Clowney's hit was devastating but clean.
"I didn't get an explanation on that," O'Brien said. "It's tot [the officials] fault. It was a pretty chaotic scene there with the quarterback down. I won't make a comment on that until I see it closely on the film."
Foles was forced to leave for one play but a huge throw to Zach Ertz followed by a big draw play to Darren Sproles set the stage for Elliott, who made up for missing a PAT earlier by sending the fans home with an early Christmas gift.
"When it ends a game, you get to enjoy it a little bit longer," Elliott said of his game-winner
Things did not go the Eagles way elsewhere as Dallas beat Tampa Bay to clinch the NFC East title and Minnesota handled its business in Detroit, setting up a simple Week 17 equation for Philadelphia, which must beat the Redskins in D.C. and hope Chicago tops the Vikings in Minneapolis.
The Eagles could also make the postseason if Seattle loses its final two games or loses once and ties once.
Filling in for an injured Carson Wentz for the second consecutive week Foles finished 35-of-49 for a franchise-record 471 yards and four touchdowns, two to Ertz and one each to Agholor and Darren Sproles.
"He had a great day," center Jason Kelce said of Foles. "... Nick played lights out for us."
Ertz, meanwhile, caught 12 of his 15 targets for 220 yards, setting a new single-season record for tight ends with 114 receptions. Sproles had 108 yards of all-purpose offense in the win.
Watson had two TD passes and ran for two scores. His 35-yard scoring toss to Vyncint Smith with 2:04 remaining put Houston on top before Foles' latest heroics.
"He went out for one play and came back in and won the game for us," defensive end Brandon Graham said when discussing Foles.
Foles took quite a while before appearing his post-game press conference and underwent X-Rays due to the Clowney hit but insisted he feels fine for next week in Washington.
"It's Christmas. It's Saint Nick," defensive end Chris Long surmised.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen