The Nick Foles’ late-season magic continued and Jake Elliott converted on a 35-yard field goal as time expired as the Eagles survived in a heart-pounding 32-30 victory over the Houston Texans that allowed them to spend Christmas still alive in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Unfortunately, they are not going to repeat as NFC East champs, though, as the Cowboys clinched the division following a 27-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The only path into the postseason and a chance to defend their Super Bowl championship is as a wild card.
To seal a berth, the Eagles must win next Sunday at Washington, and then either need the Chicago Bears to defeat the Minnesota Vikings or the Seattle Seahawks to lose against the Arizona Cardinals. If the Eagles lose next week, or the Vikings and Seahawks win, they will be eliminated.
Regardless, the Eagles (8-7) remain in the mix for the last week of the regular season.
Note: Zach Ertz set the NFL single-season record for catches in a season by a tight end, breaking the mark of 110 by the Cowboys’ Jason Witten in 2012. Ertz became the all-time leader with a catch early in the second half and ended the game with 12 catches for 110 yards.
Before we move on to next weekend, here are three takeaways from a thrilling late-season victory.
1. Saint Nick delivers again
The legend of Foles just keeps growing in this town. The backup quarterback finished 35-for-49 and threw for a franchise record 471 yards (McNabb held the previous mark with 467 yards) and four touchdowns, including the longest one of his career, in a statistical performance remnant of last season’s Super Bowl.
With little assistance from the running game, coach Doug Pederson turned to Foles’ right arm to carry the team. Foles connected with nine different receivers, three different ones for scores, engineered the winning drive and had a 120.4 quarterback rating.
His only blemishes were a fumble at the five-yard line in the second quarter that led to a touchdown and an interception that didn’t cause any harm. No one can put a finger on it, but this team simply loves playing for Foles.
2. Couldn’t ask for a better start
The Birds have struggled to gain momentum in the opening quarter this season, but they grabbed control of the game early against the Texans. After winning the coin toss and deferring, the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out and the offense took over on their own 23.
Foles quickly found a rhythm with short passes, including four to tight end Zach Ertz, and methodically moved down the field. They converted three-straight third downs on the drive, and the one time the Eagles failed to do so, Doug Pederson went for it on fourth-and-2 from the 37.
Foles found running back Darren Sproles on a sweep to the right side. The veteran broke free from a tackle and slipped through another defender’s grasp inside the 5-yard line to reach the end zone. It was just the fourth time this season the team scored a touchdown in the first quarter and the third time they led after 15 minutes.
3. Sproles looking spry
Sproles is likely playing in the final games of his illustrious career. If this is his swan song, the potential future Hall of Fame running back and return specialist is making sure he goes out looking like the multi-faceted weapon he’s been the last 14 years.
Finally healthy after missing 10 straight games this season with a hamstring injury and other complications that have not been made public, Sproles finished with 76 yards receiving, 32 rushing and scored a touchdown, his third in the last four games, in the first quarter. He eclipsed his season total in receiving yards by the third quarter and capped the performance with a 16-yard rush for first down to help set up Elliott’s game-winning field goal.