Sunday’s game was a memorable one.
By Al Thompson
There are games you play, even as a pro, that stay with you forever. It is safe to say the players on both the winning and losing side of Sunday’s thrilling 27–24 Eagles victory over the New York Giants will stay with them for a long time, some forever.
The game was decided on the final play, a 61-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jake Elliott, who just under two weeks ago was on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.
Elliott hit back-to-back field goals of 46 and 61 yards in the last 51 seconds of the game to erase a 24–21 deficit.
The former Memphis star said he remembers very little about the winning kick, the longest in franchise history.
“It’s kind of all a blur to me,” Elliott said at a formal post-game news conference usually reserved for the head coach and quarterback. “I don’t really know; all I know is that the ball was in the air for a really long time and was real close to that right upright.”
But it went through, and the Eagles are 2–1, 2–0 in the NFC East. The Giants are on life support at 0–3.
Elliott’s 61-yard field goal is tied for the seventh-longest in NFL history, trailing only Matt Prater (64 yards on 12/8/13 vs. Tennessee), David Akers (63 yards on 9/9/12 at Green Bay), Sebastian Janikowski (63 yards on 9/12/11 at Denver), Jason Elam (63 yards on 10/25/98 vs. Jacksonville), Tom Dempsey (63 yards on 11/8/70 vs. Detroit) and Matt Bryant (62 yards on 10/22/06 vs. Philadelphia). It is also tied for the third-longest, last-play field goal in NFL history, behind Dempsey and Bryant.
Elliott’s winning boot is also the longest ever by an NFL rookie, breaking the record of 60 set by the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein on Sept. 30, 2012 vs. Seattle.
Elliott is on the Eagles roster because Caleb Sturgis suffered a hip injury week one against Washington and is out until midseason.
Elliott’s time in a Philadelphia uniform has not been great. He missed a crucial 30-yard attempt last week against Kansas City.
Elliott was asked about his mindset after missing the kick last week and then missing a kick Sunday from 52 yards prior to the game-winner.
“I kind of approach every miss the same way and every make the same way,” he said. “I just have a one- to two-minute rule. It’s something that I learned to do in high school. You miss a kick and you’ve got one minute to get over it and bounce back. You make a kick, enjoy it and bounce back. I don’t dwell on it for too long, but you know, it’s definitely one that I wanted back, and I’m glad I got another opportunity.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 7–0 lead on a LeGarrette Blount 1-yard run in the second quarter. The Birds made it 14–0 on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz.
The Giants exploded out of their season-long scoring slump in the fourth quarter, scoring three consecutive touchdowns. Two were pass plays from Eli Manning to wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who scored from the 10- and 4-yard line.
Sterling Shepard and Manning teamed up on a 77-yard catch and run pass play that made the score 21–14 with 7:12 left.
Wentz answered with a four-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard scoring run by rookie Corey Clement.
From there, the teams traded field goals. The Giants scored on a 41-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. The drive stalled, in part, because of an idiotic five-yard delay of game penalty by guard John Jerry, who tried to hold up Eagles nose tackle Elijah Qualls from getting off the field on time by grabbing his arm right in front of the referee.
After the Giants’ field goal, the Eagles offense engineered an eight-play 47-yard drive, setting up Elliott’s 46-yard field goal that tied the game 24–24.
The Eagles depleted defense — missing defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Jordan Hicks from injuries suffered in the first half — stopped Manning and Big Blue at their own 34-yard line, forcing the Giants to punt with 19 seconds left in the fourth. Normally reliable Brad Wing, though, shanked the punt, giving Wentz and the Eagles offense the ball at their own 38-yard line with 13 ticks of the clock left.
After an incomplete pass meant for Wendell Smallwood, Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery with a 19-yard sideline pass. When Jeffery got out of bounds, there was just one second left on the clock, setting up Elliott’s dramatic kick.
Several players said they would not forget this game.
“This might be the top one I’ll remember,” Clement said. “I thought my first college touchdown was going to be the top but I think this is the best one…when I got into the end zone, I truly blacked out. LG (LeGarrette Blount) was the first one over there. I don’t know how he got over there so fast to congratulate me but it was a good feeling to get one for the city and do something great for the organization and put something positive on film.”
Clement said he thought about how important it was for him to step up when he got the chance.
“I knew I had an opportunity to tie the game up,” Clement said. “Why not put it all on myself to get it in the end zone. I didn’t want to sell myself short. Once I got the ball, I didn’t take no for an answer.”
Beau Allen said he would remember this game. It was his stuff that prevented the Giants from scoring inches from the goal line with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. Allen’s initial hit on the Giants offensive line set up Vinny Curry and Joe Walker to be able to stop Orleans Darkwa from getting into the end zone.
“Yeah,” he said. “This was a huge grind for our defensive line. They (the Giants) had a great game plan coming to just to try and neutralize our line with a quick game. We played with three defensive tackles, so when the ball’s out that fast, it can get kind of frustrating. But I think we did a great job of just staying the course and getting the win.”
Blount was asked if he’ll remember this win.
“Of course,” said Blount, who rushed 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. “This is my first year on this team so I’m going to remember everything. I love this game so there’s not much I don’t remember.”
Blount talked about Elliott’s winning kick.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Blount said. “Not a lot of guys can do that. It takes a lot of guts. He bounced back in a major way, especially in the way we needed him to. That was big, we’re all happy he came through for us.”
It was not a good memory for Wing.
“It sucks,” said Wing, standing at his locker after the game. “I have to get my s**t together. I think there are some positives to draw from it and I’m looking forward to how we’re going to respond to this going forward.”
It was a memorable day for the Eagles running game. After putting up poor numbers the first two weeks, the Birds rushed 39 times for 193 yards and two TDs.
“That was our goal coming in this week after we got tired of not running it last week, especially when we really needed it,” said Eagles tackle Lane Johnson. “It was big and it was something that we worked hard on all week. We worked really hard at it, and it finally paid off. It’s good to see.”
For Manning, this was memorable for the wrong reason. He was asked whether this is the most shocking regular season loss he has experienced.
“Yeah, a tough one,’ said Manning, who was 35 of 47 for 366 yards, three TD passes, two interceptions and no sacks. “Tough one just because of the way we fought back and took the lead, and took it a couple times. Just the events at the end of the game. To lose that way is tough.”
It was a good day for Wentz. He was 21 of 31 for 176 yards and a touchdown pass. He did not throw a pick but was sacked three times, but not in the second half. Wentz was happy for the Eagles’ NFC East record.
“Getting to 2–0 in the division is huge,” he said. “Our №1 goal right now, which we’ve said in the offseason, is to win the division. Starting the season off 2–0 is huge, with one on the road and one at home. I can’t say enough about it, and it really puts us in a good situation going forward.”
Elliott talked about if he allows himself to think beyond week-to-week, given that Sturgis is on injured reserve and could return:
“Yeah, you never know,” the 5-foot-9, 167-pounder said. “I’m just kind of taking the opportunity for what it is. If I’m here after those eight weeks, that’s great. If not, I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m just trying to do my job while I’m here.”
If doing his job has many more finishes like Sunday, he’ll be here for a long time. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii