By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The hope was that it would last — that the magic bottle, despite being jostled, shaken and tossed all around somehow, someway would be preserved. That the good ghost of Eagles’ past Decembers would emerge and see this team through, at least one mega surprise in this enigmatic season.
The Eagles still have a faint hope of making the playoffs after one of the biggest upsets of the season, beating the NFC West- Champion Los Angeles Rams, 30-23, at the Coliseum, where Los Angeles was previously 6-0.
The Eagles are now 7-7 and have a chance at the postseason, while the Rams continue to play for NFC home field advantage after dropping to 11-3.
For once, a fumble went the Eagles’ way, after D.J. Alexander walked away with a recovery of JoJo Natson’s fumble at the Rams’ 37 with 2:51 to play and the Eagles clinging to a one-score lead.
Maybe it was the fact that Nick Foles was back in charge in December or that the defense was playing out of their minds, the Eagles rekindled the magic they had this time last year.
Foles completed 24 oe 31 for 270 yards, while the Eagles pounded the Rams for 111 yards rushing, led by Wendell Smallwood rushing for 48 yards on carries, including two third-quarter touchdowns that spelled the winning difference.
Of the Eagles’ 61 plays, 30 came on the ground and 31 were passes. The Eagles won the time of possession: 31:36-28:24.
The teams went into halftime knotted at 13-13, but for the first two quarters this was an Eagles team that was reminiscent of last year.
Then the Eagles exploded for their best quarter of the season, scoring 17 points, including a touchdown, field goal and a touchdown on three of their first four second-half possessions.
Foles completed 9 of 14 passes for 112 yards in the half, and he targeted eight different receivers, using the long ball again to stretch the Rams’ defense. The Eagles scored on three of their four first-half possessions, the only time they were stopped when, in a sense, they stopped themselves by trying to jam the ball through the teeth of the Rams’ defense on a fourth-and-one with 9:29 left in the first half, when Josh Adams was taken by Cory Littleton and John Johnson.
With the exception of that, the Eagles played smart. Their scoring drives traveled 43, 59 and 75 yards. More importantly, the scoring drives went nine plays, 10 plays and nine plays, taking a total of 12:36 off the clock—and kept the Rams’ potent offense off the field.
The Eagles did it using great balance on offense, rushing the ball 16 times and passing 14 times in their 30 plays. It kept the pressure off of Foles, and had the Rams’ vaunted defensive front hesitant.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins beginning the game by taking down Todd Gurley for a 4-yard loss on the first play of the game.
The Eagles’ defense starting with a three-and-out on the Rams’ first possession.
The Eagles first drive, going nine plays and 43 yards, which resulted in a Jake Elliott 51-yard field goal and a 3-0 Eagles’ lead.
Elliott’s two first-half field goals and three total field goals.
Safety Avonte Maddox’s diving interception at the Eagles’ 42 with 11:11 to play in the first half.
The Eagles’ third possession, which went 75 yards over nine plays, ending with Josh Adams’ 6-yard TD run and a 13-10 Eagles’ lead with 1:07 left in the first half.
Right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson opening the running lane for Wendell Smallwood’s 9-yard third-quarter TD run with 10:28 left in the quarter.
Smallwood running hard and scoring twice in the third quarter.
Left tackle Jason Peters making a gaping hole for Smallwood to score on a 4-yard TD run with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
Safety Corey Graham’s fumble recovery and 16-yard return when Jared Goff slipped, leading to Smallwood’s second third-quarter TD.
The defensive line placing pressure on Goff all night and forcing more than a few errant throws.
Linebacker D.J. Alexander recovering the fumbled punt by JoJo Natson at the Los Angeles 37 with 2:51 to play.
The decision to go for it on fourth-and-one with 9:29 left in the first half and a chance to pin a potent offense for a defense that was playing lights out.
Left guard Stefen Wisniewski getting nailed for a 10-yard hold that wiped out Smallwood’s 9-yard run with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
Tight end Zach Ertz dropping a catchable pass from Foles with 3:47 left to play on second-and-17 at the Eagles’ 10.
Cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc blowing a tackle in failing to wrap Robert Woods on third-and-three at the Eagles’ 27. The 11-yard gain enabled the Rams to prolong the drive, which ended in a Greg Zuerlein 37-yard field goal.
Aside from Jenkins, can anyone on the Eagles make a tackle? On Gurley’s 5-yard touchdown, concluding a 13-play, 80-yard drive that absorbed 7:19 of the clock in the first quarter, Chris Long, Corey Graham and Cre’Von LeBlanc all whiffed on the talented tailback.