Jake Elliott's surreal kicking life just got real

Jake Elliott has a one-minute rule.

“If you miss a kick you got one minute to get over it and bounce back,” Elliott said. “You make a kick and you got one minute to enjoy it.”

Rules are made to be broken. Elliott, the Eagles kicker for not even two weeks, can be excused if he basks in the afterglow of his game-winning, last-second, 61-yard field goal for more than just 60 seconds.

“We’ll give it a day,” he said. “24 hours.”

It may take more than a day for players and fans to come down from the high of the Eagles’ gutsy 27-24 home  win over the New York Giants on Sunday. But for kickers like Elliott, who has already bounced around the NFL and had to rebound from two misses in just his two lone career games, maintaining an even keel is almost a must.

“It’s a little surreal. It’s the life of a kicker, though,” Elliott said. “You have your ultimate ups and ultimate downs.”

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Just a quarter earlier it looked as if maybe Elliott, who was signed only after Caleb Sturgis suffered a hip injury, could be in jeopardy of losing his job. He hooked a 52-yard attempt wide left, which is a difficult distance for any kicker, but coming a week after he had hooked a 30-yard try, there were no guarantees.

But as he did last week when he drained a 40-yarder, Elliott bounced back and connected on a 46-yarder to tie the score, 24-24, with 56 seconds left, and then, just 55 ticks later, drilled the longest field goal in Eagles history.

“I thought I hit that [52-yarder] really, really well,” Elliott said. “It started down the middle, and it kind of ended up fading left with the wind there. I wasn’t completely demoralized by it, but I definitely wanted another shot there.”

The team record was previously held by Tony Franklin, who bare-footed a 59-yarder in Dallas in 1979.

Elliott’s previous career long of 56 yards occurred four years ago, when he was a freshman at Memphis. And he had kicked other 50-plus-yard field goals in college. But 61 yards? Elliott hadn’t even tried from that distance in practice over the last two weeks. Just like in pre-game warm-ups, mid-50s were his maximum.

He had also previously kicked at Lincoln Financial Field, including a 31-yard field goal as time expired as Memphis beat Temple in 2014. In two games against the Owls, he hit 7 of 9 field goals.

But distance has never been a problem for the 5-foot-7, 165-pound Elliott. His earlier 52-yard boot would have been good from 60-plus yards had he been straight. And Eagles coach Doug Pederson said that Elliott’s booming kickoffs were part of the conversation as he and special-teams coach Dave Fipp mulled whether to give the 61-yarder a go.

“I definitely ran over there real wide-eyed wanting to get it done,” Elliott said.

But the decision wasn’t made immediately, and when a timeout was called before the kick, Elliott said, he wasn’t even sure which team had called for it because the play clock was ticking down. The Giants’ decision to ice the kicker — Andy Reid had successfully called a timeout before Elliott’s miss last week against the Chiefs — may actually have backfired.

“We weren’t all that set,” Elliott said, “so it was kind of good to regroup there and not be too rushed.”

The timeout did allow the Giants to pull Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Odell Beckham Jr., who had once returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown while at LSU. But it also gave Elliott the opportunity to run back to the sideline and practice another kick into the net.

“I wanted to make it feel as in-game of the flow as possible,” Elliott said.

Long-snapper Rick Lovato said that he didn’t use the time to practice his snap.

“I want to save it for the one that actually matters,” Lovato said.

Lovato’s snap and Donnie Jones’ hold were clean and Elliott powered through the football.

“Sounded like a cannon off his foot,” Pederson said.

The ball, even with its low trajectory, easily cleared the extended arms of the Giants rushers.

“I knew it was going to come out low,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said, “so the big thing was to not let any pressure in.”

The ball was tracking center, but started to fade  toward the right upright.

“I was definitely questioning it while it was in the air,” Elliott said. “But it felt really good off the foot.”

Many Eagles players said they prayed as the ball sailed. Defensive end Brandon Graham said that he didn’t even watch. Beckham dropped his arms when he saw how far it had been hit.

“It was good. There was no question, he booted it,” Beckham said. “I was praying it was going to be short. I was reminiscing [ about the 109-yard return].”

Lovato and other Eagles were running after the ball just in case it was short for Beckham and they had to tackle him.

“I was the first down there,” Lovato said, “and I see it go through there about 6 to 8 feet above the crossbar.”

The Eagles ran out onto the field for a wild celebration as the Linc erupted. Linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill carried Elliott off the field. Two weeks ago, it’s safe to assume that most of the Eagles had never heard of the kicker. Graham, for instance, needed a few seconds when asked to give Elliott’s name.

“As far as people come in and out … it moves so fast,” Graham said. “You’re like, ‘I forgot this dude was here, I forgot this dude was gone.’ ”

Elliott, who was drafted in the fifth round, said that he had just gotten furniture for his apartment in Cincinnati when he found out the Eagles had signed him off the Bengals’ practice squad. On Sunday, his parents, who had flown in from the Chicago area, were at the Linc in Eagles green, celebrating with fans after their son kicked a memory-maker.

“I’m just kind of taking the opportunity for what it is,” said Elliott, who could be released as soon as Sturgis returns. “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.”

He should enjoy a job well done.

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jmclane@phillynews.com
@Jeff_McLane

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