Jake Elliott knows there’s a very good chance it could all come down to him on Saturday.
Tie game, or maybe even a one- or two-point deficit. Just a few ticks left on the clock.
The Eagles’ rookie placekicker will spend this week thinking about that possibility and embracing it. He will spend it visualizing that kick splitting the uprights and giving his team at least one more week of playoff life.
“You have to [embrace it],’’ he said. “At this position, once you’re at this stage of the season, chances are all of these games are going to be close.
“You realize that a lot of it could be left on your foot at the end of it. As a kicker, you look forward to those opportunities all the time.
“It’s why you do this.’’
It’s why, 3½ months ago, with just one second left in a tie game at the Linc against the Giants, Elliott, less than two weeks removed from being signed off the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad as a temporary replacement for injured Caleb Sturgis, sprinted up to special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp and persuaded him to give him a crack at a game-winning 61-yard field goal.
“There wasn’t a lot of conversation,’’ Elliott recalled. “It was basically me running up there and begging him for a chance. [Punter] Donnie [Jones, who is the holder for field goals and PATs] was on the opposite side [of Fipp], and we kind of met in the middle.
“Luckily, they gave us that opportunity.’’
Elliott’s franchise-record boot in Week 3 and the resulting 27-24 victory ignited a nine-game win streak that helped propel the Eagles to a 13-3 record and the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
If he had missed it, maybe they would have won the game in overtime, or maybe not. If they had lost the game and fallen to 1-2, maybe they still would have finished 13-3 or 12-4, or maybe not.
“That kick was a big step for us,’’ running back LeGarrette Blount said the other day. “It turned a lot of things around. We got into a rhythm after that.’’
Here they are 14 weeks later, needing once again to get back into a rhythm after the devastating loss of quarterback Carson Wentz.
Can a 5-9, 167-pounds-soaking-wet rookie do that for them one more time? We’ll find out Saturday.
When the Eagles signed Elliott away from the Bengals after a hip injury sidelined Sturgis in Week 1, his stay in Philadelphia was expected to be temporary — particularly after he missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt in his first game with the Eagles, a 27-20 loss to the Chiefs.
He also missed a 52-yard attempt in the third quarter against the Giants. Every bit as big as the 61-yard game-winner was the 46-yarder he made right before that with less than a minute left to tie the game.
Elliott has made 24 of his last 27 field-goal attempts, including those two against the Giants, and Sturgis has spent the entire year on injured reserve with a hip that long ago healed.
“It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a fun one,’’ Elliott said of his first NFL season. “It’s been a great experience.’’
Elliott broke the Memphis career scoring record of Patriots four-time Pro Bowler Stephen Gostkowski. He was drafted in the fifth round last spring by the Bengals but lost a training-camp battle to Randy Bullock.
The Bengals signed him to their practice squad right before the start of the season. A week later, after Sturgis got hurt, the Eagles offered him a job.
“I had a chance to see him at the Senior Bowl and the combine, so I had a chance to evaluate him in person and not just on film,’’ Fipp said.
“I had a pretty good feel for him. Right after Caleb got hurt, we had a handful of guys come in and work out. We had an idea where Jake was on that radar. After working those [other] guys out collectively, we all came to the conclusion to bring Jake in.’’
Fipp said Elliott’s 30-yard miss in his first game against the Chiefs didn’t have any effect on his confidence in the kicker.
“For me, the worst thing you can do with any kicker is overreact,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a tough transition to come in on a week’s notice and have a new snapper, a new holder and have to kick on game day.
“If you’re always looking to replace that position, then you’re always going to be replacing that position. There are coaches out there who are quick to get rid of the guy that they got.
“Usually, when you bring a guy in, you brought him in because you felt he was the best player. Now, at the end of the day, there’s a certain standard that they have to perform up to. And if they don’t, then you’ve got to move on.’’
So far, Elliott has more than performed up to that standard since signing with the Eagles. But there still are games to be played and kicks to be made. Or missed.
“The whole mental-toughness aspect of kicking is, honestly, half the battle,’’ Elliott said. “Being able to put misses behind you, and even putting makes behind you, is critical.
“You’ve got to forget about what you’ve just done and start preparing for the next one.’’