Five reasons for the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams on Sunday in Los Angeles:
Chris Long to the rescue
Trailing by a point midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ defense needed somebody to make a play.
The Rams’ offense had put together back-to-back 70-plus-yard touchdown drives in the second half to wipe out a 10-point Eagles halftime lead. Todd Gurley was giving the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense fits.
Then, on a first-down play at the LA 35, veteran defensive end Chris Long sped around right tackle Darrell Williams, who had just entered the game as a replacement for injured starter Rob Havenstein, and stripped the ball from quarterback Jared Goff.
The loose ball was recovered by safety Rodney McLeod and the Eagles took the lead for good on Jake Elliott’s third field goal of the game.
The Rams got the ball back with 3 1/2 minutes left. But Long’s play had restored the defense’s sagging confidence.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham dropped Gurley for a 3-yard loss on the Rams’ first play and the Eagles forced a three-and-out, after which their offense squeezed all but one second off the clock to preserve the victory.
When the Eagles signed Chris Long in March, there were questions about how much gas he had left in his 32-year-old tank. Turns out he had plenty.
He went into Sunday’s game with 36 total quarterback pressures, including three sacks, which was the third most on the defensive line, behind only Fletcher Cox’s 71 1/2 and Brandon Graham’s 48 1/2. His strip of Goff was his team-high third forced fumble and fourth sack.
Another big performance for Carson Wentz
If Sunday was Carson Wentz’s 2017 farewell, he went out with a bang. Wentz had his fourth four-touchdown game of the season, and broke the Eagles’ 56-year-old franchise record for touchdown passes in a season — throwing the last one with a torn ACL in his left knee.
It wasn’t his most accurate performance. He had a number of overthrows and completed just 56.1 percent of his passes. But he still threw four touchdown passes, even though he didn’t have his go-to guy, tight end Zach Ertz. He engineered four touchdown drives of 75 yards or more.
Two of his four TDs came on third down, giving him 14 third-down TD passes this season, easily the most in the league. He had three more red-zone TD passes, giving him 23 for the season, also the most in the league. He’s the only quarterback in the league without an interception or sack in the red zone.
Nick Foles keeps the ship steady
Being a backup quarterback is a great gig until the starter goes down and you find yourself being thrown into a game after getting exactly zero reps in practice the week before.
The Eagles trailed the Rams by four when Nick Foles replaced the injured Wentz early in the fourth quarter. He didn’t do anything great, but he also didn’t do anything to hurt them. No touchdown passes, but no turnovers either. And enough positive plays to help put the winning points on the board.
Foles stepped in and guided the Birds on a 10-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a 41-yard Jake Elliott field goal that got the Eagles within one.
There was a disconnect with center Jason Kelce on Foles’ first snap, resulting in a fumble. But he didn’t panic, picked the ball up and ran for a 9-yard gain. Foles then threw a 10-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery and a 16-yarder to tight end Trey Burton on a second-and-10 that kept the drive rolling.
On the Eagles’ final possession, when they were trying to kill the clock with a two-point lead, Foles threw his best pass, hitting wide receiver Nelson Agholor for a 9-yard completion on a third-and-8 with 1:45 left. That allowed the Eagles to run all but one second off the clock.
No Zach Ertz? No problem
Zach Ertz, who suffered a concussion in the Seattle game, wasn’t able to play, but the Eagles’ two backup tight ends, Trey Burton and veteran Brent Celek, came up big.
The pair registered the Eagles’ first 21 points. Celek got the ball rolling on the Eagles’ first possession, catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Wentz. It was his only catch of the day, but it was a big one.
Burton followed with back-to-back TD receptions that gave the Eagles a 21-7 lead four minutes into the second quarter.
Both of Burton’s catches came on third down – a 20-yarder on a third-and-10 and an 11-yarder on a third-and-8. He also caught a 16-yard pass from Nick Foles in the fourth quarter on a second-and-10 play that kept alive a scoring drive. Burton finished with five catches for 71 yards and the two TDs.
Jay Ajayi comes through
Jay Ajayi played 43 snaps, which was his most in five games with the Eagles. He rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries.
He had four of their five rushing first downs and three double-digit-yard runs: 19- and 14-yard runs in the second quarter, and a big 10-yard run for a first down on a second-and-10 on the Eagles’ first fourth-quarter drive with Nick Foles. That gave Elliott a closer shot at the 41-yard field goal that put the Eagles within one point of the Rams.
It became clear early on that the Eagles were going to need Ajayi. LeGarrette Blount, who just doesn’t have Ajayi’s explosiveness, failed to score on a first-down run from the 1-yard line and failed to pick up first downs on a pair of second-and-2 runs.
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