In one of the wildest finishes that Philadelphia has ever seen, the Eagles defeated the New York Giants 27-24 Sunday on a last second (literally) 61- yard field goal. The loss dropped the Giants to 0-3, with two losses within the NFC East. The Eagles improved to 2-1, but both wins are against divisional foes.
There were plenty of questionable calls by both Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson and his Giants’ counterpart, Ben McAdoo. The star quarterbacks both had their ups-and-downs. Injuries almost played a major factor in the outcome. A fairly dull first half, gave way to a ferocious second half as New York tried to get its first win of the season.
Translation: there was a lot going on. With that in mind, here are the winners and losers from an exhilarating Philadelphia win in Week 3.
Winner: Jake Elliott
Coming out of Memphis, Jake Elliott was one of three placekickers taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. Sometimes teams will take a flyer with a 7th round pick, but Elliott went in the fifth round to the Bengals.
He was beaten out by Randy Bullock in Cincinnati, however, and ended up on the team’s practice squad. Since he was on a teams’ roster, the Eagles couldn’t audition him when their kicker, Caleb Sturgis, suffered an injury.
Elliott missed a chip-shot field goal attempt in his first game in midnight green. When he subsequently missed a 52-yarder in the third quarter against the Giants, Philly fans were doing Google searches for “free agent kickers.”
And, then he became a Philadelphia folk hero in a split second.
When he trotted onto the field for a 61-yard attempt, more Eagles fans were worried about Odell Beckham Jr. potentially running back the miss than were thinking about him actually making it. When the ball slid past the right upright, Lincoln Financial Field went nuts.
JAKE ELLIOTT FOR THE WIN!!! A 61 YARD FIELD GOAL FOR THE WIN!!! EAGLES BEAT THE GIANTS AT THE BUZZER!
IT'S BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC!
— 🏈🚢🎶TITANIC TD🏈🚢🎶 (@TitanicTD) September 24, 2017
Elliott might want to consider making his permanent home in Philadelphia because the city’s residents aren’t going to forget that play — ever.
Loser (Then Winner): Doug Pederson & Alshon Jeffery
Pederson was on the verge of spending this week getting bashed repeatedly in Philadelphia. When he went for it on fourth-and-8 from New York’s 43-yard-line with a little over two minutes to play in the first half, fans were screaming at their televisions.
The call wouldn’t have seemed so bad if Wentz hadn’t been sacked. The Giants were given a short field and should have scored a touchdown going into the locker room (Sterling Shepard‘s second attempt was a touchdown regardless of what the officials said).
That said, Pederson went for it two other times on fourth down, and both times the drive ended with a touchdown. He also could have played for overtime when the team got the ball back with under a minute to play in regulation, and that ballsy move resulted in Elliott’s game-winner.
Jeffery had a similar day. The supposed number one receiver had caught three passes for 37 yards going into that final series. He was also flagged for a costly facemask penalty during the Eagles previous drive and was bailed out by Elliott’s game-tying 46-yard field goal.
None of that mattered when Jeffery caught a 19-yard pass from Wentz and stepped out of bounds with one second on the clock. It was a heads-up play by a veteran that at least gave Elliott a chance to be the hero.
Pederson and Jeffery both had rough patches throughout the game but came up big when it mattered the most.
Winner: Jim Schwartz’s Chicken Wire & Baler Twine
Starting cornerback Ronald Darby has been out since the first game. Safety/corner Jaylen Watkins and backup safety Corey Graham were ruled out on Thursday. Starting safety Rodney McLeod was made inactive Sunday morning.
Once the game started, things did not get better as defensive stalwarts Fletcher Cox (calf) and Jordan Hicks (ankle) went out and couldn’t return. Suddenly, defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, was scheming while down a starting cornerback, safety, middle linebacker and defensive tackle, with two prominent backups out of the mix as well.
The Eagles had managed to hold the Giants in check most of the first half, thanks in part to defensive end Vinny Curry‘s goal line stop just before intermission. In the second half, however, the losses started to catch up.
With Eli Manning getting the ball out quickly, he managed to neutralize what had been a fierce pass rush over the season’s first two weeks. Once Cox went out there just wasn’t enough of a push.
Out of nowhere, Manning and his teammates, who had scored only one touchdown all season, went nuts and notched touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, with Beckham hauling in two and Shepard accounting for one. The Eagles went from leading 14-0, to being behind 21-14.
Even though the defense looked gassed, Schwartz rallied his charges and the defense did just enough to give the offense a chance. It wasn’t an accident that it was two defensive players who carried Elliott off the field after his game-winning kick. Overtime would not have been a good thing for that side of the ball.
The Eagles have to hope that some of the walking wounded can come back quickly because no scheme can overcome a shortage of players for long.
Loser: Darren Sproles
Through the first two games, Sproles had been the lone bright spot in the Eagles backfield. When he went down in the second quarter, it wasn’t clear what he had hurt. It looked like it was his leg, but then reports said it was his wrist. Turned out that it was both.
Eagles RB Darren Sproles tore his ACL and broke his arm on same play, sources tell @mortreport and me. Surgery on arm today, knee later.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 25, 2017
At 34-years-old, many people thought that this was going to be the final season for the diminutive Sproles. If this is how things end for a player as universally respected as the multipurpose running back/returner, that’s just brutal.
Winner: Philadelphia’s Running Game
Losing Sproles could be a crushing blow for the season as a whole. For this game, though, his teammates performed admirably.
Coming into the Giants game, Philadelphia had only rushed for 165 yards, and Wentz was responsible for 61 yards of that. Pederson was harangued for abandoning the running game and, apparently, he might have agreed.
The Eagles didn’t just get contributions from one back, but all of them. Wendell Smallwood led the way with 71 yards, with LeGarrette Blount adding 67 and a touchdown. Rookie Corey Clement, who came into the game without his first NFL carry, picked up 22 yards, but 15 of it was on a vital touchdown run that helped tie the game at 21 apiece.
Philadelphia finished with 193 yards on the ground. If they can do that on a regular basis, that will take a ton of pressure off of Wentz.
Loser: Eagles Left Guards
Against Kansas City, left guard Isaac Semaulo struggled mightily. Pederson defended the second-year player during his post-game press conference, but by midweek, it was clear that there was a change coming.
Former Tennessee first-round pick (or bust, if you prefer) Chance Warmack started the game at the guard spot next to Jason Peters. There was a surprise, though, when suddenly Stefan Wisniewski replaced Warmack. From an experience standpoint, that was fine — Wisniewski has started a lot of NFL games — but the confusion that came with it.
Turns out that there was nothing wrong with Warmack. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had his greatest success under Nick Saban at Alabama, and the team went with a college move.
Warmack and Wisniewski rotated series throughout the game, with neither one particularly distinguishing themselves. It was an odd thing to see in an NFL game, and, while it didn’t kill the offense, it’s not a sustainable model.
There are now three choices at left guard. The team needs to pick one and stick with it for at least a little while.