The Eagles are adapting to the likelihood that Carson Wentz will sit out Sunday and perhaps the rest of the season with a back injury.
Martin Frank, The News Journal
LOS ANGELES – The Eagles, without their starting quarterback, their playoff hopes on life support, their secondary in shambles, and going against a Rams team tied for the best record in the NFL, somehow overcame all of it.
They beat the Rams 30-23 on Sunday night behind Nick Foles, replacing Carson Wentz, who is out with a stress fracture in his back. Foles completed 24 of 31 passes for 270 yards.
They did it with Alshon Jeffery, who had a season-high 160 receiving yards, by far his most this season.
And they did it behind a much-maligned defense against a Rams team averaging 32.7 yards per game; and by recovering a fumbled punt at the Rams’ 36 with a little less than three minutes remaining.
Avonte Maddox broke up a potential game-tying pass into the end zone as time expired to secure the win.
Maddox and Corey Graham had interceptions, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who scared the Eagles with a hip injury in the first quarter, played better than Rams’ DT Aaron Donald, the likely defensive MVP this season.
The Eagles desperately needed all of it to improve to 7-7 and keep their playoff hopes alive.
They remained alive in the wildcard chase as well, remaining one-half game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the second and final wildcard spot.
The Eagles broke open a 13-13 tie at halftime with 17 points in the third quarter. Foles flung a ball 50 yards down the field as he was getting leveled by Ndamukong Suh where both Jeffery and Nelson Agholor had gotten behind their defenders.
Jeffery outleaped Agholor for the ball down to the Rams’ 9. Wendell Smallwood ran it in on the next play. The Rams got the ball back after an Eagles’ field goal and faced a 3rd-and-1 from their 34.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff tripped, got up, and under pressure tried to throw a pass that slipped out of his hand and into the arms of Graham, who returned the ball to the Rams’ 12. Two plays later, Smallwood scored again, and just like that, the Eagles were up 30-13 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
And then they had to hold on for dear life just as they were about to put the game away.
The Eagles had a first down at the Rams’ 18 when Foles was intercepted near the goal line. The Rams got a field goal, then added a touchdown with 4:06 remaining.
The Eagles couldn’t get anything going and had to punt. That’s when they recovered the fumble, getting an extra set of downs. Jake Elliott missed a 52-yard field goal, but there was 1:08 left when the Rams got the ball back.
They got down to the Eagles’ 18 with 4 seconds left before Goff’s pass into the end zone was broken up.
In the first half, the Eagles finally took advantage of an opportunity, and that enabled them to go into halftime in a 13-13 tie.
Josh Adams’ 6-yard TD run with 1:07 left in the first half put the Eagles in front by a field goal. Jeffery had a 36-yard reception and 18-yard reception on the drive. For Jeffery, who had 87 yards receiving in the first half, it was the most receiving yards since Oct. 21, when he had 88 yards against Carolina.
For Foles, it was his first time playing since Sept. 16, when he started the first two games of the season while Wentz completed his recovering from two torn knee ligaments.
This time, Wentz is out with a stress fracture in his back.
The Rams answered with a field goal to end the first half after getting a first down at the Eagles’ 18 with 22 seconds left. They tried three passes into the end zone before settling for the field goal.
Still, the Eagles had chances for more against the Rams, who came into the game 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFC.
Twice, the Eagles had a time-consuming drive, and each time, the Eagles had to settle for a field goal. The Rams took a 7-3 lead on Todd Gurley’s 5-yard TD run. After another Eagles field goal made it 7-6, Avonte Maddox, making his return after missing three games with knee and ankle injuries, intercepted Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
But the Eagles came up short on 4th-and-1 at midfield, and gave the ball right back to the Rams.
In the end, the Eagles had just enough.
Ertz gets 100th catch
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz became the fourth tight end to reach 100 receptions in a season when he hauled in a 9-yard pass to end the third quarter. The record for a tight end is 110, set by Dallas’ Jason Witten in 2012.
It seemed like Wendell Smallwood was the odd man out at running back with the emergence of Josh Adams last month.
Smallwood had just four carries for three yards in the previous five games.
But Corey Clement was placed on injured reserve last week, giving Smallwood a bigger role. He took advantage, especially after Adams twice left the game with injuries – to evaluated for a head injury, then a back injury.
Smallwood took advantage. He scored twice.
Avonte Maddox has a new position
It’s not really a new position because Avonte Maddox played on the outside at cornerback all throughout his college career at Pittsburgh.
But it was his first time playing there since the Eagles made him their fourth-round draft pick last spring.
The Eagles had little choice. Starters Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are on injured reserve, and Sidney Jones is out after re-injuring his hamstring. Maddox himself was returning after missing the last three games with knee and ankle injuries.
The Eagles decided to play Maddox on the outside rather than De’Vante Bausby, with Cre’Von LeBlanc in the nickel.
Maddox had played in the nickel and at safety throughout the season.
The other Eagles’ sitting out were linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf), who’s missing his fourth straight game, DT Tim Jernigan (back), LG Isaac Seumalo (pectoral), and OL Matt Pryor and new running back Boston Scott, signed last week when Corey Clement went on IR.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.