Foles' magic enables Eagles to survive Bears' last-second chance to win the game
CHICAGO – The ball tantalizingly sailed toward the upright, the Eagles' season resting on the outcome of the Bears' Cody Parkey and a 43-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.
Slowly it headed toward the upright, then finally it clanked off the left side, hit off the crossbar and bounced onto the field.
"All I know is I turned around and I’d seen it was drifting, drifting," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. "It hit (the upright). It looked like it could’ve hit and went in. Then it hit the crossbar, bounced back.
"I had seen it bounce back and I was running around like the game was over."
Five seconds later, it was, as the Eagles escaped with a heart-stopping 16-15 win over the Chicago Bears in the NFC wildcard game Sunday. The Eagles will face the top-seeded Saints next Sunday in New Orleans in the NFC Divisional round.
For the Eagles, that rematch against the Saints, who beat the Eagles 48-7 on Nov. 18, wasn't a possibility until Nick Foles' 2-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on 4th-and-goal from the 2 yard line with 56 seconds remaining.
Foles sprinted out to his right and found Tate in the front corner of the end zone. This after he and Eagles coach Doug Pederson talked about it during a timeout.
"I figured, from studying them in those situations where the game is on the line, they like to blitz and bring a lot of pressure," Foles said. "So, you know, why don't we move the pocket and put one of our best guys on one of their guys and let him win."
All of it was a slog, right up until the last minute.
The Eagles trailed 15-10 when they took over at their 40 yard line with 4:48 remaining.
Foles' 10-yard completion to Dallas Goedert got the Eagles to the Bears' 35. A 13-yard pass to Zach Ertz got them to the 14, and Alshon Jeffery's 11-yard catch to the 2 with just under 2 minutes left got them in position.
Bears kicker Cody Parkey on decisive miss vs. Eagles: 'I feel terrible'
And then Darren Sproles was stopped twice trying to run the ball in, and Foles threw incomplete trying for Jeffery on third down. Then Foles went to Tate with the game on the line.
Tate was acquired from the Detroit Lions on Oct. 30, and had admittedly struggled trying to fit in with the offense. He didn't have the impact expected as the Eagles gave up a third-round draft pick next spring for him.
That's what made that game-winning TD all the more special for Tate.
"I’m just happy that the coaches and the rest of the organization had the confidence to put the team’s future on my shoulders," Tate said.
And that wasn't an understatement, either. If the Eagles didn't convert that play, the game would have been over, and the Eagles would have begun their offseason.
Even then, the game wasn't clinched.
Tarik Cohen returned the kick 35 yards to the Bears' 42. Then Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hit Allen Robinson for 25 yards down to the Eagles' 33 with 35 seconds left. A short pass got the ball to the 25 with 15 seconds left, just enough time for a field goal attempt.
Parkey, who was the Eagles' kicker in 2015 until suffering an injury, actually made the field goal. But the Eagles called timeout just before the kick. So he had to do it again.
This time, defensive tackle Treyvon Hester charged from the middle. Several players said Hester got a hand on the ball, changing the ball's trajectory ever so slightly.
"He blocked it. I heard a little nub. I was like, ‘Man,’" Eagles special teamer LaRoy Reynolds said. "(Hester) chipped it a little bit. We all heard it. We knew."
None of this was easy.
It was Foles' fourth straight game starting in place of Carson Wentz, who has a stress fracture in his back.
But the Bears, with the NFL's top-ranked defense, made Foles and the Eagles earn everything. He completed 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards with 2 touchdowns. The Bears also intercepted him twice.
"It's about believing in each other and the hard times," Foles said. "It's easy to pat each other on the back when things are going well. When things aren't going well, I throw a couple picks, made a couple of mistakes, but the guys were there for me, lift me up. That's what this team was about."
That was true for the defense, too. They held the Bears without a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
Through it all, the Eagles took a 10-6 lead with 5:20 left in the third quarter on Foles' 10-yard touchdown pass to rookie Dallas Goedert. On the play before, Jordan Matthews drew a pass interference call after he had gotten behind the Bears' defense.
That marked the first time the Eagles had gotten inside the Bears' 20 for the game.
But the Bears found a weakness in the Eagles' defense, and they started exploiting it. Cornerback Avonte Maddox was beaten on a double-move for a 45-yard reception by Robinson, setting up a field goal that cut the Eagles' lead to a point.
Robinson's 22-yard TD reception on the Bears' next possession gave them a 15-10 lead with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter.
This after a first half in which Foles threw two interceptions, and the Eagles committed two penalties on third down that enabled the Bears to keep each of their field-goal drives going.
From the start, this was the low-scoring defensive type of slog that many expected with the Bears' top-ranked defense in the NFL.
And it stayed that way right up until the final minute, when Foles led another drive to save the Eagles' season, then watched a field-goal attempt clank off the posts twice to secure the win.
Is this a team of destiny?
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins certainly thinks so.
"I anticipated him missing," he said. "Nothing against Cody. I love him as a former teammate. But we have been through so much that it was hard to believe that things weren’t going to work in our favor … If he had made it, he made it. If not, we wouldn’t be surprised."
The Eagles weren't surprised. They were euphoric.
'No clear recovery'
For the second time this season, the Eagles lost out on a turnover because the referees determined there was "no clear recovery."
On Sunday, Trubisky's pass to Anthony Miller to the Eagles' 10 in the final minute of the first half was ruled incomplete after Cre'Von LeBlanc appeared to knock the ball out. But a replay review determined that Miller actually caught the ball and fumbled. Since no one recovered, the play had to stand as an incomplete pass, so the Bears kept the ball.
Seumalo back on O-line, gets the start
Eagles left guard Isaac Seumalo, who has missed the last three games with a pectoral injury, was back in the lineup and started over Stefen Wisniewski. Seumalo took over as the starter for Wisniewski in Week 5.
Wisniewski then took over when Seumalo got hurt. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wisniewski has played well.
The Eagles' inactives, in addition to Wentz, are LB D.J. Alexander, DT Bruce Hector, CB Sidney Jones (hamstring), WR Mike Wallace (ankle), OL Matt Pryor and OL Chance Warmack.
For the Bears, tight end Trey Burton, most known for his 1-yard TD pass to Foles in the Super Bowl, is sitting out with a groin injury. He was added to the injury report on Saturday.
But the Bears will have All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.