Nice to report a last-second come-from-behind victory for the Eagles…losing eight in a row was starting to wear on me…not to mention the players themselves.
I'm still not sure this road win was a turning point as far as the 2013 season is concerned… but it sure made 2012 a whole lot more digestible.
Jason Avant, the 7th-year WR out of Michigan (6-0, 212, 4th round 2006), had perhaps the greatest game of his pro life, featuring key dramatic catches and a clutch one-handed grab…
With time running out on the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Foles had all the answers for ending the team's longest losing streak in 42 years.
Foles threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final four minutes, including a 1-yarder to Jeremy Maclin with no time remaining Sunday, to give the Eagles a 23-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-21, and end an eight-game skid for the Birds.
The rookie completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards in his fourth start in place of the injured Michael Vick. He threw an 11-yard TD pass to Clay Harbor with 3:55 remaining, then led the Eagles on a 64-yard game-winning drive after the Philadelphia defense forced a punt by Tampa Bay.
He set up the winning touchdown with a 22-yard completion to Jason Avant on fourth-and-5 to the Bucs 1. The Eagles scrambled up to the line and Foles spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 2 seconds left and giving Foles a chance for one more play.
The 6-foot-6, third-round draft pick rolled to his right and found Maclin open on the side of the end zone, when the receiver made the catch going to his knees. Officials reviewed the play and upheld the call.
Bucs Rookie Doug Martin rushed for 128 yards and Josh Freeman shrugged off a slow start to throw for two second-half touchdowns to help Tampa Bay overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit and take a 21-10 lead on Martin's 4-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter.
That's when Foles, who also scored on a 10-yard run in the first half, took over.
The Eagles drove 72 yards in eight plays to cut into the deficit on Harbor's TD. Foles threw incomplete on a 2-point conversion that would have enabled his team to pull within 3 points, meaning Philadelphia needed a TD when the offense got the ball back with less than three minutes to go.
Foles kept the final drive alive with a 3-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 31. It looked as though the Bucs might hang on before the rookie moved around to buy some time and threw 22 yards to Avant cutting across the middle to keep the Eagles' hopes live. Avant had seven receptions for 133 yards.
Martin put together the fourth 100-yard game of his career on 28 carries. Freeman threw TD passes of 1 yard to Mike Williams and 13 yards to Vincent Jackson, who finished with six receptions for 131 yards.
The Bucs (6-7), who honored their franchise's only Super Bowl championship team at halftime, lost for the third straight week since using a four-game winning streak to climb into playoff contention.
The Eagles (4-9) won for the first time since beating the New York Giants 19-17 on Sept. 30. They led 10-0 at the half, but helped the Bucs get back in the game with their only turnover early in the third quarter.
Punt returner Damaris Johnson muffed a fair catch, and Tampa Bay's Dekoda Watson recovered at the Eagles' 5 to set up Freeman's first touchdown pass.
Most of the members of Tampa Bay's 2002 championship team, including Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Simeon Rice and Keyshawn Johnson, returned to town for a dinner Saturday night and were recognized during a halftime ceremony capped by the introduction of coach Jon Gruden, who trotted out of the tunnel carrying the Super Bowl trophy. The only player remaining from that roster who's still playing in the NFL is 16th-year pro, Ronde Barber, who made his 212th consecutive start Sunday.
Foles took a beating in this contest, taking six sacks and barely eluding around a dozen more. The Bucs' defensive front was as formidable as any the Eagles have faced this season, completely shutting down rookie running back Bryce Brown (12 carries, 6 yards), who had rushed for 169 and 178 yards in his previous two games.
"Looking back on it," guard Evan Mathis said, "It looked like it played out the way it might. [The Bucs] are tremendous against the run, but we beat them. They had some good recognition of what we were running, they had some good blitzes called into runs. I don't know if that's good luck or good recognition."
The Eagles had established complete control by the end of the first half, rolling to a 10-0 lead that could have been 13-0 if Alex Henery hadn't missed a field-goal attempt from 58 yards as time expired.
Tampa seemed in serious trouble after being stifled again on its opening series of the third quarter.
That's when Johnson fumbled the punt return and the Bucs' Dekoda Watson recovered at the 5, setting the Bucs up for the first of three touchdowns that seemed to take the fight out of the Eagles.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman hit Vincent Jackson with a go-ahead touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, and the Bucs seemingly had seized control with a 14-10 lead that went to 21-10 when they followed with a 75-yard touchdown drive on the next series.
In the first half, Foles ran for a touchdown and Henery kicked a field goal as the Eagles finally found some offensive rhythm in a game dominated early by defense. The Bucs had gone to the locker room with just 79 yards from scrimmage.
A big part of that excellent defensive showing by the Eagles might have been because of a couple of crucial changes the Eagles implemented before this contest. In addition to the new wrinkle of a more traditional alignment with their defensive front, which began when they fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn and scrapped his "9 technique" system last week, the Eagles featured a different look with their linebackers as well.
Jamar Chaney was back as a regular on the outside again, only on the strong side, with Mychal Kendricks moved to the weak side. Kendricks remained in on passing downs along with DeMeco Ryans when the Eagles went to an extra defensive back.
The Eagles made life miserable for Freeman in the first half, limiting him to five completions in 16 attempts for 61 yards while sacking him twice. Foles, by contrast, was 16 of 23 for 193 yards.
The switch seemed to benefit Kendricks most of all. The rookie finished with a team-high seven tackles, including one for a loss, and broke up three passes.
To be fair, as JB-Sage-Lion noted during the game, the Eagles did run the "over defense nine technique" on several defensive sets. So nothing personal, Jim Washburn…
Foles was as lucky as he was good in that final series, nearly having a couple of errant passes picked off. However, his poise won out over all. Just on the hurried spike to stop the clock with 2 seconds remaining — the Eagles were out of timeouts — a thousand things could have gone wrong, and a penalty on the Eagles there would have ended it.
Foles began the game-winning march at his own 36 with 2:44 remaining, connecting with Maclin on a 4-yard pass. Despite being sacked on the next play, he responded with a 23-yard strike to Maclin on third-and-14, and it was game on.
Later, he kept the drive going by scrambling for a first down on fourth-and-1.
But the coup de grace came four plays later, on fourth-and-5 from the 23. Foles threw just short of the end zone and hit Jason Avant in the middle of the field for a 22-yard gain. Avant hit the ground with 9 seconds to go, forcing a mad dash by his teammates to the new line of scrimmage to get set, snap the ball and spike it, which Foles did with 2 seconds to spare.
Then, just before the snap, Bucs coach Greg Schiano called timeout, which might have served to ice his squad and prevent the Eagles from rushing themselves. On the Eagles' sideline, all Foles, Reid and Mornhinweg did was reaffirm their conviction in the play call, which Foles went on to explain.
"I just like a movement play in that situation because it changes the throwing lanes," Foles said. "If you're in the pocket, a guy can undercut it. Whereas if you're on the run, there's no undercut. I just like movement plays. It felt good. It was the first play that came to my head."
That he could be thinking that clearly at that point in the game might have been the most remarkable aspect of all.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.0||4.6|
Comp – Att
Yards per pass
Sacks – Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-5||3-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|