Who knew after all these months the answer to the question of who could inject some life into the Eagles’ inert offense would be Boston Scott?
Call it dumb luck because the Eagles had buried the second-year running back on their practice squad and then their 53-man roster for most of the last two years. But Scott happened nonetheless, and the diminutive 24-year old was a gigantic reason why the Eagles rallied to beat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime Monday night.
“I did know that he had it in him," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “We saw it in the preseason with some of the explosive runs that he had. You just never know sometimes.”
The Eagles looked all but buried, if not their playoff chances, after a frustrating first half. The offense was ineffective and the defense, particularly the hapless secondary, couldn’t stop venerable (read: old, withering) quarterback Eli Manning before the break.
But Jim Schwartz’s defense rebounded, thanks to a second half adjustment to more zone coverage, and quarterback Carson Wentz delivered a dramatic comeback that will silence his critics — for now. But it was the unheralded Scott — all 5-foot-6 of him — who was the hero for the Eagles.
“I know they’ve always known," Scott said, “it’s just a matter of opportunity, situation.”
Scott rushed ten times for 59 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 69 yards. All but one of his catches came in the second half, and in fact, most didn’t come until starter Miles Sanders left with an apparent injury late in the third quarter.
With no wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back Jordan Howard and receiver Nelson Agholor, Scott stepped into the fore and gave the Eagles offense a jolt. He was arguably the fastest player on the field. For a team in desperate need of that quotient, it’s a surprise that it took so long to feature Scott.
But that’s how the season, for the most part, has been for the Eagles. Until it wasn’t. For now. Scott has bided his time.
“I know the nature of the NFL," Scott said. “You never know when your opportunity might come. Why worry about not getting it right now? If you’re in a bad mood, you’re being negative, and your opportunities come, you could mess it up.”
Scott had a cup of coffee in a couple of late-season games and the playoffs last season as a rookie, strictly as a returner. And he logged 23 rushes, one catch and 11 returns in the previous seven games this season since being activated in October. But Monday night was the most he had even been featured — and most of his touches came with the game on the line.
“To step up the way he did," Wentz said of Scott, “running between the tackles, outside the tackles, making plays in the screen game, in the passing game, he did a great job. He was kind of a spark plug for us there.”
In overtime, after Sanders caught an 11-yard pass out of the backfield, Scott took a toss from Wentz and bolted up field 25 yards into Giants territory. A couple of Wentz completions later, and a Sanders 10-yard scoot, Scott followed with a 6-yard tote to the 2-yard line.
And on the next play, Wentz found tight end Zach Ertz alone in the end zone for the game-winning score.
Scott was just one of several Eagles who had spent significant time on the practice squad to make key contributions with so many offensive starters out. Receiver Greg Ward caught four passes for 34 yards. And tight end Josh Perkins caught five passes for 37 yards.
“Me and Greg — we arrive from the apartments to the facility together and we always talked about our opportunity coming and making the most of it,” Scott said. “And I would say I was down a lot more than he was. His mind-set is just contagious.”
Scott made perhaps his most lasting impact late in the third when Sanders left. He rushed four times for 20 yards at the end of the Eagles’ first touchdown-scoring drive, and punched into the end zone from 2 yards out to trim the Giants’ lead, 17-10.
When Sanders (15 carries for 45 yards) came back — he said afterward that he just got a little banged up — Scott shifted into more of a receiver role. That was the original game plan. The Eagles opened with a two-back “Pony” package and Scott caught a little flip on jet motion from Wentz for 8 yards.
But that was the extent of Scott’s usage as a receiver until he caught two passes for 33 yards on the Eagles’ first possession of the fourth quarter.
The first 17-yard grab came out of the backfield. Scott was in the open field and with Janoris Jenkins bearing down, he gave the Giants cornerback a little shake and broke his ankles. It was the type of move that Scott’s mentor Darren Sproles would pull off in his heyday.
“One thing I’ve watched from Scott is he’s always a 100 miles an hour. He learned that from Darren Sproles," Eagles guard Brandon Brooks said. "There will never be another Darren Sproles, but [Scott] tries to hit the middle with as much as he can. When he gets the opportunity, he always makes the most of it.
“I’m not shocked at all that Boston went out there and showed the world what he can do.”
Several plays later, Scott gained 16 yards on a screen down to the Giants 28. The drive stalled there, and kicker Jake Elliott booted a 47-yard field goal wide left. But the Eagles got the ball back with a little over 8 minutes left after Manning and his offense went three and out yet again.
Wentz and the Eagles were in dire straits. Jeffery had already left with a foot injury. Right tackle Lane Johnson was done for the night with an ankle sprain. The offense was already without Howard and Agholor. And eventually rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside would also leave.
But Wentz, who was throwing to guys in positions and on routes he’d never thrown to them before, and his beleaguered unit somehow didn’t die. They drove 85 yards on 14 plays to knot the score, 17-17, with under two minutes remaining. And in overtime, after winning the coin toss, they traversed 75 yards on 8 plays — the last the game ender to Ertz.
And Scott was in the middle of it all. It’s not a stretch to say that he saved the Eagles season. For now.
“Boston," Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley teased his protégé as he was engulfed by reporters after the game, “you’re on the clock.”