The Eagles have succeeded in taking their tumultuous regular season to a final act. The drama will be played out next Sunday on the road against the Redskins, a team that looks to be played out, too.
But the Eagles have learned to take nothing for granted this season, a lesson that was reinforced against the Houston Texans on Sunday when they won the game, then lost the game, then won it back again, all in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
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They do not take health for granted. They do not take the presence of their franchise quarterback for granted. They do not take opponents for granted. They do not take what had previously been an overwhelming home-field advantage for granted. And Sunday against the Texans, they were unable to take a late 13-point lead for granted.
In fact, the only certainty in those final minutes appeared to be they would have to rally for the win without either Carson Wentz, their starting quarterback, or his backup, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Wentz has missed two games with a stress fracture in his back and, as the Eagles were trying to manufacture their comeback in the fading light, Foles was on the ground, writhing in pain after taking a vicious hit from Houston lineman Jadeveon Clowney.
Nothing is certain for this team, however; and definitely not when it comes to Foles. He was helped off the field, only missed one play, and returned to finish off the drive that ended in a game-winning field goal as time expired. In the 32-30 win, Foles set a new franchise record with 471 passing yards, breaking Donovan McNabb’s mark of 464 yards set in 2004.
“I thought they were going to bury him next to the statue outside,” defensive end Chris Long said. “They were going to have the statue, and then like a little tomb for him. But he got up, and that was cool.”
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Perhaps not as cool as the moment commemorated by the statue – when Foles and coach Doug Pederson agreed on the gadget play that resulted in a Super Bowl touchdown pass to the quarterback – but it would suffice on this day as the Eagles kept alive their hope of reaching the postseason.
They still need to win against Washington next week, and also get some help elsewhere. Their most likely path, if they win to finish the season at 9-7 and on a three-game winning streak, is a Minnesota loss to Chicago. Maybe it will turn out that nothing is possible. Maybe that everything is possible. That’s the kind of season it has been, and that is the way it will end.
“I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and we’re just making dips and turns and twists and I’m just holding on for the ride,” offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. “It’s crazy. You never know what’s going to happen around here.”
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The ride on Sunday was bumpy as the fans split their attention between the action on the field and the updates from other games on the scoreboard. When the Eagles trailed, 16-13, at the half, and Foles began the third quarter by throwing an interception, the bumps got bigger. But they scored on their next three drives to take a 29-16 lead, with only Jake Elliott’s missed extra point as a minor downer. But what could that matter?
In the end, it almost cost everything as Houston rallied to take the lead and set up the final drama when Foles took that awful hit and got back up. He only completed one more pass, a 20-yarder to Zach Ertz, and the big play of the drive was a draw call to Darren Sproles, but they needed every play and every yard and every second on the clock to get the win.
Now, they need to get another. The question is whether fate is preparing them for elation or letdown. That won’t be answered until Sunday. Their job is to make their own fate.
“We only control what we control,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “What we control is winning our games, and we’ve got one more. I expect every game to go down to the wire, and we just have to keep scratching for wins.”
With the next loss, they will be scratched. But what if it never arrives?