The Eagles went all the way without Carson Wentz last season. How? Resilience.
They were left for dead on a November night in New Orleans. Four wins later, the Eagles remain relevant. How? Resilience.
They lost Carson Wentz but still beat the Rams last week at Los Angeles. How? Resilience.
On Sunday, they gave up the go-ahead touchdown with 124 seconds to play, then saw quarterback Nick Foles get his sternum crushed by a cheap hit. They still beat the Texans, 32-30. How?
You know that answer.
Since they limped out of Kansas City after a Week 2 loss in 2017, the Eagles' core value has been their doggedness, with or without masks. Asked if he’d ever seen a team with this degree of determination, a 30-year NFL executive replied:
“The thing I talk a lot about is adversity," said Foles, who threw four touchdown passes, then, one play after that hellacious hit knocked him from the game, returned and led the game-winning field-goal drive. “That’s what this team is about. Just sticking together. Loving one another. Doing that every single play, and not worrying about anything else but the play called. It was on full display today.”
Chris Long built Foles a locker-room shrine after he beat the Rams last week.
What’s Foles going to get this week?
» JEFF McLANE: How does he do it? The legend of Nick Foles grows
If so, Long can drape the altar with Clowney’s jersey, which receiver Alshon Jeffery acquired in a postgame exchange. Consider it a totem to tenacity. Clowney speared Foles in the chest on third-and-10 with 1 minute, 50 seconds to play. Foles couldn’t breathe, but he could think, and so this was his initial reaction:
“Was the pass complete?”
Of course it was. Saint Nick threw it, and it’s almost Christmas, time to celebrate the magic ... of perseverance.
“These guys never quit,” coach Doug Pederson said. “It would have been easy today to let your guard down at the end and not finish the game.”
They kept their guard up at the end, and they finished the game, but they could have quit a lot sooner.
They had to be resilient enough to twice overcome atrocious officiating involving the quarterbacks. In the second quarter, Clowney nearly ripped Foles' head off as he sacked him by the facemask during a failed two-point conversion attempt. No penalty was called.
It seemed as though the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field could not possibly boo any louder ... until, on the ensuing Texans possession, Brandon Graham was called for roughing the passer when he hit Deshaun Watson in an entirely legal manner. That penalty effectively gifted the Texans a touchdown, and a 16-13 halftime lead.
They also were resilient enough to overcome Foles' two turnovers. He fumbled at the Eagles' 5-yard line early in the second quarter, which led to the Texans' first touchdown. He then threw an abysmal interception that ended the Eagles' first possession of the third quarter.
After the interception, Foles approached every offensive starter to remind them of the task at hand. The defense forced a 3-and-out and the offense executed a field-goal drive that tied it at 16.
Foles' resilience will get the most attention, as it should, but his was not the only relevant effort Sunday. Chris Long took a hit to the head in the first half but returned to sack Watson twice. The second time Long forced a fumble that Fletcher Cox recovered, which led to Foles' fourth touchdown pass and a 29-16 lead.
It was the third time in five weeks that an Eagles defensive lineman left the game and returned to impact it. Michael Bennett hurt a foot against the Giants. Cox hurt a hip in L.A. last week.
“It starts and ends with us. The D-Line is the engine that drives this team,” Cox said. “You know you have to come back and finish the game. You look your teammate in the eye and let him know that you need him. That’s an example of our resiliency.”
It would have been a 30-16 lead, but Jake Elliott missed the PAT kick. He redeemed himself with the last-second, 35-yard field goal. Foles couldn’t have been happier.
“We saw Jake Elliott ... miss the extra point and then all of a sudden our team gave him the [chance] at the end of the game to kick the game-winner,” Foles said.
Cheap shots, bad calls, bad passes and injuries -- it doesn’t matter with this Eagles team. Nothing matters except the next play; the next series; the next game, which is at Washington on Sunday.
“It’s a veteran group, resilient group. They hang together, and they find a way to win," Pederson said. "As a head coach, that’s all you can ask for.”