Jake Elliott’s second field of the day sailed through the uprights with 12:07 left in the game, pulling the Eagles to within five points of the Rams.
The 13-play, 60-yard drive had given them some much-needed momentum. Even with the loss of yet another offensive lineman (left guard Isaac Seumalo injured a knee in the first half), they were starting to win the trench war against Aaron Donald and the Rams' defensive line. Miles Sanders had picked up two rushing first downs on the previous drive.
“We got it to within five and really felt momentum was on our side,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “The defense was eager and ready to go back out on the field. We just needed to find a way to get a stop at that particular time and get the offense back out there.”
The stop never came.
On the Rams' first offensive play following Elliott’s field goal, Darrell Henderson took a handoff from Jared Goff and ran right down the middle for a 40-yard gain. There was plenty of blame to go around, but it started when defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who had been out since training camp with a hamstring injury, got pushed out of his gap by Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein.
Two plays later, linebacker Nate Gerry got caught peeking in the backfield too long and gave up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Goff to tight end Tyler Higbee that took the Eagles' momentum and snapped it in two as they fell to 0-2, losing 37-19.
"We’ve got to do better there,'' Pederson said. “We’ve got to coach it better and play better in those situations to where everybody understands you get one stop there and give it back to your offense, you got a chance to take the lead.”
Understanding wasn’t the problem Sunday. Executing was the problem. It was the problem for the Eagles defense all afternoon as Sean McVay’s team racked up 449 yards in total offense, including 191 on the ground.
The 191 rushing yards were the most allowed by the Eagles since 2016 when they gave up 230 yards on the ground in a 27-20 loss to Washington.
The play-action and bootlegs and motion and misdirection that the Rams used to beat the Eagles Sunday wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen from them before, either on tape or in their 2017 and 2018 wins over McVay’s team.
Wide receiver Robert Woods scored the first of the Rams' two rushing touchdowns on an end-around late in the first quarter. Slot receiver Cooper Kupp burned them for 15 yards on a jet sweep on a second-quarter touchdown drive that put the Rams up 21-3.
Woods had a 9-yard run on a third-quarter scoring drive. And then, just when they get you thinking outside, they send Henderson right through the A-gap and make you eat his dust.
“It was identical to what we prepared for,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. "It was one of those games where you had to play fundamentally sound, disciplined ball. Trust in one another, whether that’s the D-line holding up their end of the bargain and staying in their gaps or us on the back end understanding how they’re going to attack us in what areas and being where we need to be.
“I felt like we started to chase plays rather than being in the moment and trusting one another consistently. We failed to finish that game in the fourth quarter. Defensively, we need to do our part. We need to play stingy defense and we didn’t.”
A week earlier, in the Eagles' 27-17 collapse against Washington, their run defense was the least of their problems. They held the WFT to 2.2 yards per carry. Twenty-five of Washington’s 36 rushing attempts gained two yards or less. Seven lost yardage.
But the Rams aren’t Washington. A week after running the ball 40 times for 153 yards in their 20-17 win over Dallas, they ran it 39 times against the Eagles. It’s the first time a team has run the ball that often against the Eagles since 2015.
Henderson, who only had three carries for 6 yards last week against Dallas, gained 81 yards on 12 carries against the Eagles and also turned the lights out with 3:37 left in the game with a 2-yard touchdown run.
“Everything that happened today was self-inflicted,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We had to stay true to who we were and read our keys.
"As defensive ends, we needed to close down [the edges] and make sure we squeezed the gaps. We did it for most of the game. But those big plays happen when you try to do something different.
“We can’t get frustrated by their game plan. We have to make sure we continue doing the little things that make us successful and how we play. If we had gotten off the field in the fourth quarter and given Carson the ball back, it might’ve been different. But that didn’t happen. They scored again. We just couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Center Jason Kelce said the offense needed to come out fast like they did last week against Washington when they scored on their first three possessions. He said they needed to snatch the lead and make the Rams play from behind. If they had done that, he said, it would have been much easier for the defense.
But that didn’t happen. Running back Miles Sanders fumbled the ball away on the third play of the game, setting up a short touchdown drive for the Rams. The Eagles scored on just one of their first three possessions, and that was an Elliott field goal. Less than 18 minutes into the game, the Rams had an 18-point lead, and McVay could open up his playbook and do anything.
“If you give them a lead early and allow them to establish all of the misdirection and run and play-action and everything that they’re good at, this team has proven to be very successful under Sean McVay,” Kelce said.
"You want to try and get up on them early. Force their hand into getting out of what they’re comfortable doing. And we weren’t able to do that offensively. So we made it very, very difficult for our defense. And that started from the jump with the turnover.
“It’s frustrating watching them not [be able to] get off the field and go through what they went through. But part of that is on us for allowing the Rams to dictate that.”