Nick Foles, Eagles stun suddenly struggling Rams
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LOS ANGELES — Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles hope they’re about to make another late-season run that begins with another big road win over the Rams.
Foles took over for Carson Wentz and passed for 270 yards, and Wendell Smallwood rushed for two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 30-23 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Rookie Josh Adams also rushed for a score as the Eagles (7-7) kept their playoff hopes quite viable with a gritty victory over the Rams (11-3), who lost consecutive regular-season games for the first time in coach Sean McVay’s tenure.
“It’s very satisfying,” Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said. “Our backs have been against the wall for the last few weeks. Hopefully this gives us momentum for the rest of the season. Our goals are still in front of us.”
The Eagles still trail NFC East leader Dallas (8-6) and sit even with Washington (7-7), so they will need help to get back into the postseason. But they’ll get an enormous boost from this performance against the powerhouse Rams, who fell too far behind to catch up.
The Eagles scored 17 consecutive points in the third quarter and then survived the Rams’ late rally. They got help from Los Angeles returner JoJo Natson, who fumbled a punt return that D.J. Alexander recovered with 2:51 to play.
After Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott missed a field goal with 1:08 left, Jared Goff got the Rams to the Philadelphia 18 with 4 seconds to play — but he couldn’t connect with Josh Reynolds on a pass to the goal line as time expired.
Foles went 24 of 31 in his first game action since Week 2 in place of Wentz, who sat out with a back injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season. Foles also took over the Eagles at the Coliseum last December, relieving Wentz during a division-clinching 43-35 win and riding that wave all the way to the Super Bowl MVP award and Philadelphia’s first NFL championship since 1960.
“That’s a guy with true character,” Smallwood said of Foles. “We’re just comfortable with him back there. We don’t feel like anything has fallen of. We know he’s going to step up there and do the job. We rode that guy and we stuck with him (last year), and he went out and played for us tonight.”
Goff passed for 339 yards with two interceptions in the Rams’ first loss at the Coliseum this season. Todd Gurley rushed for two touchdowns — giving him an NFL-best 21 TDs this season — while catching 10 passes for 76 yards, but the superstar running back also failed to get out of bounds on a catch in the final 20 seconds, depriving the Rams of likely two additional shots at the end zone.
Philadelphia is the only team to beat the Rams twice in McVay’s two seasons in charge.
“We have to be able to figure this out and fast,” McVay said. “We are doing things that are uncharacteristic of us. Guys are making decisions and mistakes we typically haven’t seen. This wasn’t good enough, and it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The Rams already have won the NFC West title, and they still control their destiny for a first-round playoff bye with Chicago (10-4) right behind them.
But Los Angeles also has produced three straight pedestrian performances since that epic 54-51 Monday night win over Kansas City last month and an ensuing bye week. The Rams scratched out a win at Detroit two weeks ago before they were held without a TD last week by the Bears.
“It’s good to go through some adversity at some point,” Goff said. “Going through it now, and in the position we are in with the playoffs, we (still) have to be urgent about getting these things fixed. These things are very fixable.”
Although the Rams made a 13-play scoring drive that consumed nearly half of the first quarter, Foles and the Philadelphia offense had three scoring drives in the first half, including a 75-yard march culminating in Adams’ TD run shortly before halftime.
The Eagles took a 20-13 lead shortly after halftime with a two-play, 59-yard drive ending in Smallwood’s first TD run since Week 3. After a Philadelphia field goal, Goff stumbled with a snap and basically handed the ball to a rushing Corey Graham, who returned the interception to set up a drive ending in another scoring run by Smallwood, who had the first multi-TD game of his career.
Los Angeles finally mounted an 84-yard drive capped by Gurley’s second TD run with 4:06 left, and the defense got a stop — but Natson simply lost control of the ball after catching the punt and making an initial juke.
Foles repeatedly connected with Alshon Jeffery, who had eight catches for 160 yards in the third-biggest game of his career. Zach Ertz had three receptions to become the fourth tight end in NFL history with 100 catches in a season.
Eagles: DT Fletcher Cox went to the locker room on a cart during the first half with a hip injury, but returned to the field before halftime.
Rams: Gurley missed several snaps in the second half with a knee injury, but returned. His longtime backup, Malcolm Brown, is out for the season, leaving inexperienced Justin Davis and John Kelly as Los Angeles’ only other ball-carrying options.