Jake Elliott's up-and-down night ends with redemption

USA Today Images

Jake Elliott's up-and-down night ends with redemption

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott had just put on his red Christmas sweater that said, "Your Mom Believes in Santa," when, from a few locker stalls over, Nelson Agholor called out for his attention. 

Agholor didn't need to say anything. When Elliott looked his way, Agholor clenched his right hand into a fist and pounded his chest twice. 

Kicker life is good after hitting a game-winner. 

Even though the Eagles scored a defensive touchdown on the last play of the game, it was Elliott's 48-yard kick with 22 seconds left that gave them the win. At around halftime, Elliott said he knew there was a good chance the game would be in his hands ... or on his foot. 

"I had a really good feeling it was going to come down to one," he said. "And luckily it did."

When Ronald Darby picked off Derek Carr's pass with 57 seconds remaining in regulation, the Eagles' sideline exploded. Because some thought Darby wasn't touched on the ground and returned it for a touchdown, many Eagles were celebrating. Chris Long dropped to the ground to make a fake snow angel. It was crazy. 

But through it all, Elliott quietly picked up a football, went past the bench to his tee and began booming practice kicks into the netting. 

His game-winning field goal was a beauty. It was wind-aided, but it would have been good from much farther. It clinched the win and the No. 1 seed for the Eagles on the tail end of an absolutely wild game that at one point featured three turnovers in 38 seconds. 

"I didn't even react out of excitement. I just took a deep breath," Torrey Smith said. "Like, 'thank you.' We had like nine lives. We were able to get it done. That was a pretty stressful game. It was weird the last quarter or so. So to come out on top, it was huge for us." 

Even though Elliott missed a chip-shot 33-yarder — he said he just kicked behind it — toward the south side of the stadium earlier in the game, he admitted that was clearly the easier side to kick toward because of the wind on Monday night. That's the way the final kick went. Either way, the temperature was in the 20s, with wind chills in the teens and gusting winds at times.  

"Definitely not ideal conditions," Elliott said. "But you play around with it in warmups and try to get a feel for each end."

Before the second half, Elliott got on the field and tried to make some adjustments on that side of the field. He kicked a few extra warmups because of the cold weather. 

Nick Foles and the offense struggled most of the night, but they were able to move the ball 21 yards to the Oakland 31-yard line on that last drive to set up the game-winner. Elliott said he felt good from about 55 to 57 yards on that side of the field, and Doug Pederson said the goal was to get the ball to at least the 35.

"You really want to get as close as possible to take a lot of pressure off," Foles said. "But we have one of the best kickers in the NFL, so he was able to make it work.”

Remembering bounces that went Eagles' way in Super Bowl run


Remembering bounces that went Eagles' way in Super Bowl run

Let’s start this by making sure we all understand that the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl win last season. They were the best team in the NFL all year and they overcame injuries that would have killed most teams. 

But no team can win a championship without at least a few things going its way. That was true for the Eagles too. 

The topic of luck came up with Doug Pederson in a spring session with several reporters not too long ago. It happened when Pederson was asked about how he won a Super Bowl in Year 2, but Andy Reid couldn’t in 14 mostly successful years. Pederson pointed to a lot of key players that Reid brought to town who were integral during the Super Bowl run. … But also luck. 

“The ball’s got to bounce your way,” Pederson said. 

The Eagles earned their Super Bowl rings, but they did get a little bit of luck along the way too. That conversation with Pederson got us thinking. 

Here are six times the ball bounced their way — figuratively or literally — during the playoff run: 

This play came on 2nd-and-8 from their own 30-yard line with 22 seconds left in the second quarter of the divisional round game against the Falcons. The ball literally bounced to the Eagles on this one. 

Somehow Nick Foles’ errant pass should have fallen right into the arms of Keanu Neal, but for some reason, Neal jumped up and the ball hit him in the knee. It then bounced back about seven or eight yards and fell into the arms of Torrey Smith, who picked up a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, Jake Elliott drilled a 53-yard field goal to pull the Eagles within one point (10-9) heading into halftime. 

The Eagles still needed to pick up a first down before they ran out the clock after this play, but this was really the final play of the game. Jalen Mills got aggressive and he deserves credit, but it would have been nearly impossible to defend a perfect throw to Julio Jones in the end zone. This one falls incomplete and the Eagles moved on to the NFC Championship Game. 

“If that ball is you know, a foot lower, it might be a different story,” Pederson said. 

The NFC Championship Game wasn’t very close game between the Eagles and the Vikings, so I guess it was somewhat lucky the Eagles faced Minnesota instead of New Orleans. That doesn’t happen without this crazy play to end the other divisional game. Somehow Marcus Williams didn’t force Stefon Diggs out of bounds and Diggs went in for a game-winning 61-yard touchdown. 

Now, after seeing how the Eagles dismantled the Vikings and then beat the Patriots, they absolutely could have beaten the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but it would have been much tougher. I always thought the Eagles didn’t want to see Drew Brees in the playoffs; thanks to this play, they didn’t have to. 

Early in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, the Eagles were gifted a bad long snap that led to a short missed field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, one of the best kickers in the NFL. Gostkowski had already made a 26-yard field goal earlier in the game. In his career, the veteran kicker has made 89.5 percent of his field goals in the playoffs. 

The 26-yard miss was just the fourth miss of Gostkowski’s playoff career (34 for 38) and it’s by far the shortest miss of his playoff career. In fact, it’s tied for the shortest miss of his career; he missed a 26-yarder back in 2008. It was just the fifth miss for Gostkowski from 20-29 yards in his entire career. 

Foles didn’t have this problem. Foles caught the ball in the "Philly Special," but Tom Brady couldn’t bring in this ball in the second quarter on third down. On fourth down, Mills broke up a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski down the sideline. 

If Brady catches this ball, not only do the Patriots have a first down, they get pretty far into Philly territory. Brady isn’t fast, but check out how much space he’d have. 

Oh well. He didn’t catch it. 

Brandon Graham waited until the end of the game, but he pulled off the most important play in Eagles history with just over two minutes left in Super Bowl LII. But it might not matter if the ball dropped on the point and bounces to a Patriot. New England would have had the ball back and it would have been third down, with two more chances to advance. 

Instead, the ball hit the ground with the flat side and hovered in the air before rookie Derek Barnett grabbed it.

Some could argue the final Hail Mary falling incomplete was lucky too, but that play would have been much luckier for the Patriots had it worked. 

We started with this and we’ll end with it. The Eagles earned their championship. None of this takes away from it. It’s just fun to remember how crazy some of these things that went down were. 

“I think there's a little bit of that [luck], you know?” Pederson said. “But again, it doesn't, it doesn't pull away from the fact that our guys worked extremely hard and put themselves in a position to win those games."

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

AP Images

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19