Eagles Insider

Safety Rodney McLeod may have saved the Eagles' season

Eagles Insider

It hasn’t been the year Rodney McLeod wanted. He's sure finishing it off in incredible fashion.

McLeod, the Eagles’ 31-year-old safety, saved the game and very well may have saved the season with a spectacular diving interception in the end zone Sunday with 24 seconds left in the Eagles’ 20-16 win over Washington at FedEx Field.

Ballgame.

It was his second pivotal interception in two weeks.

It wasn’t lost on McLeod that his INT off Taylor Heinicke came a year and three days after he underwent his second ACL surgery in three years.

“Honestly, yeah, it’s still on my mind,” McLeod said. “I’m still trying to get myself back to the level of play where I was last year, honestly. But it feels good to be able to come out these past two weeks and make huge plays for the team and I think it’s just credit to a lot of the hard work that I put in. … Everybody lifted me up in the time that I needed it the most so feels good to be able to do this for a lot of people that I care about.

“I’ve seen growth within myself throughout the course of this year from week to week. I’m just seeing the fruition of it.”

McLeod is the first Eagle with interceptions in back-to-back games since Ronald Darby in 2017. And he’s the first Eagle to clinch a win with an INT in the end zone in the final minute since 1996, when James Willis picked off Troy Aikman with 15 seconds left at Texas Stadium and the Eagles leading 24-21 and then lateraled to Troy Vincent, who ran 90 more yards for a touchdown.

 

“He won us the game,” Lane Johnson said. “It wasn’t looking too good for us. I saw where he sailed it and the first thought I thought (was) it may hit the ground, and when I saw the replay, he caught it. 

“That’s a testament to Rodney overcoming injuries and a lot of adversity he’s had to face, and he’s one of the few guys that’s come through and still be able to play at a high level and still be a leader. Hats off to him, he won us this game.” 

Washington had a 1st-and-10 on the Eagles’ 20 when Heinicke tried to hit J. Bates for the game-winner. But Anthony Harris -- McLeod’s one-time teammate at Virginia -- had Bates covered, the ball sailed high and McLeod snagged the ball in the end zone with a full-out dive. The play was reviewed -- all turnovers are -- but McLeod somehow got his hand under the ball and the play stood.

After a Jalen Hurts kneel down, the Eagles were 9-7, and a few hours later they were on their way to the playoffs.

“I knew I caught it once I secured it really,” McLeod said. “That was the biggest thing. I let one slip away first time we played them. So wanted to just make sure I closed this game out the right way. It felt good to be able to finish the game and make a big catch, play for this team. Gotta give credit (to) my guy (Harris) for having great coverage and affecting that throw. I was able to capitalize on that.”

McLeod is such a team player, such an esteemed veteran leader, has been through so much. There aren’t many players his teammates would rather see make a game-winning play.

“It felt great to see Rodney catch that ball the way he caught that ball,” Jalen Hurts said. “In a situation like that I’m the type of guy that you would love to be on the field to end it and have it in your hands. 

“But to see Rodney make the catch he made in the situation coming off the deep safety, the quarterback throws it a little high and to make a diving catch and catch it with straight hands as a safety, I have a lot of respect for him. I was so excited for him to make a big-time play like that. Probably one of the best catches of the year for this team.”