Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Eagles advance — Bear-ly

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 6

The Eagles’ fate was literally up in the air.

Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining would either end the Eagles’ spirited playoff run or send them on to New Orleans.

The football caromed off the inside of the left goal post and then dropped toward the crossbar. How the football hit the crossbar would determine the Eagles’ fate.

The ball bounced off the crossbar and landed in the end zone, allowing the Eagles to rejoice. Could it end any other way for the Birds, who rallied from a 4-6 start and still needed a Bears victory over the Vikings last Sunday to qualify for the playoffs.

While the celebration went on around him, Nick Foles calmly took a knee to run out the clock on the Eagles’ 16-15 playoff triumph over the host Bears at Soldier Field, earning the defending Super Bowl champions a trip to New Orleans to meet the top-seeded Saints next Sunday (4:40 p.m.).

“We hung in there,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but we made big plays when we needed to.”

Tate comes through

No play was bigger than Foles’ fourth-down touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 56 seconds remaining. After three failed attempts from the 2-yard line, Foles connected with Tate along the goal line at the right edge of the end zone. Tate headed inside first before breaking toward the right sideline along the goal line, an area vacated by Alshon Jeffery, who took a defender with him to the deeper part of the end zone.

“It’s really a simple play,” Foles said. “It comes down to trusting your guy to get open.”

Tate got open, but that wasn’t all that was needed for success on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. With Leonard Floyd applying pressure, Foles had to make the throw three-quarters sidearm to prevent the pass from being deflected. The pass was right on the money, and Tate, who has been a bit of a disappointment since being acquired from the Lions, hauled in the throw.

“I put the top on it,” said Tate, who caught five passes for 46 yards, “but it’s the guys who made the plays earlier in that drive who deserve all the glory.”

Before the offense could get the ball, the defense, which kept the Eagles in the game while the offense was limited to three first-half points, had to get it back. The defense forced a three-and-out one possession after the Bears scored their only touchdown of the game to take the lead. A 35-yard punt gave the Eagles excellent field position, taking over at their own 40-yard line with just under five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Foles effect

The Eagles trailed, 15-10, but everyone was confident with Foles at quarterback. No moment seems too big for the Super Bowl MVP.

“Nick is Nick,” Pederson said. “He’s going to stay calm. He’s going to stay cool. He’s going to stay collected.”

Foles’ demeanor has a ripple effect on the rest of the team, which may be one reason the team has played better since Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback.

“When he’s calm, cool and collected,” Tate said, “usually the other 10 guys are, too.”

Foles (25 of 40, 266 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions) started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery (6 catches for 82 yards), who made a very successful return to Chicago, his NFL home for five seasons before joining the Eagles. Two plays later, rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who caught the Eagles’ first touchdown pass in the third quarter, broke a few tackles on a screen up the middle to pick up a first down.

As is Foles’ modus operandi, he worked in as many receivers as possible. His next pass went to Nelson Agholor for 8 yards, and then he found record-setting tight end Zach Ertz (5 catches for 52 yards) down the middle for 13 yards, advancing the ball to the Bears 14. An 11-yard pass to Jeffery after the 2-minute warning moved the ball to the 2.

But the Bears defense isn’t ranked No. 1 in the NFL for no reason. Darren Sproles was stopped for no gain on consecutive runs. A third-down pass to Jeffery at the goal line was knocked away by All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller.

“It was a crazy game,” Foles said. “That’s a tremendous team. This is a crazy place to play.”

With the Soldier Field crowd roaring, though, Foles was able to stay calm on fourth down even though the Eagles’ season was hanging in the balance.

“What I learned on these (big) stages is how to calm myself in a chaotic moment,” Foles said.

Foles calmly connected with Tate for the go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the Eagles still seemed in good shape.

Eagles barely (bearly?) escape

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tarik Cohen returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Bears 42. One play later, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found Allen Robinson, a thorn in the Eagles’ side (10 catches for 143 yards, TD), for a 25-yard gain to the Eagles 33 with 35 seconds remaining. An 8-yard pass on the next play moved the ball to the 25. After a spike to kill the clock and another incompletion, the stage was set for ex-Eagle Parkey to decide his former teams’ fate.

Pederson called a timeout just before Parkey’s first attempt at the 43-yarder, which sailed through the uprights.

“Obviously, we’re just hoping for a miss,” Foles said.

On the second attempt, Parkey hit the left upright and crossbar before bouncing harmlessly into the end zone.

“The big thing is we say some adversity tonight in the first half,” Foles said. “I had a couple of turnovers. I think the big thing is that no one loses faith, no one stops believing, everyone just keep talking, keeps believing in one another, and we just rallied.”

Whether the Eagles rally around Foles or because of Foles doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they continue to believe in themselves and that their remarkable journey, with six wins in their past seven games, continues.

“I’m blessed to wear this jersey one more week,” Foles said. “I’m blessed to play with these guys one more week, and to be with these coaches one more week.”

What about the bruised ribs that forced Foles to leave the regular-season finale in the fourth quarter.

“It’s good,” Foles said of his rib injury. “It feels better with the win.”

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