Let's take a quick trip back to Week 12. The Rams, 11-1 at the time, were on their bye after outlasting the Chiefs in that 54-51 barn-burner that convinced us all that this was the future of football. Meanwhile, the 4-6 Eagles were hosting the Giants and trailed by 16 points in the first half. When it was over, New York imploded and Philly found a way to win. And if that game was the turning point in the Eagles' season, Sunday night's 30-23 victory over the Rams was a statement to the rest of the NFC that this thing ain't over.
The game came down to the final play -- a Jared Goff incompletion in the end zone as time expired -- but the Eagles dominated for most of the night. And in the process, they avoided the type of loss that haunted them earlier in the season when they were playing some truly terrible football:
The last team to lose a game after being up by 17+ points entering the 4th quarter? The Eagles, in week 7 vs the Panthers. Up 17-0 thru 3 quarters, lost 21-17.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 17, 2018
Now we have to take the defending Super Bowl champs seriously, something that hasn't been the case for much of the season.
Are the Rams bad?
Right now, yes, they're bad. They've been bad since that aforementioned Chiefs game when they went from redefining how football is played to looking like they've since been haunted by the ghost of Jeff Fisher. They struggled against the Lions coming out of their bye week and then were embarrassed on national television last Sunday night by arguably the NFC's best team, the Chicago Bears.
The issues in Chicago started with not getting Todd Gurley the ball. On that night he had 11 carries for 28 yards -- that's 2.5 yards per carry. Coach Sean McVay looked to remedy that problem early on Sunday night; he had 11 carries for 43 yards in the first half. But a knee injury, and the Rams' trailing, limited him in the final 30 minutes to more pass-catcher than ball-carrier.
And while the Rams' defense looked susceptible all evening, they've looked like that for most of the year. That's nothing new. What is new, however, is that Goff has regressed, and McVay doesn't appear to have any quick answers for how to fix him. Last week, his second-year quarterback was an abysmal 20 of 43 for 180 yards (4.1 YPA!), no scores and four interceptions.
And early in the second quarter with the Rams leading, 7-6, Goff misfired for his sixth pick in the last two games:
The Eagles were unable to convert that turnover into points, but Goff's second pick was a different story, both in manner in which it happened and what followed next. Facing third-and-1 at the Rams' 34-yard line, Goff fumbled the snap and instead of falling on the ball, he did this:
Related: YOU CAN'T DO THAT.
Two plays later, Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood found the end zone for the second time on the night to extend the lead to 30-13:
To be clear: This isn't all on Goff. The offensive line, which was one of the league's best units coming into the game, has struggled in recent weeks, and Goff has the bruises to prove it. The running game has mysteriously struggled as well, and the loss of Cooper Kupp, who landed on injured reserve after Week 10, has also affected what was previously the league's most efficient passing offense. But injures aren't an excuse; every team is battling injuries at key positions. And when you have the NFL's top-rated run-blocking offensive line, an all-world back in Gurley, and Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks terrorizing secondaries, no one's going to feel sorry for you. But unless Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee can step up to replace Kupp's lost production, expect every opponent the Rams face for the rest of the season to try to replicate what we've now seen in back-to-back weeks: Stop Gurley and force Goff to beat you without one of his favorite targets.
Also not helping? When you cut the lead to seven points with three minutes to go and do this:
For the love of all that's holy, JoJo Natson, call for a fair catch. Sweet mercy, that's a huge mistake.
Nick Foles is back, baby! (sort of)
Nick Foles has no use for September football, because everyone knows that the games don't matter until December. That's not true, of course, but it sure feels that way.
Foles started the first two games of the season while Carson Wentz was still recovering from ACL surgery, and ... he wasn't great. He completed just 55 percent of his throws in the Week 1 win against the Falcons (no touchdowns, one interception). And while he was better in Week 2 (72.9 completion percentage, 334 yards), the Eagles lost to the Bucs.
But after spending the next 11 games on the bench behind Wentz, Foles is again the centerpiece of the Eagles' offense now that Wentz is battling a back injury. And he picked up right where he left off last February, when he won Super Bowl MVP honors. OK, he wasn't that good, but he's still the NFL's best backup quarterback (we're including Joe Flacco), and it's reasonable to think he'll only get better -- Foles has been running the scout team for two months.
Either way, he finished a tidy 24 of 31 for 270 yards with no touchdowns and a truly dumb interception against the Rams. The pick came after the Rams failed to convert a fake punt late in the third quarter. Instead of extending Philly's lead (they led by 13 at the time), this happened:
But that was Foles' lone mistake. (If Goff had played as well as Foles, the Rams would've won, probably easily.) And while Zach Ertz was Wentz's favorite target, Foles appears more comfortable throwing to Alshon Jeffery, who had his biggest game of the season. He finished with eight catches for 160 yards. There was a 35-yarder:
And then a 50-yarder, on a play where Jeffery and Nelson Agholor were so wide open they ended up fighting for the ball:
And then there was the running game, which managed just 111 yards on 30 carries (3.7 YPC) but added three touchdowns, the most impressive courtesy of Wendall Smallwood to make it 20-13 early in the third quarter:
At this point, Foles playing well isn't a surprise. What is mildly shocking, however, is what the Eagles' defense was able to do against the Rams. The unit came into the game with the 23rd-ranked defense, according to Football Outsiders -- 15th against the pass and 23rd against the run. You wouldn't have known it to watch the game, and that's exactly what you want to see if you're coach Doug Pederson, who needs a lot to go right these next two weeks before we can even begin to have those inevitable "Nobody wants to face Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles in the playoffs!" conversations.
The Eagles (7-7) are the NFC's seventh seed, a half-game behind the Vikings for the final playoff spot. They host the Texans next week and end the regular season at Washington. The Rams (11-3) are the NFC's second seed, a half-game behind the Saints for the top spot. They're at Arizona next week and end the season at home against the 49ers. You can stream those games on fuboTV (Try for free).
Relive all the action of the Eagles' big win in our live blog below.