In the month since losing starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles have played a skittish backup at quarterback behind a spotty offensive line, at the exact time that their highly ranked defense began collapsing. The franchise hadn’t won a playoff game since 2009, or even played in one since Foles was the starter four years ago under Chip Kelly.
For much of the first half tonight, it looked like this season was headed for another grim ending. In the first 20 minutes, the Eagles fumbled three times and turned it over on a Falcons punt that bounced off Bryan Braman’s heel, while Matt Ryan appeared to be in control, leading his team to two scores in their first four drives. For his part, Foles looked like the absolute worst version of himself, botching easy throws and launching wounded ducks that made it maybe two-thirds of their intended distance.
But those two scores were all the Falcons would get, as the Eagles defense stayed stout and Foles somehow got comfortable. In the last minute of the first half, the home underdogs cut the lead to 10-9 thanks to Foles banking a pass off the Atlanta defense for a 20-yard pass to Torrey Smith and then completing a 15-yard out to Alshon Jeffery with one second left in the first half.
After three awful games under the Foles administration—a total of five catches for 57 yards—Jeffery had four grabs for 61 yards tonight. If he wasn’t exactly his miraculous 2013 self, Foles was much better than the sub-replacement QB he’s been for the last month. He ended up 23 for 30 on the night and kept the Falcons offense off the field for huge chunks of the second half.
But the Steve Sarkisian-coached Falcons offense still had one last chance. After hitting Julio Jones to convert a fourth down with just over three minutes left, Ryan marched the team down to the 2-yard line with 1:05 left. A high fourth-down pass to Jones somehow sailed between his hands, and the Falcons added another chapter to their rich history of public shame. The NFL’s most skilled celebrators threw in two more bizarre ones after the clock expired, maybe bewildered at their own good luck.