By Bob Grotz
Delaware County Daily Times

PHILADELPHIA >> Joe Walker wouldn’t have been on the field to leap over the pile and make a spectacular fourth-and-goal stop at the end of the first half Sunday if not for an ankle injury to Eagles teammate Jordan Hicks.

Corey Clement, who ran for a 15-yard touchdown, was filling in for veteran Darren Sproles, forced out with a wrist issue.

Chris Maragos got his first start in a couple of years because the Eagles’ starting-caliber safeties were scratched due to strained hamstrings. He played every snap on defense and special teams on a day the temperature soared into the 90’s.

And then there was kicker Jake Elliott, whose parents rushed to Lincoln Financial Field to wish him good luck and wound up sharing his minor miracle.

Elliott booted a walk-off, club-record 61-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Eagles to a stunning 27-24 triumph over the down-on-their-luck New York Giants, who had taken their first two leads of the season in the fourth quarter.

Two weeks ago Elliott was on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals. Six weeks from now, it’s going to be tough to keep him and veteran kicker Caleb Sturgis, assuming Elliott keeps this up.

“I just got an apartment back in Cincinnati and got it all furnished and I get a phone call about two weeks later and then I’m moving to a new city and getting to know a new group of guys. The adjustment has been super smooth. The guys here are great.

“It’s kind of all a blur to me. All I know is that the ball was in the air for a really long time and it was real close to that right upright.”

Several other Eagles stepped up as well to defeat Eli Manning and the Giants for the sixth time in their last seven meetings.

Steve Wisniewski quietly played an excellent game at left guard, where he replaced starter Chance Warmack, who after replacing Isaac Seumalo, let his man sack Carson Wentz.

Look at the Eagles’ touchdowns and big play highlights and you’ll see center Jason Kelce in the middle of almost all of them. On Clement’s scoring run Wiz took a penetrator out of the play while Kelce took out not one but two Giants defenders sealing the edge. The offensive line is going to enjoy reviewing the film. The same can be said of their teammates.

You can rip the Giants for being 0-3. Heck, it’s not hard to criticize Eagles head coach Doug Pederson for gambling on fourth-and-eight at the Giants’ 43-yard line late in the first half. It allowed Manning to march the offense to the 1 of the Birds with 24 ticks left.

What you cannot deny is that the Eagles found a way to win, collectively. You could feel it when the unsung Walker hurdled over the pile to stop 220-pound running back Orleans Darkwa on fourth down.

“It felt awesome, man,” Walker said. “Just being in the stadium around these fans, it’s electrifying when you make a play. There’s not a better feeling in the world than running out there in front of these people and making a play.”

Kelce said the Eagles practiced with an edge this past week, partly because they weren’t happy with the way they ran the ball in their first two games. The Giants ‘run defense is solid. But there’s only so much you can take before weariness sets in, as it did on the Birds’ 18-play, 90-yard scoring drive capped by LeGarrette Blount’s one-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

“You run hard and physically on them, and it just wears on them,” Kelce said. “We had that 18-play drive early and everybody was so fatigued and tired but they were tired, as well. You could see it wearing on them. Those are fun games to play. Especially as an offensive lineman.”

The Eagles knew at that point it would be their game to lose. And they put themselves in a position to do that after burning a 14-0 lead. The Giants scored two TDs in less than two minutes to lead 21-14.

“Good teams find a way to win close games,” Kelce said. “The margin of victory is so close in this league. Unfortunately we allowed them to come back into that game and I’m sure there’s probably going to be some discussion. We probably shouldn’t have let that happen. But that’s what happens in this league. Adversity is going to strike and the teams that end up playing in January and February find a way to overcome it.”

The Eagles battled back to knot the score at 24 with 51 seconds left on a 46-yard field goal by Elliott. It was a hold your breath kick as the rookie out of Memphis had earlier missed a 52-yarder wide right.

Thanks to a 28-yard punt by Brad Wing, who never felt comfortable during his audition here years ago, the Eagles got the ball back with 13 ticks left. Wentz threw a 19-yard sideline pass to Alshon Jeffery, who got out of bounds with one tick left.

Pederson conversed with special teams coach Dave Fipp, and a few moments later Elliott was sent out for the field goal attempt. Beneath the goal posts was Odell Beckham Jr., who had two TD grabs in the second half. Come up short and you’d have a bunch of linemen chasing a thoroughbred.

“Jake, he’s got such a strong leg and we’ve seen it practice,” Maragos said. “He’s been bombing 50-some yarders in practice with plenty of distance. You look at how cool and calm he is. It’s funny watching him. Most kickers are like, ‘I want the ball here, tilt it 45 degrees.’ He’s like, ‘hey, snap it, put it down, I’ll kick it.’ He’s just cool, calm, collected, laid back.”

And a winner. The kick had plenty of length but almost hit the right upright, which, back in the day David Akers did against the Giants on a 61-yard attempt at the Linc.

When the scrum dissolved, Eagles linebackers Kamu Grugier-Hill and Mychal Kendricks carried Elliott off the field.

“He’s only been here for what, two weeks?” Kelce said. “A 61-yarder to end the game, that’s pretty impressive.”

The same can be said for the Eagles, who shrugged off adversity and — even if it was the 0-3 Giants — found a way to win Sunday.


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