Pick the play of the day for Eagles

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brandon Boykin (right) intercepts a pass intended for the Redskins' Pierre Garcon as Cary Williams and Patrick Chung defend.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brandon Boykin (right) intercepts a pass intended for the Redskins' Pierre Garcon as Cary Williams and Patrick Chung defend.
Posted: November 19, 2013

THE RECEIVER Brandon Boykin was supposed to be covering ran a quick out pattern and removed himself from the play, as Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox chased Robert Griffin III, on third-and-1 from the Birds' 18. RG3 was on the wrong side of the Eagles' 30 and still backing up when he heaved the ball toward the heavens, the Washington quarterback knowing he couldn't afford a sack, the clock ticking down inside 40 seconds remaining in the game, the Redskins without a timeout.

"I had it in my head that something had to happen," Cox said after a monster game that included the recovery of a Griffin fumble and a near-interception. "In order to make a big play, they had to throw the ball. I figured I would just bring my best pass rush and get after it and get to RG3."

"I saw the ball come out," Boykin said. "It was kind of just frozen in the air, not to any particular person. Didn't even really look around to see who was going to try to make a play, I just instantly tried to run and grab it."

His over-the-shoulder catch in the back of the end zone with 32 seconds left sealed a 24-16 Eagles victory. The Birds head into their bye week 6-5, alone in first place in the NFC East, no longer lugging around a 10-game home losing streak.

"I guess all this was going through my head, but when I grabbed it, I just wanted to get back out of bounds . . . I knew that was going to be 'Game over,' " Boykin said.

Did it seem like the ball stayed up there forever?

"A little bit, yeah. It was, like, unbelievable that it was just floatin' in the air, like a high school pass or something," Boykin said. "It ended up good."

Said Griffin: "I'm just trying to throw as far as I can, and me backing up, trying to throw it out of the back of the end zone, the distance that it was, it was something I shouldn't do."

Nobody was near Boykin when he caught the ball and tapped both feet down, partly because corner Cary Williams saw what was about to happen and jammed on the brakes, walling off Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon, who might have at least been able to hit Boykin as he came down.

"Boykin has great hands," Williams said. "It was a relief, to be honest with you. I was tired, man. That was a long drive. They kept converting third down after third down after third down. Communication wasn't necessarily the best in that situation. After he caught it, I was relieved, I was exhausted, I was exhilarated, I was happy."

That last quarter, the good and the bad, probably was an accurate gauge of where the Eagles are at the bye, in their first season under Chip Kelly. They were good enough to enter the fourth up 24-0 against a division rival. They were wobbly enough to give up 16 points in less than 7 minutes, and to end up playing for their lives on the final series, during which they gave up first downs on third-and-10, third-and-25(!), third-and-10 and third-and-5. Oh, and they had the benefit of the Redskins' starting from their own 4 after a 70-yard punt - yes, 70-yard punt - by Donnie Jones, with no return.

Their offense seemed to be scoring at will when it executed a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive at the start of the second half, making it 24-0, then that will quickly evaporated, leaving the defense on the field too long.

But when the Eagles had to make a play to win the game, they did, and they've now won three in a row under Kelly for the first time.

"To be a good football team, you can't flinch. I don't think these guys did," Kelly said. "In this game, you know, crap is going to hit the fan. It's just how you react to it."

Kelly was asked what he's learned about this group, as he approaches the bye. (And by the way, NJ.com reported after yesterday's game that the Eagles' return to action, Dec. 1 at home against the Cardinals, is being flexed to a night game.)

"I've learned that they compete and I've learned that they stick together as a group," Kelly said. "I've learned that they really care about each other. I think they hold each other accountable. They show up to practice every single day wanting to get better . . . It's a great group to be around."

When the score was 24-0, there were all kinds of story lines involving Nick Foles - who has a 152.8 passer rating the past three games, the second-best NFL three-game stretch since 1960, the Eagles said - LeSean McCoy, who broke 1,000 yards for the season and came back after suffering a first-half hamstring injury, and Bill Davis' defense, which seemed on target to notch the Eagles' first shutout since 1996, and which hasn't allowed more than 21 points now in seven straight games.

But the offense shut down when Washington stacked the box against the run, and the Redskins, whose game plan involved running the ball ceaselessly even down three scores, eventually were compelled to throw it. When they did, they found a soft spot in corner Roc Carmichael, playing for Bradley Fletcher, who missed the game with a pectoral injury. Trent Cole and Patrick Chung banged heads on a pass to Darrel Young, who ended up scoring from 62 yards out. Suddenly, game on.

Before that, the Redskins had absolutely nothing going. How they thought they were going to run their way past the Eagles, with their secondary giving up double-digit yardage on every Foles throw, is a mystery. Consider this sequence: In the first quarter, Washington ran 10 plays, just to move the ball from its 2 to its 31 before punting. Then the Eagles ran four plays, covered 68 yards, and made it 7-0 on a Foles keeper from 4 yards out.

Foles was solid in his first-ever victory at Lincoln Financial Field, 17-for-26 for 298 yards, no touchdowns but no turnovers, a 104.3 passer rating, plus 47 yards on nine rushes. He missed two touchdown passes by inches, Brent Celek and Riley Cooper both ruled down at the 1, the Eagles scoring on the next play both times. (Cooper probably scored, but the Eagles didn't challenge).

Foles outgained RG3 on the ground (10 carries, 44 yards) and in the air (17-for-35 for 264 yards, two touchdowns, a fumble lost and that final pick, 81.1 rating). If you'd somehow entered the Linc yesterday not knowing which guy was the second player taken in the 2012 draft and which was the 88th, you probably would have guessed wrong on your way out the gate. (Yeah, I know, RG3 has to play in Mike and Kyle Shanahan's offense and he'd probably look a lot better in Kelly's. But Foles was more accurate under pressure yesterday, anyway.)

"Nick did an excellent job," Mike Shanahan said. His team, now 3-7, beat Foles twice last season, when the Eagles' then-rookie QB was playing behind a decimated offensive line. "He has a lot of poise. He is being protected well. He has a good running game, which gives every quarterback a little feeling of being comfortable when they're in the pocket . . . He is big and strong and makes some good decisions. I'm really impressed with him."

There was a point in the second quarter when Foles was constantly flexing his throwing shoulder between snaps. Kelly jokingly suggested afterward he was waving his arm to fire up the crowd. Foles said he landed on it, banged it up, wanted to make sure he kept it warm so it didn't stiffen.

"Nick is a tough kid," said McCoy, whose 77 yards on 20 carries gave him 1,009 (on 213 carries) for the season, McCoy the first NFL rusher to 1,000 yards this season. "His will to win is unbelievable."

"The fans have been wanting this for a long time," Foles said. "We've been wanting this for a long time."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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