Fourth-and-goal stop clinches Ea­gles’ vic­tory

Philly will host NFC ti­tle game next week

The Buffalo News - - NFL -

PHILADEL­PHIA – For two weeks, all the Philadel­phia Ea­gles heard was how they didn’t de­serve to be a top seed in the play­offs.

They an­swered the crit­ics the only way pos­si­ble – with a vic­tory on the field.

De­spite be­ing the first No. 1 seed to be a home un­der­dog in the di­vi­sional round, the Ea­gles re­ceived three field goals from rookie kicker Jake El­liott, a 1-yard touch­down run by LeGar­rette Blount and ul­ti­mately a 15-10 vic­tory over the Atlanta Fal­cons Satur­day at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field.

“It goes back to be­liev­ing and hav­ing faith we can get it done,” Ea­gles backup quar­ter­back Nick Foles said. “There was a lot of out­side noise. We blocked it out.”

The win was se­cured when Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan’s pass to wide re­ceiver Julio Jones fell in­com­plete in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 58 sec­onds re­main­ing.

“At the end of the day, I can make those plays,” Jones said. “I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route.”

The top-seeded Ea­gles (14-3) won their first play­off game since the 2008 sea­son and will host the New Orleans Saints or the Min­nesota Vik­ings in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game Jan. 21.

“Just keep on dis­re­spect­ing and we’re go­ing to keep prov­ing peo­ple wrong,” Ea­gles wide re­ceiver Al­shon Jeffery said. “We just be­lieve in one an­other. We don’t care what any­body else says. We’re just go­ing to keep fight­ing.”

Foles was ef­fec­tive, go­ing 23-of-30 pass­ing for 246 yards.

“Nick was great and we have all the faith in the world in him,” cen­ter Ja­son Kelce said. “We pre­pared and felt ready. Nick did a great job mov­ing us down the field and set­ting us up. We be­lieve in him and he be­lieves in us and that’s our ap­proach. It won’t change.”

Ryan, who led the Fal­cons to the Su­per Bowl a sea­son ago, was 22 of 36 for 210 yards and a touch­down.

“We had chances to make plays and we didn’t make them,” Ryan said.

Fal­cons head coach Dan Quinn said that he wouldn’t want any­one else but Ryan to lead his team.

“His tough­ness is ex­em­pli­fied in all that he does,” Quinn said. “It was a tough game for him and for us and we’ll go back and as­sess it. For now, it’s just tough.”

El­liott’s third field goal of the game, a 21-yarder, put the Ea­gles up 15-10 with 6:02 left. Philadel­phia’s 14-play, 80-yard drive stalled at the 3 and in­stead of go­ing for it on fourth-and-1, they opted for the field goal.

“To be here with these guys with where I was is an awe­some feel­ing,” El­liott said. “The Ea­gles brought me in and I’m go­ing to keep work­ing and show I be­long. It’s a spe­cial, spe­cial feel­ing to be mov­ing on into the NFC cham­pi­onship game round.”

The Ea­gles took a 12-10 lead with 15 sec­onds left in the third quar­ter when El­liott hit a 37-yard field goal to com­plete a 12-play, 74-yard drive.

El­liott booted a 53-yard field goal as time ex­pired to bring Philadel­phia within 10-9 at half­time.

Devonta Free­man hauled in a 6-yard touch­down pass from Ryan for a 10-6 ad­van­tage with 5:41 left in the sec­ond quar­ter. The score was set up by the Ea­gles’ sec­ond turnover as Bryan Bra­man touched the ball fol­low­ing a punt, putting Atlanta at the Philadel­phia 18-yard-line to start the pos­ses­sion.

Blount’s 1-yard touch­down on fourth-and-goal gave the Ea­gles the lead, but El­liott’s ex­tra-point try hit the up­right and bounced out. The 14-play, 86-yard drive put the Ea­gles ahead 6-3 with 10:28 left in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Philadel­phia caught a break on the pre­vi­ous play when Foles re­cov­ered a botched hand­off. He was orig­i­nally ruled to have scored, but re­plays con­firmed Foles was down at the 1.

The Fal­cons took ad­van­tage of an early fum­ble by run­ning back Jay Ajayi and turned it into a 3-0 lead when Matt Bryant kicked a 33-yard field goal with 9:08 re­main­ing in the first quar­ter. The 11-play, 59-yard drive stalled at the 16.

Gaine of­fi­cial in Hous­ton

The Hous­ton Tex­ans hired Brian Gaine as their new gen­eral man­ager and ex­tended the con­tract of head coach Bill O’Brien, the team an­nounced Satur­day.

Gaine signed a five-year deal and O’Brien was ex­tended for four years, with both con­tracts run­ning through 2022. O’Brien had one year re­main­ing on the five-year con­tract he signed when he took over as Tex­ans coach be­fore the 2014 sea­son.

Gaine re­turns to the Tex­ans af­ter one year as the Buf­falo Bills’ vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel. He pre­vi­ously served as Hous­ton’s direc­tor of pro per­son­nel and direc­tor of player per­son­nel un­der gen­eral man­ager Rick Smith be­fore leav­ing for Buf­falo.

Smith has taken an ex­tended leave of ab­sence to be with his wife, Tif­fany, who was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in Septem­ber and has been re­ceiv­ing treat­ment in Ari­zona. Smith, who will re­tain the ti­tle of ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, has worked for the Tex­ans since 2006.

Gaine’s ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes work­ing in scout­ing and per­son­nel since 1999. He started with the New York Jets, and five years later he moved on to work with the Dal­las Cow­boys from 2005 to 2007 and then with the Mi­ami Dol­phins from 2008 to 2013.

“Our com­mit­tee was unan­i­mous in praise for Brian Gaine and we are all aligned in our phi­los­o­phy on how to con­tinue to build our ros­ter and win a cham­pi­onship,” Tex­ans Founder, Chair­man and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Robert C. McNair said. “Brian is an in­cred­i­bly smart, hard­work­ing in­di­vid­ual that un­der­stands the im­por­tance of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Tri­bune News Ser­vice

The Fal­cons’ Julio Jones can’t make the catch on a fourth-down at­tempt from Matt Ryan, clinch­ing the game for the Ea­gles.

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