In the end, it was Sidney Jones — maligned as a wasted second-round draft pick — making the defensive play to rescue the Eagles season. With just over a minute left in a one-possession game, Jones went stride for stride with Dallas receiver Michael Gallop, stuck up his right hand and batted away Dak Prescott’s 44th and final pass of Sunday afternoon.
Because of that, the Eagles were able to go into victory formation a few minutes later in their 17-9 win over the Cowboys in front of 70,000 delirious fans in South Philly.
Jones lost his starting job earlier this year. He found himself rooted to the bench, deactivated for two games and even the butt of a brilliant parody song on WIP.
Now he’s a local hero.
Consider that to be the theme of this euphoric victory, which ensures the Eagles a shot to win the NFC East next weekend. In a crazy season of disharmony, underachievement, and injury, the Eagles are being saved by the fringiest players on their roster.
No-names promoted from the practice squad have emerged as critical performers. Backups stepped in and made critical plays. Hitherto washouts got a second — or third — chance and grew into the moment.
They played hard, listened to their coach, respected their quarterback (more about that in a minute) — and here we are, two weekends away from the Eagles potentially hosting a playoff game, most likely a rematch against the tough Seattle Seahawks. While that portends as no picnic, it sure beats packing up the season.
So let’s toast Boston Scott and Greg Ward, recent-vintage scout teamers who combined for 14 touches in Sunday’s do-or-die game. Ward had four catches for 71 yards, again raising the question of why he spent more than two years on the practice squad.
And raise a glass to Josh Sweat, Isaac Seumalo, and Dallas Goedert, guys who glance up at the Lincoln Financial Field stands and find no fans wearing their jerseys.
The win over the Cowboys was one of those rare games where character counts as much as talent. The Eagles have been battered by injuries this year, testing to the limit that 2017 motto of, “We all we got, we all we need.”
But maybe some of the injuries are a blessing in disguise. With WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor out, somehow the insidious off-the-record criticism of Carson Wentz has stopped.
“You got all these (bleep) reports about Carson not doing this, that or the other,” Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks said last week. “. . . If you’re not going to stand behind what you say, then just be quiet. And we haven’t had any issues since.”
Wentz was brilliant Sunday, going 31-for-40 for 319 yards in the biggest game of his career. He made smart decisions at the line of scrimmage, moved out of the pocket and ran smartly when he had to.
Other than Zach Ertz, who missed much of the game after a shot to the ribs, Wentz’s cast of weapons were all first- or second-year players. The brilliant rookie Miles Sanders had 149 total yards. Goedert, a 2018 draft pick, had nine catches for 91 yards.
The rest of the cast? To steal the cliché, you couldn’t tell the players without a program.
It’s working. Wentz is building a rapport and chemistry with his new targets that were missing with those veteran backbiters. It’s an unlikely cast, but it produced the most satisfying win of the season Sunday.
Now they just need to do it once more next Sunday against the Giants.