September 15, 2023
A Vikings swing was stopped dead in its tracks at the goal line with only seconds left in the first half.
Justin Jefferson hauled in a pass lofted over from Kirk Cousins, then tried to stumble the few yards that remained toward the pylon. But in a last-ditch tackle effort from Terrell Edmunds, the ball got knocked loose from Jefferson's grip and bounced just the right way across the plane to be ruled a touchback on a fumble and an Eagles ball after review.
It was a pivotal moment for the Eagles in a game where, by that point, not all that much was really working for them. But it was probably one where they couldn't just leave it at that either. They were only up 10-7. Jefferson was getting his, so was tight end T.J. Hockenson over the middle, and Minnesota's offense was overall showing that it could push itself downfield at will – you know, so long as they could actually hold on to the ball, but that one is another story entirely.
The Eagles needed more, so after Jalen Hurts and what had so far been a pretty stagnant offense managed to push the ball down to the Minnesota 43 within the last 30 seconds, they didn't kneel out the last couple of ticks on the clock to head to the tunnel. They sent Jake Elliott out there for the 61-yard field goal try.
Because why not?
If Week 1's 4-for-4 performance against the Patriots a few days before – which included successful kicks from 48, 51, and 56 yards out – proved anything, it's that Elliott definitely has the bionic leg for the early going.
And as the ball sailed all 61 yards and on through the uprights (with room to spare) at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night, ice in his veins too. 13-7, Eagles at the half with a shrug of the shoulders. No big deal.
"When your kicker hits a 61-yarder that’s pretty exciting, right?" head coach Nick Sirianni said following what stood as a 34-28 Eagles win. "So, I think that...To say going up six at the half as opposed to three, sure, six is better than three, so we were excited about that. But I think the operation there was outstanding by our offense and then the operation of the field goal was outstanding by our special teams."
And may have served as that extra boost to finally open the floodgates too.
Coming back from the half, with immediate help from a Josh Sweat strip-sack right after the kickoff for Minnesota's fourth lost fumble of the night, the Eagles quickly put up seven on the patented "tush push" QB sneak, then seven more a drive later on a 63-yard bomb from Hurts to DeVonta Smith.
In what felt like an instant, one costly fumble too many (or three) and a long shot field goal to rub salt in the wound suddenly flipped from a six-point lead into a 20-point one for the Birds. And even though Elliott had already missed a 55-yard attempt earlier in the night and the Vikings did try to claw their way back in late, that was the thing: It was just too late. That sequence at the end of the half had already shifted momentum too far the other way, capped off by a kick from a bionic leg and ice in the veins.
Over the past few years, it feels like the further you put the ball back, the more accurate of a kicker Elliott becomes. Going back to the start of the 2021 season – and accounting for Thursday night's outing – the 28-year old is 11-for-13 on field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer and has an overall conversion rate of 90 percent.
By comparison, Baltimore's Justin Tucker, who is generally heralded as one of, if not the league's best active kicker, is 15-for-20 from 50-plus during that same span, with an overall field-goal rate of 90.1 percent.
Last season, Elliott went 5-for-6 from 50-plus, which put him among the more reliable kickers from that distance, and went 4-for-4 overall in the playoffs, which – relatively speaking – wasn't all that much work considering the Eagles were scoring in bunches all the way up until the final seconds of the Super Bowl.
Two games into this season, however, has been a bit of a different story. Against Bill Belichick's defensive scheme last week up in Foxboro, the Eagles' high-powered offense struggled to ever fully get going, which led to them falling back on Elliott and their special teams unit for points.
It was more of the same for a good chunk of that first half against Minnesota Thursday night at the Linc, the crowd was booing the Eagles even, up until that third weird Vikings fumble and moonshot of a field goal to take it to intermission shifted everything.
"I love having those opportunities," Elliott said last week after the Eagles eventually beat New England. "That's what I prepare for."
With a bionic leg and ice in his veins.
*One more note: This isn't the first time Elliott has hit one from 61 yards out. He did it before on that fourth-quarter buzzer-beater for the win against the Giants in 2017.
Carson Wentz gave him his game check, and though they didn't know it yet, the Eagles were well on their way to their first Super Bowl title.
As of now, the Eagles have never not won the Super Bowl in a season where Jake Elliott has kicked a 61-yard field goal.— James Seltzer (@JamesSeltzer) September 15, 2023
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