Could history be repeating itself for the Philadelphia Eagles? There was a serious case of deja vu as back-up quarterback Nick Foles stepped in to lead them to an upset 30-23 victory at the LA Rams.
As 13.5 underdogs, Philadelphia’s win was the second-biggest this season and had a familiar ring to it as their starting quarterback Carson Wentz limped out of the same fixture last season with Foles stepping in to ultimately lead them to their first Super Bowl.
Foles didn’t throw a touchdown but sparked the offence into scoring 30 points for just the second time this season and the defence restricted the Rams, who slipped to back-to-back defeats for the first time under head coach Sean McVay.
It’s not quite panic stations for the Rams but from battling it out for top spot with the Saints they’re now just a game ahead of Chicago, who beat them last week, in the race for a first-round bye in the play-offs.
It’s the Eagles who are the story though, as such a victory, under the leadership of Foles, conjures up huge memories of last season’s unlikely run to the Vince Lombardi Trophy – and after clinging to life for the last few weeks they’re now really in the play-off race at 7-7.
“It was really emotional,” said Foles, who went from back-up to MVP of the Super Bowl last season.
“You hate for your team-mate to get hurt. I’ve said it before, I feel really bad for Carson – we’re tight in that QB room.
“You go through the human emotions. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past – it doesn’t matter once you step onto that field, it’s a new day.”
Bears clinch division & Big Ben beats Brady
The Chicago Bears had finished bottom of the NFC North for the past four years but a powerful 24-17 victory over rivals the Green Bay Packers saw them punch their ticket to the post-season by claiming the division title – and they’re still in the hunt for a first-round bye.
Ben Roethlisberger came out on top in his big-name battle with Tom Brady as the Pittsburgh Steelers inched towards the play-offs by beating the New England Patriots 17-10 in a fearsome clash of the traditional rivals.
The Dallas Cowboys had the chance to clinch the NFC East but their attempt could not have gone worse as they suffered a humiliating 23-0 defeat in their first shutout in 15 years. They’re still a good bet to win the division while the Colts are tied at 8-6 with two other play-off chasers.
The Baltimore Ravens are still in the final wild card place after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-12, while the Tennessee Titans are the third 8-6 team after they also earned a defensive shutout when beating the New York Giants 17-0 in the Big Apple.
The Minnesota Vikings’ decision to replace their offensive coordinator worked as it sparked them into a 41-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins to move a step closer to the play-offs, while Miami couldn’t build on last week’s miracle win over the Patriots.
The Seattle Seahawks remain in the fifth wild card spot despite losing a brutal encounter with the San Francisco 49ers 26-23 in overtime. Seattle probably need just one win from their last two games to book their play-off place.
What’s left in Week 15?
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
Defeat for the Rams opens the door for the Saints to grab some breathing room in the race for top spot in the NFC as they face divisional rivals Carolina, who realistically need a win to remain in the wildcard hunt.
The Saints can’t clinch top spot until Week 16 but they’ll stay top regardless of the result on Monday and a win would put them on the brink of guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout the play-offs – which would be huge.
Stats of the week
- The Eagles were the joint biggest underdogs a defending Super Bowl champion has ever been for a game as they upset the Rams.
- The New England Patriots could miss out on a first-round bye for the first time in nine seasons. They’ve never reached the Super Bowl from the wildcard round in three attempts.
- Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will have just the second losing season of his career – 10 years after his only other.
- The Cleveland Browns ended an 11-game losing streak against the Denver Broncos on Saturday – the longest streak of losses by any team against one opponent.
- Julio Jones is just the fifth player in NFL history to record three 1,500-yard receiving seasons.
- Todd Gurley has scored 20 touchdowns this season – he’s just the third Rams player to reach that total, joining legend Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson.
Who is the MVP of week 15?
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Remember the Titans?
The Tennessee Titans paid homage to their namesakes from the famous film during their shutout victory over the New York Giants in the Big Apple.
It was a great win for the Titans who remain right in the play-off race, and it shows the creativity now involved in the player celebrations.
We’ll certainly remember the Titans after this!
Patriots special teams
Special teams are often overlooked in the NFL but when working correctly they can really help pin back an opponent, especially on a punt.
The idea is to down the ball as close to the opponents’ line as possible to make sure they have to start their next drive under real pressure, and efforts don’t come any better than the one from the Patriots you can see in Best Plays at the top of this piece.
You’d expect nothing less from a Bill Belichick team but the efforts of these guys diving over the line to ensure the ball didn’t touch the ground was a super-human acrobatic effort.
Bears player Charles Leno Jr takes a knee
Players often take a knee on the pitch but it was for a different reason that Charles Leno dropped to the turf after the Bears beat the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
He took the opportunity to celebrate Chicago making the play-offs by proposing to his shocked girlfriend.
“It was coming soon, but once I found out we could clinch this week, and I was like, ‘I have to speed things up. I have to speed up the process’, said Leno, who was cryptic when asked where he kept the ring safe during the game.
“I had it my sock – I’m just kidding,” he joked. “I can’t say that. It was in really safe place.”