The Philadelphia Eagles were desperately seeking a lift with little time left to save their season.
Nick Foles came through for the defending Super Bowl champions. And he did it just in time.
Foles threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate on fourth down in the final minute, and the Eagles hung on for a 16-15 wild-card victory over the Chicago Bears after Cody Parkey’s missed field goal hit the upright and crossbar.
After squeezing past the NFC North champions, the Eagles (10-7) will visit top-seeded New Orleans (13-3) next Sunday.
“It’s going to be a tall task this week,” Foles said. “They had a bye week and they are a tremendous team. They had an amazing season. But you know, I love these guys that I get to play with. I know we’re ready for this week.”
The Eagles won five of their final six regular-season games. They squeezed into the playoffs by beating Washington and having the Bears (12-5) give them an assist by taking out Minnesota last week.
The Eagles are trying to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since New England in 2004. And they’re also trying to become the first sixth seed to win the title since Green Bay in the 2010 season. The Packers beat the Bears for the conference championship at Soldier Field that year.
“We have nothing to lose,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Nobody expects us to do anything. Everybody counted us out. So you know, what do we have to lose but our dignity and pride?”
Foles came through down the stretch against the NFL’s stingiest defense to help the Eagles pull out the tight victory. He completed six passes on a 60-yard drive for the go-ahead TD after Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell shanked a punt.
Three plays at the 2 went nowhere, with Kyle Fuller breaking up a third-down pass to Alshon Jeffery near the goal line. But with the season on the line, Foles rolled to his right and Tate reached to grab the go-ahead TD with 56 seconds left.
“He never tries to do too much. He tries to play within himself on every play,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “The moment’s never too big for him and he just resonates that calm and positive attitude.”
Foles is now 7-0 while filling in for Carson Wentz in must-win games the past two seasons, with a Super Bowl MVP performance against New England last year. And he came through against the Chicago when things weren’t looking so promising.
“You know, (Foles) just does a great job of just staying in the moment, staying calm and, you know, no panic,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “There was no panic on the offense or on the sideline.”
Wendell Smallwood’s 2-point conversion run failed. But the Eagles hung on when Parkey’s 43-yard attempt in the closing seconds hit halfway up the left upright and ricocheted off the crossbar. He was 11 of 12 on fourth-quarter field goals prior to missing the biggest kick of his career. And it was the sixth time this season he nailed an upright on a missed field goal or extra point.
That ended a stunning turnaround season for the Bears in their first year under coach Matt Nagy. They won the NFC North after four straight last-place finishes and reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
“I see a lot of young talent and a great coaching staff,” guard Kyle Long said. “We didn’t have any postseason experience — now we have a little bit of it. Now we have a taste of what the stakes are like and we know what it takes to win and we have the pieces to the puzzle to win.”
Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said: “This is what we’re going to deal with. If you wanted a different result, maybe make a different play. You’ve got to swallow this and let it hurt for a little bit. We’ll be all right.”