Maclin, Avant make plays for shorthanded Eagles
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TAMPA, Fla. – It was Jason Avant’s first 100-yard game in 19 weeks, Jeremy Maclin’s most receptions in 28 weeks.
With DeSean Jackson out for the year with broken ribs, LeSean McCoy out indefinitely with a concussion, Brent Celek gone after just one play with a concussion of his own, a ground attack averaging 5.5 inches per run and Nick Foles making his fourth start of his career, the Eagles needed huge plays from their veteran wide receivers.
And they sure got them.
Avant caught seven passes for 133 yards, and Maclin was 9-for-104 receiving Sunday in the Eagles’ miracle, last-second 23-21 win over the Buccaneers (see Instant Replay)
In the final 7½ minutes, when the Eagles rallied from 11 points down, Maclin caught six passes for 63 yards, including the game-winning TD as time expired, and Avant was 2 for 34, including the 4th-down conversion with 16 seconds left that kept the final drive alive.
“I didn’t care who did it, it just happened to fall like that,” Maclin said. “Not winning for two months, that’s crazy, but this one feels good.”
Foles threw for an Eagles rookie-record 381 yards and touchdowns to Maclin and Clay Harbor, and for the second straight week, didn’t turn the ball over.
The Bucs took a 21-10 lead with 7:21 left in the game on rookie Doug Martin’s touchdown run before Foles led touchdown drives of 72 and 64 yards in the final 7:15.
“I’m never, ever, ever going to have any thought in my head other than, ‘We can do it,’” Maclin said. “That’s how I am. That’s my mindset always. And I think this team, we just never quit. I think everybody in here wanted that game so bad, from the coaches to the players to everybody in this organization. We just wanted to win so bad.”
This was the fifth time in the last 50 years and the first time since 2008 that the Eagles had multiple wide receivers surpass 100 yards receiving. The last time it happened, Hank Baskett, DeSean Jackson and Greg Lewis did it in the 2008 opener, a 38-3 win over the Rams.
Also, Mel Hoover and Mike Quick both went over 100 yards against the Redskins in 1983, Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams vs. the Broncos in 1992 and Todd Pinkston and Terrell Owens against the Browns in 2004.
With Celek out, Harbor had a career-high six catches for 52 yards, and Riley Cooper (4 for 37), Dion Lewis (28-yard catch) and Damaris Johnson (2 for 20) also did their part for the cause.
“All around as a team, we just never quit,” Maclin said. “We understand that the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go, but we’ve just stayed positive and keep fighting to the end.”
The Eagles ended their eight-game losing streak, Foles earned his first career win, and for the first time since September, guys in the locker room had smiles on their faces after a football game.
“Everyone was out there trying to do their part, and that’s all you can do,” Cooper said. “All 11 guys busting their tail trying to do their individual job and busting their tail, and it paid off today.”
Maclin’s nine catches matched the second-most of his career and joined him with Irving Fryar as only the second Eagles wideout with three career games with nine or more receptions.
The game-winner was the Eagles’ first on the final play when they trailed since at least 1970.
Maclin, who’s had his struggles this year, beat cornerback Leonard Johnson on the game-winning play, catching the ball sliding on his knees just before he hit the right sideline. A replay review confirmed the TD ruling.
Maclin’s 24th career touchdown catch moved him into ninth place on the Eagles’ all-time list among wide receivers.
“It was basically me running a corner and a five-, six-yard out by Maclin out of a tight look,” Avant said. “They had it covered. They were in position to make the play, Maclin just made the better play by getting open.
“It was the right play because it worked, but I don’t think the play was necessary the best play for the look they came out in. But we didn’t have any timeouts. They had more people on that side than we did. It came down to players making the play, and Maclin made the play.” E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com.