LOS ANGELES - Game on the line. Season on the line.
Avonte Maddox was ready.
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With just four seconds left, the Eagles needed one more stop late Sunday night at the L.A. Coliseum to pull off an improbable win over one of the NFC's best teams. Maddox, lining up at his third different position this season, expected the ball to come his way. And when it did, the 5-foot-9 rookie was able to make sure the pass wasn't completed to 6-foot-3 receiver Josh Reynolds in the end zone.
The ball fell incomplete. The clock ran out. The Eagles won 30-23 to keep their playoff hopes alive with two games to go (see updated playoff picture).
"He's a young guy that stepped up, man," Fletcher Cox said. "He's a little guy, but he got the heart of a giant."
It's telling that the Eagles have relied so heavily on Maddox, a fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh, this season. The myriad of injuries to the defensive backfield has given Maddox a bigger role than anyone expected. But the Eagles might just have something with this kid. He's been somewhat of a revelation all season.
On Sunday, after missing the last three games with knee and ankle injuries suffered on Nov. 18 in New Orleans, Maddox was asked to start at outside cornerback. It's the third different position he's started at for the Eagles this season, after nickel cornerback and safety. He's played all three very well.
Did he ever think he'd play three positions during his rookie season?
"Nah. That was the last thing on my mind," he said. "I pride myself as a DB. Anytime I got to go out there and play a position, I'm going to go out there and give it my all and take some good pride into it and learn."
When it was suggested that maybe Maddox could rush the passer next week as a defensive end, the rookie just flashed a big smile. I certainly wouldn't bet against him. Wherever the Eagles have played him this season, he's been able to make plays.
He made three huge plays Sunday night in his return after missing three games:
• He intercepted a pass in the second quarter, his second INT of the season, which ties him for the team lead.
• As the clock was winding in the fourth quarter, he tackled Todd Gurley in bounds to keep the clock running.
• He had the coverage on the final play of the game on a receiver who is half a foot taller than him.
"He's a great young player," Chris Long said. "He always does his job and he's come up with some big plays with us this year. He's dependable and it was a welcome sight to see him back in uniform. And like clockwork, he made a huge play for us."
Cox said he jokes around with Maddox because the young defensive back is just 5-9, but it's clear how much the veterans on that defense respect him. Cox said it says a ton about Maddox that, as a rookie, he's been able to successfully play just about every position in the secondary.
In a defensive backfield that has lost Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Sidney Jones, it's been a big help to have a rookie that has been able to get plugged in anywhere and be successful. He might be someone who has worked his way into the future in Philadelphia.
So last play of the biggest game of the season? No worries.
"I'm out there to compete," Maddox said. "When I'm out there, I want them to throw the ball my way so I can make a play."
He's made a bunch of plays for the Eagles this season. The ones he made on Sunday night helped save their season.
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