For Neil O'Donoghue, who in the past has had problems with the St. Louis Cardinals, a proper frame of mind at the finish meant everything today against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I'm having myself some fun," O'Donoghue said after kicking a 44-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 17-16 victory over its NFC East rival, which lost quarterback Ron Jaworski with a broken leg before he threw a pass. "I'd rather be given a shot at it and miss than not get any chance at all."
St. Louis (7-6) ended playoff hopes for the Eagles (5-7-1).
St. Louis Coach Jim Hanifan called the high, wobbly kick by O'Donoghue "not a miracle" and saluted his team's grit.
"We could have given up. We didn't," said Hanifan in respect to the winning drive climaxed by O'Donoghue's kick with eight seconds left. "It showed some character. Hardly anything went right. Yet when we had to have it, we did."
O'Donoghue said he doubted he would be needed until a late St. Louis fumble enabled Philadelphia to take a 16-14 lead with 1:50 left.
Jaworski's fibula was fractured in the area of his left ankle on the third play of the game when he was sacked by Curtis Greer and David Galloway.
"I guess my number just came up," said Jaworski, who had led the league's quarterbacks with 116 consecutive starts. "I think it was Greer rolling over the back of my leg."
Joe Pisarcik took over and completed 24 of 39 passes for 226 yards, including a 16-yard score to Mike Quick to bring the Eagles to 14-13 midway through the final quarter.
"Joe is very capable," said Jaworski, who listened to the game in the locker room. "It's just unfortunate we weren't able to hold on and win the game after his efforts."
Lomax had just 16 completions in 34 attempts for 141 yards as both teams mustered little offense in a game that featured 17 punts.
"It's not one thing I can put my finger on," Lomax said of the Cardinals' turnover problem in recent games. "Our timing has been off, our blocking schemes off. I hope this brings us out of it."
The Cardinals' only touchdown of the second half came late in the third quarter after Wayne Smith recovered a fumble by Eagles running back Mike Haddix at the Philadelphia 31. Two plays later, Lomax threw a 19-yard pass to Pat Tilley, who made a diving catch in the end zone.
Paul McFadden missed a 26-yard field goal that could have given the Eagles a 16-14 lead late in the game, but got another chance as the Cardinals coughed up the ball and made good from 32 yards, his third success of the day. It only set up O'Donoghue's heroics.