- Associated Press - Thursday, October 5, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Closing out close games is an art the Philadelphia Eagles are learning.

After going 1-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less in 2016, the Eagles already are 2-1 in such games this season.

“I think the guys have really embraced that from last year,” coach Doug Pederson said. “They learned from that. We have got great leaders on the team, both offensively and defensively.”

The Eagles (3-1) have won consecutive games by a slim margin. Rookie Jake Elliott’s 61-yard field goal as time expired gave them a 27-24 win over the Giants in Week 3 and the offense dominated on a clinching drive in a 26-24 win at the Chargers last week. They’ll host the Cardinals (2-2) on Sunday.

“Showing that we can win close games and finding a way to pull these out, I just know the character and makeup of this team, we’re just in a different place,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “I’m confident in what we can do.”

The last drive against Los Angeles was quite impressive. The Eagles converted three times on third down and held the ball for the final 6:44.

Wentz was 3 for 3 for 22 yards and three running backs got carries. LeGarrette Blount got the last three and went for 24 of his 126 yards.

Philadelphia nearly had a 2 to 1 advantage in time of possession and leads the NFL in that category for the second straight season.

“Our third down conversion rate has been good and that is part of the time of possession,” Pederson said. “And then of course the run game, being patient there.”

While the offense has done its part in the fourth quarter, the defense has struggled. The Eagles have allowed 52 points in the fourth quarter in the past three games, including 38 with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox sidelined.

“We miss him and we need to do a better job of playing as a unit when guys like that are not in there,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz joked.

“We’ve had our challenges. Everybody has their challenges plugging guys in and still trying to have a high level. There’s no explanations, no excuses. We have to do a better job of playing all around that position. Not just filling in for him just from a defensive tackle position, but everybody else doing their job well enough that those things don’t make as big a difference as they did.”

NOTES: Cox (calf), CB Ronald Darby (ankle) and RB Wendell Smallwood (knee) didn’t practice Thursday.

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For more NFL coverage: https://www.pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi

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