EAGLES GIVE FANS A GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT: A WIN OVER BIG BLUE
There was definitely something in the air in the hours before the 5-9 Eagles faced the 10-4 New York Football Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
It wasn’t just the media or the fans…Vegas had the Giants in as a 2½ point favorite at the beginning of the week. By game time the Birds took the field, they were favored by 1½ points.
As is the case most of the time, these people knew what they were talking about.
The Eagles gave their fans the best Christmas gift they could and that was a white-knuckle 24-19 win over their arch rival.
The victory gave them and their young quarterback their sixth win of the season–ended a five-game losing streak–and also kept the Giants from clinching a Wild Card playoff spot.
As you would expect, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo was not too happy.
“We spotted them 14 points,” McAdoo said at his postgame press conference. “We didn’t score touchdowns. We kicked field goals. We turned it over three times. We didn’t handle the ball well enough. They won the penalty battle and we didn’t tackle well enough. I give Philly credit, they played winning football today.”
The Eagles set the tone early and were able to hold on just long enough as the Giants adjusted well.
After forcing the Giants to a three-and-out on their first drive, the Eagles jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first possession going 78 yards on seven plays finishing the drive when Darren Sproles zipped 25 yards into the end zone forcing Giants free safety Andrew Adams to whiff badly on the run.
On the previous play, Carson Wentz avoided a sack cutting to his left, another defender looked to be closing in on him from but center Jason Kelce crushed the would-be defender allowing Wentz to run for a nine-yard gain.
Lane Johnson, back from his 10-game suspension, said seeing his line mate make a play like that is inspiring.
“Whenever I see Kelce out on the run, making big blocks, that’s what Kelce’s known for getting out…he’s a mobile center,” Johnson said. “Any time you get a first down, the crowd gets into it, it’s a special feeling.”
The Giants ensuing drive safety Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Eli Manning and took it 34 yards to the house and just like that the Birds led 14-0.
The Giants continued to struggle, producing only a 34-yard Robbie Gould field goal on a drive that looked promising but stalled at the 17-yard line. The Giants went mostly to running backs Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins but the Eagles defensive line led by Connor Barwin, Jordan Hicks and Beau Allen adjusted and held the Giants to a field goal.
With nine minutes left in the first half, Big Blue was able to mount another drive doing what they do best and that’s passing the ball to Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.
That drive also stalled at the 17-yard line and again Gould hit a 35-yarder from the same spot and the score was 14-6.
With 7:28 left in the half, the Eagles and Giants traded touchdowns.
Wentz hit much maligned receiver Nelson Agholor with a 40-yard touchdown strike that you could almost feel Agholor’s anxiety leave his body as he rather modestly pointed to the partisan crowd.
It was good that the rookie threw the pass on a rope. It gave Agholor virtually no time to think about the easy pass he dropped in the first quarter.
With a playoff spot within reach the Giants were not going to allow this to get out of hand.
With five minutes left before halftime, Manning led Big Blue on 12-play 84-yard scoring drive that ended with Sheppard 13-yard touchdown pass from Manning.
The half ended with the Eagles leading 21-13 and the ball to start the third quarter.
After the Birds failed to move the ball on their opening drive, the Giants took the ball to the Eagles 11-yard line where the drive stalled and the Giants settled for a field goal to make the score 21-16.
Behind Wentz the Eagles drove all the way to the Giants 12-inch line where on fourth down Pederson decided to go for it only to have Ryan Mathews stuffed for a one-yard loss.
The Giants, starting from their two, drove yards before Jenkins made his second interception of the game handing the ball to Wentz at the Eagles 44-yard line.
Wentz showed his gifts when on a first and 10 at the Giants 43, he pulled as Randall Cunningham-like Gumby move escaping a Giant defender and taking off for an 11-yard gain and a first down.
Johnson said he was impressed with the rookie’s progress.
“He got away from a few sacks tonight,” Johnson said. “That’s a special trait about him. He’s more athletic than people give him credit for. I’m glads to have him on my team.”
Kelce also remarked about his big block and Wentz’ ability to escape danger.
“I think the opening drive in general got us going,” Kelce said. “It got a lot of momentum for our team. Unfortunately we weren’t able to sustain that throughout the game. Obviously in the second half we struggled a little bit offensively.
“I think Carson’s a guy who can clearly make things happen when plays break down. As an offensive lineman you have to make sure you’re active trying to play through the echo of the whistle.”
The Eagles got a scare in the third quarter when Wentz was hit hard and driven to the ground by Giants linebacker Olivier Vernon who was called for roughing the passer.
Wentz was taken into the trainer’s room and put through concussion protocol. Wentz passed and returned on their next drive.
“It was a screen play and Sproles didn’t get out there,” Wentz said. “So I just tried to throw it away. I was taken to the ground pretty hard and landed on my head. I got up and was a little dizzy. I got my bell rung a little bit, but then I got to the bench and I was feeling good. I had to go in and do the protocol, but I passed all of that and got to come back in.”
Wentz was 13 of 24 for 152 yards, one touchdown pass and an interception. He was not sacked.
The Eagles as a team rushed 30 times for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants offense struggled against and Eagles defense that intercepted Manning three times, got a hand on eight of his passes, recorded no sacks but came up with 10 quarterback hurries three tackles for loss.
Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills was asked how the Birds looked more like the team looking to clinch a playoff spot than their opponent.
“I don’t think it (the win) was about how it started, even though it does help,” said Mills who had six combined tackle on the night. “I just think it was a ‘want to’ game…getting that bad taste out of our mouth from the last couple of games that we came up in second place in. We weren’t a team laying down just because we’re not going to the playoffs. It was a team that wanted to get that bad taste out of their mind and get that win.”
Manning was 38 of 63 for 356 yards and touchdown pass. He through the pick-six and finished with a QB rating of 61.3.
Manning wasn’t sacked but took a lot of hits. Odell Beckham, Jr. was targeted 20 times, caught 11 passes for 150 yards but did not get into the end zone.
During the Donovan McNabb’s rookie season and the one year Pederson played in Philadelphia, the Eagles limped into the final two games with a 3-11 record.
Then rookie head coach Andy Reid – and McNabb – led the Birds to two consecutive wins that carried over until the next season. The Eagles made it to the NFC title game the next year. Johnson said he believes the same thing could happen again.
“I think winning against Dallas next week will keep the momentum going,” Johnson said. “Guys like me, you’ve to make it through the off season with no trouble. I think we’ll add a few pieces to the puzzle and I think Philly here is going to be a team to be reckoned over the next few years.”
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii