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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson

PLAYING WITH NOTHING TO LOSE, GIANTS BACKUPS MAKE EAGLES EARN THEIR TOP SEED


Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith at his locker after catching seven passes for 67 yards against the Giants. Photo by Al Thompson

The Philadelphia Eagles broke their two-game losing streak Sunday, defeating a New York Football Giants team of mostly backups, 22-16 and thus securing the NFC East Championship, the No. 1 seed and first round bye in the process.


It wasn’t easy.


The Giants (9-7-1) substitutes were a handful.


When six-year veteran quarterback Davis Webb, who had never thrown an NFL regular season pass coming into the season finale, passed to Kenny Golladay to the right side of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown to make the score 22-16 with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter, the 69,879 members of the Eagles Nation in attendance at the Linc had to hold their collective breath as Giants kicker Graham Gano attempted an on-sides kick to potentially set up a game-winning drive that would have broken millions of hearts across the Delaware Valley and thrown a wrench into the Eagles Super Bowl dreams.


But Eagles safety Reed Blankenship recovered the attempt and all’s well that ended well.


“[Webb] did some good things, extended some plays, got the ball out of his hands, things like that,” said linebacker T.J. Edwards, who finished with ten tackles (nine solo). “That’s the NFL. Everybody is good. We expected nothing but their best, that’s a really good football team. I thought we settled down and got the win.”


The Eagles (14-3) were down to their last strike to secure the division and the top seed after losing to Dallas and New Orleans over the last two weeks.


The Birds were trying to win that last game using backup quarterback Gardner Minshew under center after starter Jalen Hurts suffered a shoulder injury December 18 against Chicago.

Giants head coach Brian Daboll rested most of his starters after his team was locked into the No. 6 seed.


There was no film on Webb, who was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft by the Giants. He had never taken a meaningful snap in six seasons that included stops in Buffalo and with the New York Jets.


There was no film on the 27-year-old. Webb almost pulled off a miracle that would have handed the San Francisco 49ers the coveted first round bye.


“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Blankenship, who finished with four tackles total (two solo). “He had just come up from the back squad. We just played. We held our ground. We came out with win, can’t complain about that.”


The Giants backups had the luxury of playing with nothing to lose. No one expected them to win. An opponent in that frame of mind can play at a very high level.


“Very dangerous,” Blankenship said. “All of them probably have a chip on their shoulder. I’ve been there. I know they weren’t going to quit. They put up as much effort as they could and put everything on film. I’m glad we held our ground, put our best foot forward and got the win.“

The Eagles overall did not play well and to a man, they knew it.


Hurts was 20 of 35 for 229 yards, no TD passes and an interception. He was sacked three times.


The Birds rushed 34 times for 135 yards as a team.


Boston Scott led the way with 54 yards on nine carried and a touchdown.


The Eagles have been elite all season with Red Zone scoring. Sunday, the Birds needed five Jake Elliott field goals to secure the win.


The home team had a touchdown called back when somehow Pro Bowl guard Landon Dickerson was flagged for being illegally downfield…the play started from the Giants two-yard line.


A brilliant catch made by DeVonta Smith in the back of the end zone was wiped out. And since Hurts threw a pass into coverage the next play that was picked off by safety Dane Belton, the entire nine-play, 52-yard drive was catapulted into the abyss.


The rookie safety was asked if these kinds of plays were the reason for a subdued Eagles post game locker room.


“Maybe a little,” Blankenship said. “Because we know that we should have done better. We have a long road ahead of us. That’s what we’re excited about getting back in the facility and get to work.”


Smith seemed okay after the game. He was asked if he liked what he saw in Hurts.


“I thought it was good for him to just get back out there and get in the groove,” said Smith, who finished “And for the offense to get back in the groove a little bit. It was good to have him back.”


GIANTS OFFENSE STARTED THE GAME FLATFOOTED

The Eagles defense held David Webb and company to a three-an-out on their first possession.

Hurts, playing in his first game since suffering a shoulder injury December 18 against the Chicago Bears, led the Eagles in a seven–play, 51-yard drive resulting in a Jake Elliott 32-yard field goal.


The drive was highlighted by a 35-yard completion to Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown on the first play from scrimmage.


Another Giants three-and-out led to the Eagles second drive that was highlighted by a 37-yard completion to Brown. This drive went 12 plays, 80 yards taking 6:20 off the clock, culminating with an eight-yard run to the end zone by Boston Scott.


The Eagles added a 52-yard Elliott field goal with 10:27 left in the second quarter to make the score 13-0.


The Giants were driving later in the quarter when Pro Bowl linebacker Haason Reddick drew a 16-yard intentional grounding call on Webb. Big Blue punted on the next play and 6:00 left in the first half.


The Birds tacked on a 39-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the half.


The Giants tried and failed to execute an on-sides kick to start the second half. The Birds started heir drive on the Giants 48-yard line.


It appeared The Eagles had put the game away when Hurts hit Smith with a two-yard TD pass.


Dickerson, for the second consecutive game, was called for a penalty that wiped out a score.


Hurts made worse on the next play when forced a throw to Smith that was intercepted by rookie safety Dane Belton.


One can only imagine what was going through Dickerson’s mind as Davis started a drive that made it to the Giants 37-yard line.


Dickerson may want to cover a dinner for safety Marcus Epps who upended a short, completed pass to running back Matt Breida, forcing the Giants to punt.


But Webb led Big Blue to 13 fourth-quarter points and helped his team pull within six points with just over a minute and a half left in the fourth.


Webb 23 of 40 for 168 yards, one touchdown pass…no interceptions and he was not sacked.

The former Texas Tech standout rushed six times for a 41 yards including a 14-yard touchdown run.


“Very exciting,” Webb said after the game. “I want to thank all of the O-linemen and Marcus [Johnson], Kenny Golladay, [Giants TE Lawrence] Cager, [Giants RB] Gary [Brightwell], [Giants RB] Matt [Breida]. It was a lot of fun playing with those guys. Darius Slayton came in a couple of plays. I appreciate that. We battled and the Eagles are a really good team. They’re the number one seed in the NFC. We took them four quarters. I wish myself, first, and the offense, second, got off to a better start. But, that second half was really fun and that’s something I’ll never forget.”



In a game earlier this season, Eagles right tackle Jack Driscoll faced Dallas Cowboys standout pass rusher Micah Parsons. Driscoll was in for injured All Pro Lane Johnson. The Birds backup will be tested even more as it looks like Johnson may be limited in the post season. Photo by Andy Lewis

EAGLES OFFENSIVE LINE HAS NOT BEEN GREAT LATELY

The Eagles landed three of their five starting five offensive linemen on the Pro Bowl team this year. That is elite for sure.


But for the second week in a row an Eagles offensive lineman drew a penalty that cancelled a touchdown.


The Birds have not run the ball well at all over the last few games and the offense has turned the ball over six times over the last three games resulting in 27 points for their opponents.


Lane Johnson has not played due to a sports hernia type injury; but no one expected this much of a drop off.


Jack Driscoll, who has played right tackle in place of Johnson, admitted the group is not playing well.


“We have a lot of stuff we have to clean up,” Driscoll said. “We have to go back to the drawing board, get better. We need our best from here on out.


“Obviously it’s great that we won and we clinched, ideally,” Driscoll continued. “You always want to play better. We are going to have to figure it out.”


RPO’s have caused some of the offensive linemen to get called for being illegally down field al season. The linemen have no idea what the play is developing into, so some get sucked into moving upfield prematurely.


“[The referees] had given us a couple of warnings,” Driscoll said. “It’s tough when you’re engaged with a guy, but the rule is the rule and rules are the rules for everyone. They are making it a habit of calling it this year, so we’ve got to go back and look at what we can do better so we don’t put ourselves in that position again.”


Driscoll was asked what the O-linemen say to each other in the huddle after a big penalty like

the ones on Dickerson over the last two games that voided touchdowns.


“Everyone is in the moment, it is heated but you’ve got to chase that back and not let that affect us,” the former Auburn standout then gave an example of the conversation. “‘We’ve got to go score again! It’s a five-yard penalty, it’s not a loss of down.’ Whatever the situation is, screw it…next play.’


“I think coach (Jeff) Stoutland, (Jason) Kelce and Isaac (Seumalo) do a great job of making sure that we don’t dwell on it. They’re (the opponents) are not going to feel bad for us.”


Especially now that the Eagles are the No. 1 target as the Super Bowl tournament is officially underway. *


Email Al Thompson at al.thompson@footballstories.com

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