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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson

THREE STORIES (AT LEAST) IN ONE: EAGLES PULL OUT FLAWED WIN OVER GIANTS: SOME PLAYERS NOT HAPPY WITH MISTAKES

The Birds (11-4) get a lift and a chance for the NFC East and the No. 1 seed after Dallas and San Francisco both lose.


Eagles center Jason Kelce answers questions at his locker after the Birds sloppy 33-25 win over the Giants. Photo by Al Thompson

Eagles-Giants games are a street fight every year and one of the most storied and cherished divisional rivalries in the NFL.


The defending NFC champions were supposed to dominate this year’s series…right.

But to these two franchises, records don’t matter. It’s the Giants.


Big Blue played their Christmas day matchup against the Eagles like a playoff game.


The Birds (11-4) held on to win the rock fight 33-25 and kept pace with the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, who are also 11-4.   


Cornerback James Bradberry, who came to the Eagles before last year after spending two seasons with the Giants, said he expected nothing less than a street fight with his former team.


“I definitely expected the effort they gave,” Bradberry said at his locker after the game. “The Eagles and the Giants, I don’t think we like each other. The fans don’t like each other. It was a big division for us, first and foremost. I expected their best shot. We made some key mistake there on our own that kind of kept them in the game.”


Turnovers continue to plague the 2023 Eagles.


Eagles running back D'Andre Smith answers questions at his locker after the Eagles win over the Giants. Photo by Al Thompson

EAGLES DOMINATE FIRST HALF

The Birds were in total control of this game at the half 20-3 despite three fumbles – none though turned into turnovers.


Even my 98-year-old Aunt Helen, watching the game from her home on Overbrook was feeling good at this point.


But the home team literally handed Big Blue two touchdowns in the second half on a fumble and pick six that kept the visitors in the game.    


The game started out as expected. Tommy DeVito, a rookie quarterback out of Illinois, was squeezing every second of his 15 minutes of fame over the last month, was expected to struggle against the Eagles and he did.  


The Giants QB1 didn’t get sacked, but threw an incomplete pass after two run plays, completing a three-and-out on their first possession. 


Britain Covey came up with a with monster return of 54 yards - no flags!


Jalen Hurts and company started their first drive on Giants 13-yard line.


Despite an outstanding won/loss record, Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith says he is not happy with the way the team is playing. Photo by Andy Lewis.

After a D’Andre Swift 12-yard run, The Birds shoved it in for a 7-0 lead with 12:27 left in the first.


The Giants second drive was much better. Big Blue drove 41 yards on ten plays ending with a Randy Bullock 52-yard field goal with 8:04 left in the first.


A Eli “Pick Six” Ricks penalty on the ensuring kick return left the Eagles offense starting the next drive on their own 18-yard line. Then a five-yard penalty on left tackle Jordan Mailata pushed it back to the 13.


But Hurts came back to complete a pass to Dallas Goedert with a 18-yard gain, then a five-yard run by Swift and a 17-yard completion to DeVonta Smith kept the effort going.


The drive also featured a seven-yard catch by Covey and a “Tush Push” on fourth-and-one at the Giants 38.


The Birds pulled off a fourth-and-five at the Giants 30-yard line with a six-yard completion to Goedert.


A bad exchange with Hurts saw the ball come loose at the Giants 20. Hurts grabbed the ball and chucked a pass to backup tight end Grant Calcaterra who found a way to a nine-yard gain and a first down at the G-Men eight-yard line.


Swift’s sideline-to-sideline run from the three into the end zone was voided when the replay claimed Swifts knee touchdown touch the turf… seven points turned into a two-yard loss.


As the second quarter started, the Birds settled for a 28-yard Elliott field goal to make the score 10-3.


The Giants went three-an-out on their next drive.


Jamie Gillan punted for just 30 yards. Another Covey punt return for 11 yards put the ball at their own 48. Hurts rushed for 16 yards to the Giants 36.


Hurts then caught DeVonta Smith in full stride for a 36-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-3 with 11:44 left in the half.


After the Giants next drive stalled after jusrt four plays, Covey muffed Jamie Gillan’s 41-yard punt. The second-year wide receiver out of Utah did recover ball for a two-yard loss.


Many believed the key success for the Eagles would be the play of Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. Reddick proved that when he tackled of Saquon Barkley for a four-yard loss on fourth down after the Giants had driven to the Birds 21-yard line.


The Eagles drove one more time before the half and added a 28-yard field goal to make the score 20-3. Things went downhill from there.


Sua Opeta talks about the offensive line's role in a game like the win over the Giants that was marked with fumbles and turnovers. Photo by Andy Lewis

SECOND HALF STARTS WITH AN EAGLES TURNOVER

Boston Scott's stunning fumble after a collision with his own teammate Olamide Zaccheaus on the opening kickoff, the Giants were gifted with a first and ten at the Eagles 14-yard line.


Giants head coach Brian Daboll had seen enough of DeVito. He brought in Tyrod Taylor at quarterback to start a drive from the Eagles 14-yard line.


Barkley scored from the seven to make the score 20-10.


Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni talked about the momentum-changing turnover.


“Obviously I'll look at the tape. Felt like Boston was going backwards a little bit," Sirianni said after the game. "It's tough to return the ball when you're going backwards. Looked like OZ was trying to get a block; got pushed back into it.


“That’s why ball security is so important. I'll have to see exactly what happened. Like I said, looked like Boston was moving backwards to go forward, and that's a tough spot to put yourself in, and we'll get that corrected.”


This team still has issues holding on to the ball….seven turnovers over the last three games. Two of those games were losses.


Each team had drives the ended in punts.


The Birds started their second drive the second half from their own six-yard line.


The Birds moved the ball to the Giants 33-yard line. On first down Hurts threw a dart about 15 yards to A.J. Brown. But Brown was hammered has the ball hit his hands it fell incomplete.


The drive looked promising for a result when they had a first and ten at the Giants 18-yard line.


But left tackle Jordan Mailata was called for an illegal block in the back. The ten-yard penalty seemed minor when two plays later, Hurts threw short pass intended for Goedert.


The veteran tight end slipped on his cut to the ball. Giants cornerback Adoree' Jackson caught the ball in stride and raced 69-yards for a touchdown.


Hurts made it worse when he committed a one-yard penalty (Horse Collar Tackle) on Jackson.

The New York Giants converted the two-point conversion by Barkley.


The Giants closed the gap to 20-18.


After the game, Hurts was asked about his target-Goedert-slipped and fell allowing Jackson to pick him off.


“You explained it very well,” Hurts said. “I don’t think I need to say much about it. It was very unfortunate.”


Jason Kelce tried to lower the temperature at his locker after the game. Despite the win, several players, including the Birds two star receivers, openly spike about not being happy about all the mistakes.


“You make the correct read, the route’s off, you throw the ball to Dallas,” Kelce said. “If he doesn’t slip, it’s probably looking at a first down, we move the chains. It’s just part of the game. There’s going to be things that happen.”


At this time, a good portion of the Lincoln Financial Field crowd were chanting “run the ball,” the Eagles kept throwing. It paid off.


Things looked bleak over the next few minutes. The drive-that started at the Eagles 36 yard line- saw Lane Johnson get called for holding, then Kelce got called for a false start.


Now it was third and 20 from their own 26. With the crowd still chanting “run the ball” Hurts drilled a 32-yard strike to A.J. Brown for a first down.


The drive would end with a five-yard touchdown run by Swift. The Birds tacked on a 44-yard Elliott field goal to make the score 30-18 with 6:04 left in the fourth quarter. Out of danger?


Not so fast.

.

The Giants weren’t going away. Taylor connected with Darius Slayton to the left for a 69-yard touchdown. It was now 30-25 with 5:22 left in the fourth.


Finally the Birds ran the damn ball.


The Eagles handed the ball off to Swift seven consecutive times and he delivered with 43 yards that help set up a 43-yard Elliott field goal to give the Birds the cushion they needed to finish the game.


Swift talked about the reason for the successful drive.      


"Execution, execution, that’s all it is,” Swift said. “It doesn’t matter what play it is, a run play…it’s execution. It’s 100 percent,” Swift continued. “It’s hard to win in this league. It’s a great win, now we have to get back to work.”


The Giants had one final chance with 1:10 left. It ended with an interception by Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo in the end zone.


PHILLY AREA NATIVE JUSTIN PUGH – NOW BACK WITH BIG BLUE TALKED AFTER THE GAME

Giants guard Justin Pugh, Council Rock-South graduate who returned to the Giants after a brief retirement, talked about the close game.


“I’m proud of the guys coming out in the second half,” Pugh said in the Giants locker room after the game. “Obviously we didn’t start out the way we wanted to, but we went out there and kept fighting. There’s no moral victories in football. Obviously we’ve got to win the game. I’m proud how the guys fought and kept going after it.”


Pugh, who played for the Giants from 2013 to 2017 after being drafted in the first round out of Syracuse, then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2018–2022) talked about the final drive down eight points.


“We had no timeouts, we got down there as far as we could,” Pugh said. “We took a few shots at the end zone…it didn’t go our way. That one hurts. There was nothing I wanted more than a win in Philly on Christmas. But we’ll see them again in two weeks. They’re a really good team…it’ll be another battle.”


MORE QUOTES AND STATS

Sequon Barkley, finished with 80 yards on 23 carries and a score said it was an all too familiar story for his team.


“We didn’t close it,” Barkley said. “We played the Cowboys twice, got beat. We lost a really good game here, got beat.”




Despite an 11-4 record and alive for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, The Eagles are not happy because of the mistakes and turnovers. These were happier times for Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown. Photo by Andy Lewis.

O-LINE JUST KEPT TRUCKING

As a team, the Eagles rushed for 170 yards, passed for over 300 yards. The offensive line gave up just one sack. That’s all they can control…well, the penalties did not help.  

The four fumbles and pick six happen and all they can do is keep blocking.


Sua Opeta, who started in place of injured Landon Dickerson, talked about the need for the offensive linemen to stay focused even when there is much chaos going on around them.


“As offensive linemen, we’re aware that we can only control what we can control, Opeta said at his locker after the game. “The best thing we can do is give Jalen time in the pocket, pound them in the run game when we need to do that…other things are going on that…we’re just kind of saying to ourselves in the huddle, ‘so what, now what?’ But we hold such a high standard with the O-line that it’s like ‘just focus on your own job.’”


“You can’t think about things you can’t control, you know what I mean?” Opeta continued.


He was asked if the line felt a sense of satisfaction with the last drive – seven of the eight plays were runs that set up a field goal to ice the game.


“For sure…you feel good about the protection,” Opeta said. “He’s getting the ball out, making plays. That’s when you start to feel good about what you’re doing when you see plays made down the field. You know you’re doing your job.”


The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder out of Weber State continued to talk about the final Eagles drive.

“This is what you work for,” Opeta said, warming up to the conversation. “You got to dig deep. There are only so many opportunities in life where you can really dig deep. In those kinds of situations, you really find out who you are. Because at the end of the game, you’ve been playing the past 2-3 hours, whatever…but you’ve really got to dig deep and give it everything you’ve got. “


PLAYERS VOICE FRUSTRATION

In interviews shown on national TV, Eagles players, in particular wide receivers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown about the self-inflicted wounds this team has put on itself in this game and all season.


Brown refused to even talk to reporters after the game. He had six catches for 80 yards.


"I got nothing nice to say," said Brown, . "I was taught if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. If I have to take a fine, I'll take it."


Right next to Brown in the locker room, Smith looked on, listened to his QB1 talk to him.


Smith hauled in four receptions for 79 yards including a 36-yard touchdown.  The former Alabama star went over 1,000 yards receiving for the second straight season.


"I’m not satisfied,” Smith said. “Yeah, we got 11 wins. I’m not happy. It needs to be better. What I want to do, what everybody else in here wants to do, what we want to be, we’re nowhere near that, so I’m not happy."


Hurts was asked about state of the locker room:


“I think we’re hungry,” said Hurts, who finished 24 of 38 for 301 yards, one TD pass and one interception. He was sacked once and ran for 34 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. “I think we’re motivated, eager. Kind of the same things I’ve been saying just in terms of that standard we have for ourselves and demanding that of ourselves.


“I don’t think win, lose, or draw, there’s a circumstance where we compromise the standard of what we want and how we want to be. It’s just a matter of being together and committing ourselves to that excellence and chasing that.


“Obviously good to get a win….great to get a win. We kind of went through a little tough stretch there, but to be able to overcome the things we did today – defense played the way they did. Kind of had some unfortunate things happen with a couple of the turnovers.


“In the end, I think we just have to continue to grow. Continue to grow and control the things that we can. Controlling that ball security, controlling the little details, and how we’re attacking guys, how we’re lining up. So, just everybody doing that together. It takes everyone. It’s still a process, it’s still a journey with no arrival.”


MORE STATS

* Tyrod Taylor was 7 of 16 for 133 yards including a 69-yard heave to Darius Slayton, who finished with three catches for 90 yards to lead the Giants.


* Tommy DeVito may have seen his 15 minutes of fame and pizza shop appearances fizzle out at halftime. He was 9 of 16 for 55 yards. He was sacked once then sacked at intermission.  

* Dallas Goedert caught seven passes for 71 yards.


* Linebacker Shaq Leonard recorded seven total tackles ((five solo) including two for losses.


* Reed Blankenship ended with six tackles (four solo).


* Kelee Ringo  finished with five solo tackles and the interception of Taylor that ended the game.


* Giants Bobby Okereke and Xavier McKinney each recorded 10 tackles to lead the Giants.         

 

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