PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles are deeply flawed, but then, so is the NFC East. So they’ve got a shot.
It sets up a Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins that, believe it or not, could pull Philadelphia (5-6) into a first-place division tie with Washington (6-5) and the Dallas Cowboys (6-5). Dallas plays the Saints next week.
“This was a big game for us, obviously, in terms of divisional standings and all that fun stuff,” quarterback Carson Wentz said, but, really mentally, to show the resilience that we did to go down early the way we did and then battle back just built a lot of confidence for all three phases of this game. To come from behind and get it done today, I think that will speak volumes about our confidence going forward.”
It feels like the Eagles should be dead and buried. It was Groundhog Day at Lincoln Financial Field as the offense failed to score in the first quarter for the ninth time in 11 games, putting pressure on an injury-riddled defense to hold things together. A defensive unit that was missing four of its top five corners as well as its starting linebacker, Jordan Hicks, yielded 346 yards in the first half — the most the Eagles have given up since November 2015 against the Tampa Bay Bucs (355) — as the Eagles trailed at intermission, 19-11.
But the fight that safety Malcolm Jenkins was calling for following an energy-less drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints the week prior kicked in just in time. Jenkins sparked that himself with an interception at the end of the second quarter — the defense’s first since Week 6 against this same Giants team.
Saquon Barkley broke off a 51-yard touchdown the series prior, and the defense was reeling. On the sideline after that drive, Jenkins and a couple other veterans asked defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to simplify the game plan for the inexperienced secondary. Schwartz did, and the defense responded.
“I think that was a turning point, especially in that game – who knows about our season – where that could have just continued to snowball out of control,” Jenkins said of the team’s response. “But we weren’t going to allow that.”
Michael Bennett turned the jets on in the second half, coming up with his team-leading 6 1/2 sack of the season on the Giants’ first possession to set the tone. He added a tackle for a loss later in the frame, posing with arms crossed as the volatile home crowd showed their approval. The front four increased the pressure on Eli Manning as the game wore on, allowing a decimated defensive backfield to stabilize.
A key fourth-down conversion by the Eagles from the Giants’ 42-yard line with just over two minutes remaining proved to be the difference. Wentz found Nelson Agholor for a 13-yard completion on fourth-and-1, setting up Jake Elliott‘s game-deciding 43-yard field goal, evoking memories of his 61-yard walk-off field goal against New York last year.
“I felt confident. Not trying to think too much about what’s happened in the past, just trying to focus on that moment,” Elliott said. “There always is [a certain joy beating the Giants], a division rival like that – especially them.”
The Eagles’ ails certainly weren’t cured Sunday. It should be looked at for what it is — a win against a subpar team. They are mediocre right now, but given the state of the division, mediocrity might just be good enough.
“It boosts the confidence,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson. “The guys are excited. It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve felt this type of emotion, so they’re jazzed.”