First and 10: Nothing Changes for Eagles
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (973espn.com) - Nothing changes.
That was the mantra of the Philadelphia Eagles all week after losing MVP candidate Carson Wentz to a torn ACL last week in Los Angeles.
As absurd as it sounds to peddle that story, the Eagles meant it, at least from the standpoint of the team's offense and Nick Foles' ability to run it.
What was missing, however, was the unscripted offense Wentz provided and perhaps more importantly, the feeling of invincibility that comes along with having a superstar quarterback in the NFL.
The Eagles that showed up in East Rutherford on Sunday were a lot like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas -- they get to live the rest of the 2017 NFL season like a schnook.
Fighting and clawing like everybody else.
If you wanted evidence of that, look no further than what went on at MetLife Stadium as the now 2-12 Giants gave the 12-2 Eagles all they could handle before a fourth-down Eli Manning throw late in the waning moments sailed harmlessly passed rookie tight end Evan Engram in the end zone.
"I told the guys this in the locker room: anytime the Giants and Eagles play it's going to be a battle regardless of records," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Throw everything out and it sort of becomes a slugfest."
Philadelphia hung on for a 34-29 victory, one in which clinched the team a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs, its first since the 2004 season.
Foles, meanwhile, was solid but as unspectacular as you could be while throwing for four touchdown passes against a dismal New York defense. He finished 24-of-38 for 237 yards and a passer rating of 115.8 but still left plenty on the field.
Plenty that highlights it only gets tougher from here.
"Plenty of mistakes to go around that we have to clean up going forward," Pederson said,
10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-You could probably hear Jim Schwartz complaining all the way back in Philadelphia. The Eagles' defensive coordinator wasn't happy about his unit's performance in Los Angeles and it only got worse against the moribund Giants. The Philly defense allowed 504 yards of total offense to a QB that was benched for ineffectiveness a few weeks ago and obviously didn't have Odell Beckham Jr. Coming into this game, New York was 29th in third-down offense and Eagles were third in third-down defense, yet somehow the Giants converted 10-of-18 times on the game's most important down.
"There are a few things that we can do better as a defense," Fletcher Cox admitted. "One is being critical about ourselves. Nobody's perfect. We all make mistake but at the end of the game we all came together, settled down, made some big plays and we won the ballgame."
-The main culprit was the secondary as the Giants picked on Ronald Darby's propensity to bite on double moves, something that resulted in a number of big plays down the field. Jalen Mills also didn't have his best day at the other corner position and the result was Eli Manning recorded his ninth career 400-yard passing day.
"We weren't playing like ourselves," Mills said. "We came out [in the second half], made the corrections and got better."
-While Darby has a rough game he also turned the tide back in the Eagles' favor when Philadelphia was down 20-7. He intercepted Manning and returned it 37 yards to set up a short field for the Eagles' offense, resulting in a Foles to Zach Ertz 10-yard TD pass. A short-time later Grugier-Hill blocked the punt giving Foles and Co. another short field, which put the Eagles back on top in short order.
-Manning's quick release also limited the Eagles' pass rush with Brandon Graham getting the only sack for Philadelphia, which gives him 9 1/2 on the season. If B.G. gets to 10 he will earn an extra $250,000.
-On the offensive line, left guard Stefen Wisniewski (ankle) wasn't able to go as expected and Chance Warmack got the start and played well enough to make sure Isaac Seumalo stayed on the bench. It wasn't great but it was serviceable and get Foles upright for most of the game.
-The lone scary moment came from left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was beaten badly by Olivier Vernon resulted in a strip sack that the Kenjon Barner ultimately recovered.
-The Eagles blocked three kicks in this game, a PAT, punt and field goal. The latter was a 48-yard attempt Aldrick Rosas early in the fourth quarter that would have put the Giants back in the lead. Derrick Barnett got the extra point, Kamu Grugier-Hill snuffed the punt, which led to a TD, and Malcolm Jenkins got the field goal. Coincidence or not, the Eagles brought back Bryan Braman this week to give Dave Fipp's units some energy and Braman was apart of the punt block by walling off the personal protector so KGH could get through.
-How balanced is this Eagles' offense? Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are the first two teammates since the 2011 Packers (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn) to have four-or-more passing TDs in back-to-back weeks. It was Foles' second career game with four-or-more, and the first time he accomplished the feat since Nov. 3, 2013, his record-tying seven-TD game.
"I thought he handled himself extremely well," Pederson said when discussing Foles. "A lot of poise back there. Took some shots but bounced up. He did a nice job."
-Nelson Agholor made the play of the day, jumping over a Giants' defender in perfect position to at least break-up an underthrown Foles fade in the end zone.
"He gave me an opportunity and I just tried to focus on the ball and reel one in," Agholor said.
-Jay Ajayi is taking the lead role in the backfield, getting 14 touches vs. seven for LeGarrette Blount, five for Corey Clement and two for Barner.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen