Extra Points: Locals embrace Eagles-Giants rivalry
Joe Cirrinicione is a lifelong Eagles fan.
Jim Rochford's loyalty to the New York Giants is just as strong.
The Lower Township residents always make a bet when the two teams meet. A Birds' victory means Rochford has to drink Crown Royal out of Cirrincione's Eagles glass. A loss means Cirrinicione has to chug a beer from Rochford's "Big Blue" mug.
They will be making another wager on Saturday night, when the Eagles play host to the Giants in an NFC Divisional Round playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I haven't heard from the Giants faithful (Rochford) yet, but I hate that we have to play them again," Cirrinicione said last Monday. "We need to win or I'll have to leave town."
While Eagles fans seems to get more revved up about playing the Cowboys, the Giants' rivalry stretches back 90 years. It started in 1933 when the G-Men beat the Birds 56-0 at the Polo Grounds, then earned a 20-14 win at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia.
Eagles-Giants have produced more than its share of special moments, including at least three "Miracles of the Meadowlands."
Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik's hit on Giants running back Frank Gifford on November 20, 1960 is still considered one of the most vicious tackles in league history. Gifford had just caught a short pass over the middle when Bednarik delivered a clothes line hit that knocked Gifford unconscious. Gifford left the field on a stretcher and was hospitalized for 10 days with a concussion.
Almost exactly 18 years later, on November 19, 1968, Eagles cornerback Herm Edwards scooped up a botched handoff between Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik and fullback Larry Csonka and returned the fumble 26 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds to give the Eagles a 19-17 win in the first "Miracle of the Meadowlands."
Miracle number two came a decade and a day later. The teams were tied 17-17 in overtime when Eagles place-kicker Luis Zendejas lined up for a 31-yard field goal. Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor blocked it, but Eagles defensive end Clyde Simmons recovered it and ran it in for a game-winning TD.
I witnessed Miracle at the New Meadowlands on December 19, 2010. The Giants led 31-10 with eight minutes left. The Eagles rallied to tie it at 31-31 when DeSean Jackson dropped back to field a punt from Matt Dodge. Jackson bobbled the kick, then grabbed it and sprinted up the right side - passing shocked Giants coach Tom Coughlin in the process - for a 65-yard TD on the final play to give the Eagles a 38-31 win.
Saturday's game marks the fifth time they've met in the playoffs since 1981, with each team winning twice.
Their most recent postseason game came in 2008 Divisional Round. The Eagles entered the game as a wildcard and upset the top-seeded Giants 23-11 to reach the NFC Championship game - they lost at Arizona - for the fifth time in eight seasons.
The Giants could finally get revenge on Saturday. They are coming off an impressive, 31-24 win at Minnesota behind first-year coach Brian Daboll, quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have been struggling lately with injuries to tackle Lane Johnson and quarterback Jalen Hurts. Both are expected to play Saturday, but it remains to be seen if Johnson will be able to handle playing with a torn adductor muscle.
"I'll make it work," Johnson told NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Hurts sat out two games with a sprained right shoulder and was less than impressive in a 22-16, Week 18 win over a Giants squad that played its junior varsity squad. He was much better in their first meeting this season. He threw for 217 yards and two TDs and ran for one in a 48-22 romp. Additionally, running back Miles Sanders ran for a career-high 144 yards.
Playing at the Linc is a big advantage for the Birds. They have won nine straight there against the Giants and are 24-6 against them overall in the last 30 games.
I think the game will be extremely close, with Eagles kicker Jake Elliott winning it with a late field goal.
That means Cirrinicione can stay put while Rochford will have to drink some Crown Royal.
It's a win-win for me.
I'll be enjoying tequila Saturday night regardless of the outcome.
Speaking of the playoffs, former Eagles coach Doug Pederson continued his amazing turnaround with the Jaguars with a thrilling, 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC wild-card round last Saturday night.
The Jaguars looked cooked when the Chargers took a 27-0 lead and led 27-7 at halftime. Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence had thrown four interceptions and was struggling.
Pederson urged the team at halftime to stay focused and maintain its composure. The result was an incredible rally that ranks as one of the best comebacks in NFL playoff history.
"What we talked about at halftime of just hanging together and taking one play at a time," Pederson told his team after the game. "I'm proud of you because have faith in yourself and you have faith in each other. You keep encouraging each other like we talk about all the time. You believe. Belief is about understanding that you can get it done and then it gets done. That's what faith is about."
The Eagles became Super Bowl champions in 2017 because of that approach.
Backup quarterback Nick Foles was the hero of their 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, but it was Pederson who deserved the lion's share of the credit for their postseason run.
Now he deserves the Jaguars' share of the credit.