The Eagles blocked an extra point, a field goal and a punt while closing a 13-point gap over the Giants to clinch a first round bye Sunday, in a 34-29 win at Metlife Field.
The game looked a lot different than most would expect, as Nick Foles led the Eagles over a feisty New York squad that busted open several Philly weaknesses — like a soft secondary, bad tackling and a lackluster run game.
Clearly not at their best, the Birds defense was able to hunker down against its own end zone to preserve the win in front of an unexpectedly friendly crowd in North Jersey.
Even still, the Birds inproved to 12-2 and are heading home with two chances to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Here’s what we saw in Week 15:
Vinny Curry picked the perfect time to collect his first sack of the season, pulling down Manning in the red zone on third down but a costly Jalen Mills holding call negated the heroics and led to an Orleans Darkwa touchdown sprint. The Eagles’ second-year cornerback would prove to be a big part of the Eagles early struggles.
In addition to penalties the defense played uninspired football early allowing New York to convert its first five third down attempts and giving receivers cushion to catch balls all across the field. Tavarres King was wide open for a touchdown pass on the second drive of the game for the Giants, with Mills once again looking silly against a replacement-level receiver from New York. A drive later Sterling Shepard, crossing the middle of the field, took a slant 67-yards for a touchdown and a big 20-7 New York lead.
Mills committed a holding call in the second quarter too — prompting Eagles fans to start asking when rookie Sidney Jones might be ready to hit the field.
Alshon Jeffery seemed not to care who was calling the shots under center, as a tight rope walk in the back of the end zone helped him collect Foles’ first touchdown of the new era.
In a key fourth and one in the second, the Eagles failed for the first time in 13 tries to convert in that situation, turning the ball over to the Giants at midfield. With things seeming desperate, Ronald Darby put the entire hame on his shoulders and after intercepting Manning, a bevy of spin moves and jukes helped him take a 37-yard return through traffic to New York’s 20-yardline. Foles did the rest, finding big target Zach Ertz (his eighth TD) to get Philly back in the game.
Another big play shocked the Giants, as Kamu Grugier-Hill blocked the Giants punt on their possession, collected by Corey Clement to set up another short field. The tight end party continued as Trey Burton caught his third touchdown pass in two weeks to get the Eagles back on top.
The run game was hit or miss Sunday, but a big 22-yard run by Jay Ajayi on a draw, followed by a 32-yard screen pass to the same player helped set up a touchdown to put the team ahead 31-23. In all, Philly rushed for 108 yards.
Filling in for Carson Wentz, Foles showed an ability to run the run-pass option and to run the Eagles offense efficiently, completing 24-of-38 passes. He was comfortable in the red zone, as signified by his three first half touchdowns and a fourth — a 10-yard toss to Nelson Agholor in the third.
Circumstances held Foles to just 234 yards through the air, as a handful of short fields limited the real estate needed to score. He also — of course — led Philly on several drives to come back from down by as many as 13 points.
Leading by just two after a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King got New York back inside a field goal of Philly, but a blocked kick gave Foles a chance to add some padding to a slim two-point fourth quarter advantage. A chip shot field goal gave the Giants a chance to come back and they trekked all the way to the 6-yardline before the Eagles defense denied Manning’s comeback effort.