The Giants' first drive seemed almost effortless. Starting at their own 20, they drove 80 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Eli Manning was surgical, completing all five of his passes, including a 13-yard touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. The air had been let out of the balloon that was the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.
At that point, the message was simple among the Eagles' defenders.
"Don't let them score again. That's what we said," said defensive end Cedric Thornton. "We knew if we held them to seven points, we'd win the game."
That's exactly what they did. The Giants failed to score after their first drive, and the Eagles put up 27 unanswered points to take home the victory and first place in the NFC East.
"We really had to settle down," said defensive coordinator Bill Davis. "They had a couple things that they were really executing quick, then they changed their personnel. They had a two-tight end personnel group and came out a little bit different. We settled down and made some adjustments after the first drive. We didn't get it done on that drive. After that the guys just stepped up and played good ball. Guys made a lot of plays out there."
Among that group of playmakers were the Eagles' starting defensive linemen - Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton. The trio combined for nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
"They were just nickel and diming us with quick slants and things like that," said Logan. "They put a few runs in there and a penalty kept the drive going, but it wasn't anything we needed to panic about. Once we got to the sideline we just looked over things, and once we got back out there, we just dominated."
The Eagles' defense forced three turnovers on the night, and cornerback Nolan Carroll had a huge pick-six in the second quarter, but as has been the case all season long for the Eagles, the suffocating defensive performance was spurred on by the excellent play in the trenches. After not seeing much of a pass rush on that first Giants drive, the Eagles' rush came to life in a huge way, disrupting Manning for most of the night.
"I did (call blitzes) early, and then the four-man rush started getting there," said Davis. "I said, 'Guys, you aren't making this any fun for us.' I like calling the blitzes, but the four-man rush was getting there and disturbing him and it allowed us to give extra attention to Beckham because if you blitz, everybody is one-on-one and nobody gets help. When you can get the rush with four men, then you can help in other places, and that's what happened tonight."
"When you can get a four-man rush, it's a great thing to have from a secondary standpoint," safety Malcolm Jenkins chimed in. "All you have to do is cover for a few seconds and he's getting uncomfortable, he's getting hit."
Getting Manning uncomfortable was perhaps the biggest key to Monday night's victory, just as it was a year ago when the Eagles shut the Giants out on Sunday Night Football. Manning had thrown just two interceptions and was sacked a total of four times in five games coming into Monday. The Eagles matched both of those numbers in four quarters of play.
"I saw a lot of frustration on Eli's face," said Logan. "Especially when he threw the pick-six, it was definitely an energy-killer for the offense. You could see the frustration on him, but I think all the pass rushers definitely gave him hell all day."
The Eagles' defense has been unheralded in recent years, but that narrative has been flipped in 2015. The young defensive line continues to assert itself as perhaps the best in the league, and whether the deserved recognition comes along or not, the defensive linemen are squarely focused on getting a little bit better every time they take the field, and they're having a lot of fun doing so.
"I think we're worried about controlling what we can control and going out game after game and being dominant week in and week out, and (we are) believing in each other in this locker room," said Cox. "We don't worry about what goes on outside of that. … We're striding. I think we're getting better each week. We can be one of the best defenses in the league as long as we go out and can control what we can control and just have fun."
"We're just holding everybody accountable to make their plays and not trying to go outside of the box and do anything out of the ordinary," said Thornton. "Just play together. That's when we know they're playing team defense."
The Eagles faced the Giants for Monday Night Football, sporting their #BackInBlack uniforms. View the full gallery here...