The Eagles thoroughly dominated the New York Giants in their 34-13 Week 6 win in the Meadowlands, controlling every facet of the game from start to finish.
But there was one flaw. It was the weapon everyone targeted going into the game.
Dynamic rookie running back Saquon Barkley was a force in that Thursday night game for the Giants. He finished with 130 rushing yards on 13 carries and added nine receptions for 99 yards. On a team with wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard, Barkley led his team in receiving yards and was ahead of the second-highest receiver by 47 yards.
"I was very impressed," said linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. "For as big as he is, he definitely has an unreal combination of speed and ability."
Barkley comes in at 6-0, 234 pounds. His versatility allows him to be a force in both the running and passing game. He has the second-most receptions on the Giants with 64 and the third-most receiving yards with 540. That's on top of the 728 rushing yards, good for sixth in the league, on 158 carries.
The only touchdown the Eagles gave up in that Week 6 win was a 50-yard rush by Barkley. Since then, the Eagles have struggled with similar running backs in size and ability.
The Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 151 yards on 19 carries and had a pair of touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving. The Saints' Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 174 yards on 29 carries and three total touchdowns.
"They're running the football really good," said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox of the Giants. "And lately, we haven't been able to stop the run and that's a problem. Because we know they're going to come in, they're going to hand 26 the ball. He's a great player. We need to get him to the ground, we need to tackle better, we need to get everybody flying to the football."
Tackling a big, fast body is no easy task. Grugier-Hill said it's not often tacklers face someone so big, shifty, agile, and athletic. The key is switching the mindset on the tackle.
"You've got to just raise your target a little bit and just tackle through him instead of going low at his legs," Grugier-Hill said. "You need to go in and wrap him up."
For defensive end Brandon Graham, it all comes down to effort. With a shorthanded secondary, Graham said the line has to focus on putting pressure on quarterback Eli Manning so he makes mistakes.
In the meantime, the Giants have run the ball with Barkley more since the Eagles saw them last and he is a priority. The key is making sure tacklers are aware and put forward and energy to go after him.
"We just have to get numbers to the ball. You can't coach effort, that's a choice," Graham said. "I'm just trying to give even more because we could all give a little better so we can win games."
Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' practice in preparation for their Week 12 matchup against the rival New York Giants.
In their first six games, including the Eagles' Week 6 battle, Barkley averaged 5.2 yards per carry and touched the ball 20.7 times per game. He had 84 rushes and 40 receptions.
In their four games since, Barkley had 98 touches for an average of 24.5 per game. Of those 98, 74 were rushes and just 24 were passes. The Giants have seen the value in feeding Barkley with downhill, grinding rushes to pick up chunks of yards consistently instead of relying on big plays.
It's working. The Giants are winners of two straight games and combined for 65 points in those two. Graham said the Giants' offense seems to have found a spark. That spark has allowed other parts of the game to open up and has taken pressure off of Manning.
For the Eagles to beat the Giants on Sunday, they will have to slow down Saquon. Period.
"They're really trying to get the run game established and they kind of see what they have in great value in Saquon," Grugier-Hill said. "They're really trying to feed him the ball as much as they can."