EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just when it looked like the Giants had found their rhythm offensively, it took one corner blitz by the Eagles defense to dismantle the opposition.
Cornerback Brandon Boykin came off the edge in front of Manning on a delayed blitz and converged with linebacker Trent Cole at the Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The two hit Manning's arm as he threw the ball and it popped into the air before landing in the arms of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who also had his league-leading third fumble recovery. It was the first of three interceptions by the defense in the fourth quarter, all on consecutive drives, as the Eagles beat the Giants 36-21 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East.
"The players showed a lot of character today," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "They scored two touchdowns in the second half on us. It started to slip a little bit and the guys got a better grip on it and made the plays to give the offense the ball back. That's what we talked about all along."
On the very next play after Kendricks' interception, quarterback Nick Foles rolled out to his left and unleashed a perfect pass to tight end Brent Celek along the right side, who dove for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Eagles ahead, 29-21.
The defense didn't waste any time getting the ball back for the offense. Three plays into the Giants' next offensive drive, Manning looked for his top target this season in wide receiver Victor Cruz. Boykin was lined up again Cruz in man coverage with safety help over the top. Cruz tried to fake to the outside and went back in over the middle. Boykin read the fake and tried to keep leverage. Manning delivered the ball and it looked initially as if Cruz came down with it, but Boykin stripped the ball and hauled it in with one hand.
"He never had it," Boykin said. "He was trying to get it. ... It was one of those crazy plays."
"Brandon had him on his own and it was a phenomenal interception," Davis said. "At first, I thought Victor had it, but then Boykin took it away. It was a great play."
Foles and Co. put the game out of reach showing great anticipation on a 5-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, who ran a beautiful stop-and-go route to free himself up. With the added cushion, Manning pressed to make some sort of play. The third interception was notched by cornerback Cary Williams. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks came off the line and was jammed by Williams, who realized that Nicks was going to run a slant. Nicks didn't finish the route and Williams saw Manning look directly at him. The ball was thrown low, but Williams dove for the pick.
"We played well. It was a huge stride for us to make today in our play as a cohesive unit," Williams said. "We really focused on our individual matchups. We focused on each and every single play. We showed that today. We still have room to improve. We're not at a point where we want to be at right now. We still feel like there's work to do and there's work to be done."
After last week's humbling loss in Denver and the early struggles in the second half, the Eagles on defense had every reason to doubt themselves. Instead, they were resilient and delivered the plays needed to come out with the win.
"It was more about gaining confidence in the techniques that we were using and the defenses that we were playing. It wasn't about ripping and yelling and screaming," Davis said. "Everybody's got so much pride that when you get a beatdown like we did in Denver, the only way to get back is the fundamentals and the smaller things."
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