To a man, they left MetLife Stadium that day thinking that the 13-7 loss to the New York Giants on November 28 happened as a result of self-inflicted wounds that included four giveaways, one or two untimely penalties, and missed opportunities. Oh, the Eagles gave credit to the Giants that day, and deservedly so, but in the end, it was more about stumbling and ultimately falling than anything else.
"Self-inflicted wounds, man," running back Boston Scott said. "We beat ourselves and it hurts to lose this game. Everything was in front of us. We beat ourselves."
"If you lose the turnover battle 4-0, nothing good is going to come from that," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said.
"There are things we have to be better on, and it starts with me," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "A game like this, everybody is going to try to take accountability for the things they didn't do and that's the mentality we have as a team, good, bad, or indifferent. Everybody is going to hold themselves accountable for the things that they did and the things that they didn't do. I know, as the quarterback of this team and as who I am, I put this team in a bad situation in the first half."
That was then. This is now.
The Eagles rebounded from that loss to the Giants with wins over the Jets and the Washington Football Team, and now they're staring the Giants in the face again, right in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. They've moved on from that defeat, learned lessons, and have galvanized as a team, not to mention upped their performance. Remembering the feeling of leaving MetLife Stadium that day, that feeling of utter disgust at themselves for allowing an opportunity to slip away and what it was like as the buses moved down the New Jersey Turnpike might not hurt, if only for a moment or two.
"We were a team that wasn't happy after the game," linebacker Alex Singleton said. "We were a team that obviously felt like we should have won the game. They won the game, but ultimately we felt we should have won the game and that we needed that game. It was one of those defeated feelings leaving MetLife that day."
The Eagles understand the situation they're in ahead of Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field. The margin for error, in the eyes of the team, is zero. Every game has a playoff feel.
"I like that we're playing with so much on the line," cornerback Avonte Maddox said after Tuesday night's win over Washington. "It's definitely a playoff-like feeling."
What are the keys on Sunday for a win over New York? There are several, actually, and they boil down to the basics.
1. Win the turnover battle
This is an obvious answer. The Eagles correctly lamented four giveaways and zero takeaways from the November 28 game. That's just a formula that won't win many football games.
"Ball security, it's always top of mind," Hurts said the week after that loss. "I have to be better."
You can be certain that New York is going to be in a ballhawking mood on Sunday. The Eagles have to be smart with the football on offense, and they have to be aggressive and take advantage of opportunities on defense.
2. Limit penalties
Philadelphia committed only four of them the first time around against the Giants, but a couple of them were super costly. A holding penalty nullified a 24-yard Hurts run late in the first half and another holding call on the same drive took away a Scott touchdown run. A pass interference penalty kept a Giants drive alive and gave them a first-and-goal situation at the Philadelphia 1-yard line, and one play later the Giants scored a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead early in the third quarter. On the ensuing Eagles' offensive possession, an illegal block penalty backed up the offense deep in its own territory and one play later Hurts threw an interception.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Eagles when they made so many mistakes to hurt themselves.
3. Establish the running game
This is something the Eagles have done very well, of course. Even in the game at New York, the Eagles ran for 208 yards. So, it's going to be important for Philadelphia to do the same on Sunday. Having Landon Dickerson back on the field – he was taken off the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday – helps as he and Jordan Mailata have been terrific together on the left side of the offensive line. New York knows the running game is coming, so the chess match in how to win is going to be fascinating.
"We didn't do a good enough job stopping the run last time," Giants Head Coach Joe Judge said this week to New York reporters. "They ran the ball for over 200 yards on us, so you do that and you're (not) going to give yourself a chance for success. Do I expect them to throw the ball? We absolutely do, but I don't think it's going to take away from the run game, as well. You look at them (Tuesday night) in that game against Washington, they ran the ball very effectively, but also took their shots down the field."
4. Defensively, no big plays
New York has yet to disclose who will start at quarterback, whether it will be Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm. If it's Fromm, he will make his starting debut at quarterback after he played last Sunday late in the loss at Dallas and threw 12 passes and gained 82 yards. The Giants have some weapons at wide receiver, including Kenny Golladay, who had three receptions for 50 yards in the November matchup. Tight end Evan Engram is a weapon with his catch-and-run skills. The Eagles are well aware of the challenges of New York's passing game, which is explosive when on point.
Philadelphia's run defense allowed just 70 yards on 27 attempts in the first meeting between the teams.
5. Get out in front of this
The short week has been handled well by an Eagles team that has given the players as much time as possible to recover physically and emotionally. Philadelphia dug out of a 10-0 hole to beat Washington and while it was an impressive turnaround, it wasn't the easiest first half in the world. It sure would be a plus for the Eagles to get the upper hand early on Sunday in front of a home crowd that is going to be eager to continue the good times of the last many weeks.