EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As the final seconds ticked down and the chants of, "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!" bounced around a MetLife Stadium still filled with Eagles fans and the reality set in, that this football team that has taken hit after hit after hit kept playing football and winning down the stretch – that the NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles clinched it with a convincing 34-17 win over the New York Giants on Sunday to, as defensive end Brandon Graham said, "play to live another day," the celebration carried into the locker room and spilled into the hallways and then onto the buses carrying the team down the New Jersey Turnpike back to Philadelphia.
"It has taken every one of us in this locker room, and more, to get to this point," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We've overcome a lot. We've had a lot of players go down with injury. That can cripple some teams. Not us. We just kept it rolling, kept working hard, and we believed that we would turn it around. Here we are. We aren't finished yet."
In the locker room after the win, there was quarterback Carson Wentz, the toast of the team after another brilliant, mistake-free performance as he completed 23 of 40 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown, making his way to the podium for assembled media hanging on his every word.
Wentz, by the way, set franchise records for completions (388) and passing yards (4,039) in a single season and became the first quarterback in Eagles history to throw a touchdown pass in every regular-season game (NFL-best 19 consecutive games).
There was running back Boston Scott, who picked up the slack when rookie standout Miles Sanders went out of the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and carried 19 times for 54 yards and three touchdowns, adding four receptions for another 84 yards.
There was tight end Joshua Perkins, who had to step up and did with Zach Ertz sidelined with an injured back and ribs, catching four passes for 50 yards and a 24-yard touchdown. There was right guard Matt Pryor, who replaced the best guard in the NFL, Brandon Brooks – he left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury – and helped the offense churn out 400 total net yards, score touchdowns on all three goal-to-goal situations, and protect Wentz against a heavy dose of Giants blitzing.
There was wide receiver Deontay Burnett, an Eagle for three weeks, called up from the practice squad only a few days ago, catching two passes, one a sliding grab for 41 yards that set up a big Jake Elliott field goal from 50 yards out, talking about his improbable journey in the world of the NFL.
Defensively, tackle Tim Jernigan held court in the locker room and talked about the toughness of a defense that recorded four quarterback sacks and shut down star running back Saquon Barkley, with the exception of a 68-yard touchdown run. There was cornerback Sidney Jones, proudly walking out of the locker room after a strong game – three tackles, three passes defensed, one interception, and two tackles on special teams.
The list of heroes that helped turn a 5-7 team into a 9-7 division winner is a long one. How about Cre'Von LeBlanc, who made couple of key pass breakups on Sunday, including one late in the third quarter on a fourth-down throw and turned the ball over to the offense, which promptly went on a nine-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that featured a 14-yard Wentz pass to tight end Dallas Goedert to convert a third-and-8 situation, a play on which Goedert toe-tapped along the sidelines to bring in the pass?
"I think it's that way with a lot of players here," Goedert said. "You get your chance and you make the most of it."
Sunday's game was a tight one until early in the fourth quarter when the Eagles blew it wide open. Elliott's 50-yard field goal in a steady rain gave the Eagles a 20-17 advantage. Then the defense made its mark as New York quarterback Daniel Jones couldn't cleanly field a low snap on a second-and-8 snap from the Giants 27-yard line, and just as he gained possession, a blitzing Jenkins poked the ball loose from Jones and it rolled back toward the end zone. Fletcher Cox pounced on it at the 2-yard line and the Eagles' offense was in business.
One play later, Scott went untouched into the end zone and the Eagles had themselves a 27-17 advantage.
"Huge swing in momentum there," Scott said. "That's what we've been doing. The defense makes a play and helps us out and we did our job, putting the ball in the end zone. You could feel it all shift right then."
The defense shut down New York with one three-and-out series and then a four-and-out series that included two quarterback sacks and Wentz engineered a 38-yard touchdown drive that included a 39-yard catch-and-run by Scott to put the offense on the doorstep again, and Scott rolled into the end zone from 2 yards out again and the Eagles had all the cushion they needed.
A team with 10 players on the gameday roster who were on a practice squad at one point this season had completed a December to remember. It started poorly, with a loss in Miami, and then came the good stuff – an overtime win over the Giants, a fourth-quarter comeback win at Washington, a tough-as-nails triumph over the Dallas Cowboys, and, finally, Sunday at the Giants.
"It all worked, I think, because we trusted each other," Perkins said. "I had my chance to play and I knew I needed to deliver. They were showing confidence in me. They were giving me the opportunity to show what I could do. And they needed me. As a player, that's all you can ask for. Then it's your job to prepare, to put in the hard work, and to go out and contribute any way they ask you."
"It's just a great feeling," center Jason Kelce said. "It's been a bit of a rough season in a lot of ways. Nothing came easy for us. We stuck together and we turned it around. I think everybody knew we had it in us, but I can't say that anyone knew the season would take the turns that it took. It doesn't matter how we got here. We're the NFC East Champions and now we've got to prepare for the playoffs. This is why we play the game, for times like this."
That's the story of the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles, a division winner that snatched a winning season from the jaws of defeat and a pileup of injuries. There is more to play for here. The Eagles have not let one obstacle get in their way, so why doubt them now? Wentz is playing the best football of his career, having thrown 173 passes without an interception (the last interception was the final Hail Mary pass in Miami), with seven touchdowns in the four-game winning streak. Lincoln Financial Field awaits next weekend. It's going to be crazy. The Eagles deserve every bit of the fun ahead.
Go inside the locker to see how the players celebrated clinching the NFC East.