The Giants led the Eagles 19-3 with 4:06 left in the first half on Sunday. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at that point, with the defense struggling mightily and the offense not faring much better. Instead of feeling badly, everyone should have relaxed. In a way, the Eagles had the Giants right where they wanted them.
With a lead.
The Cowboys-Eagles rivalry might get more attention, but the Giants-Eagles rivalry is the one that produces the wildest games. The series is filled with fantastic finishes and some miraculous events.
I remember a game back in 1992 when the Eagles trailed 20-6 in the second quarter. The season was on the line in that game. Things looked bad. Seth Joyner picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown and that changed everything. The Eagles scored 34 unanswered points to take a 40-20 lead and they won the game 47-34.
Everybody remembers the wild game in 2010 when the Eagles trailed 31-10 in the fourth quarter. Michael Vick then came alive, throwing a pair of touchdowns and running for another. That tied the game at 31 and then DeSean Jackson finished the Giants off with a legendary punt return for a score. What an epic game.
Not every game has gone the Eagles’ way. Back in 2006, the Eagles were a machine in the first half. Donovan McNabb threw for 256 yards and the Eagles led 17-7 at halftime. The lead grew to 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter. The Giants managed to tie the game near the end of regulation and win it in overtime, 30-24. That game hurt.
Back to Sunday, where the Eagles trailed 19-3. The players could have gotten down on themselves and given up. They could have panicked. They could have continued to play sloppy football.
Instead, the Eagles kept grinding. They went and scored a touchdown and then picked off Eli Manning to close out the half. The score might have read 19-11 in the Giants’ favor, but the Eagles were the team running into the locker room with smiles on their faces. Suddenly, they felt alive.
Comebacks usually involve big plays. There might be a defensive touchdown. Or a takeaway might be deep in the opponent's territory, setting up a short touchdown. There might be a long punt or kickoff return. The offense might have a huge pass play or long run.
Sunday's game was different. The Eagles methodically took control of the game. They played much better defense in the second half. They tackled better. They covered better. There weren't a bunch of fluke moments. There weren't any takeaways.
The offense didn't have a single play of more than 23 yards after halftime. The offense started to move the ball in part because of the offensive line. The big guys up front won the line of scrimmage and that made a huge difference.
Their blocking allowed rookie Josh Adams to run the ball 22 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. That was his best showing of the year. Corey Clement ran for 45 yards and looked the best he has all season. Both runners showed good bursts and speed.
Clement had a 32-yard run and Adams had a pair of runs that went for 15 or more yards. The run game was able to move the chains, but also deliver some chunk plays. Those types of runs have been missing for most of 2018.
Carson Wentz threw his fewest passes of the year, attempting only 28. That's what happens when the run game comes alive and you have a balanced attack. Wentz did have to make some key passes. The biggest play came when he hit Nelson Agholor over the middle on a fourth down pass on the game-winning drive.
The defense was like night and day from the first half to the second. A few players mentioned that they got Jim Schwartz to adjust what they were doing. Because there were so many new faces in the lineup, the players thought simpler calls would help them to play faster and make fewer mistakes.
No matter what exactly happened, it worked.
The Eagles held the Giants to only 3 yards in the third quarter. The Giants only scored three points in the second half. The defense was worlds better.
The player who really stood out all game long was Malcolm Jenkins. He played in the box and in the slot. He chased plays 30 yards downfield. Jenkins was credited with five solo tackles, but it felt like he was around the ball all game long.
On the Giants’ opening series of the second half, Jenkins made his presence felt. He stuffed a first down run, holding Saquon Barkley to three yards. On second down, Manning wanted to hit Barkley with a play-action pass. Jenkins covered Barkley perfectly, forcing Manning to hold the ball. Michael Bennett sacked Manning for a loss of 11 yards. Jenkins killed that drive.
Jenkins also had a forced fumble and he's the one who picked off the pass at the end of the first half. This was exactly the kind of performance the Eagles needed from somebody on the defense. Jenkins was terrific.
We shouldn't overlook special teams. Cameron Johnston averaged 50 yards per punt and he pinned the Giants deep on multiple occasions. Jake Elliott was three-for-three on field goals, including the game-winner. He was clutch.
The Eagles’ big comeback puts them at 5-6 and just a game out of first place in the NFC East. They've still got a long way to go, but it was important to win this game have something to feel good about. Winning will boost their confidence and give the players some extra pep in their step.
The team had to have this win. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't ideal. Still, it was important for the team to fight through a slow start and find a way to win this game. The challenge now becomes building on it. The Eagles need to make Sunday's win a launching point for a winning streak.