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Spadaro: A Merry Christmas indeed! 10 takeaways from a Giant win

D'Andre Swift
D'Andre Swift

Merry Christmas, Eagles fans! The Eagles are back in the win column, beating the New York Giants 33-25 on the strength of a big-play, balanced offense and four Jake Elliott field goals. The defense chased Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito after halftime and at one point looked like it would key a big win, but NFC East games always seem to have a way of finishing close.

This one was no exception, as rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo picked off a Tyrod Taylor pass in the end zone to end the game and push the Eagles to 11-4 on the regular season.

Here are some takeaways from Monday evening's win at Lincoln Financial Field ...

1. Early fourth quarter, and it was way too tight at 20-18 Eagles. Third and 20. Crowd all tense, chanting for the Eagles to run the ball. But it was time for quarterback Jalen Hurts, and he delivered with a 32-yard strike to wide receiver A.J. Brown on the right sideline for the first down and everyone kind of ... exhaled. The offense followed with a 22-yard Kenneth Gainwell run, a 3-yard Gainwell gain, another completion from Hurts to Brown for 12 yards to the New York 5-yard line, and then a juke-and-go run from running back D'Andre Swift for 5 yards into the end zone. The Eagles had a 27-18 lead after the Jake Elliott PAT. I know the fans were chanting for the run and I get it. But what has been missing too much from this offense is chunk plays, and the Eagles got one there, a huge one, on the 32-yard completion.

2. More about chunk plays ... the Eagles had gains of 32 yards, 36 yards (touchdown catch-and-run from DeVonta Smith), catches of 21 yards, 19 yards, and 18 yards, runs of 22 yards, 17, 16 yards, and 13 yards. Otherwise, it's been just too much grinding offensively. The chunk plays make all the difference in the world.

3. Talk about starting fast. Talk about getting the home crowd all kinds of juiced up. In this game, the first series on both sides of the ball set the tone. Fletcher Cox tackled Saquon Barkley on first down after a 2-yard gain. Then linebacker Shaquille Leonard blitzed backside and reached Barkley for a 1-yard loss. On third-and-9, quarterback Tommy DeVito rolled left and threw out of bounds for an incomplete pass. Britain Covey then returned Jamie Gillan's low and wobbly punt 54 yards to the New York 13-yard line to set up the offense in the red zone. There was no messing around. Running back D'Andre Swift gained 12 yards to the 1-yard line on first down, and then quarterback Jalen Hurts and the offense executed the Brotherly Shove for a touchdown and it was just the start the Eagles needed.

4. Matt Patricia is taking a long look at his players to find out about them in this defense and with his play calls. Three rookies – cornerbacks Kelee Ringo, safety Sydney Brown, and linebaker Ben VanSumeren started the game, and Patricia had a handful of snaps when both Nolan Smith and Haason Reddick were on the field together, with Smith taking signals from the sidelines. Clearly, Patricia wants to find out how to best use his players as the team finishes the regular season and heads into the playoffs. Ringo proudly walked off the field clutching his game ball after his end-zone interception iced the victory.

5. The offense used a lot of personnel in this one, including second-year tight end Grant Calcaterra, who kept the second offensive possession alive deep in Giants territory when Hurts chased down an errant snap from center Jason Kelce, then rolled to his left and threw for Calcaterra, who came back toward the line of scrimmage to make the catch and a 9-yard gain, converting a third-and-3 play. It was Calcaterra's first reception of the season. He had 5 receptions for 81 yards in his 2022 rookie season. The field goal drive consumed 18 plays, 82 yards and 8 minutes, 11 seconds of the clock to give the Eagles a 10-3 advantage. Calcaterra added a 12-yard reception in the third quarter as Hurts gave him a couple of looks and Calcaterra produced.

6. Everyone will note the timing, the precision, and the perfection of the Hurts touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith for 36 yards to put the Eagles ahead, 17-3 in the second quarter. It was great. But when the coaches watch the film with the players, they'll make sure to praise the downfield blocking from wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who drove defensive back Adoree' Jackson 7 yards deep in the end zone and put him on his back. That is great team football.

7. Haason Reddick is known as one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL and deservedly so – he's had four straight seasons with 10-plus quarterback sacks and he's just relentless from anywhere on the field. But he made a play late in the first half on Monday evening that reminds us that he's just a great defensive player – period. Reddick won off the left side of the defense on fourth-and-1 from the Philadelphia 21-yard line, decking Saquon Barkley for a 4-yard loss and turning the ball over to the Eagles' offense. Barkley never had a chance as Reddick won at the snap of the ball and held the edge and made another physical tackle as he continues his outstanding season. Reddick was also credited with four QB hits on the day.

8. Swift ran 7 times for 43 yards in the 5-minute offense to end the game and finished with 92 yards on 20 carries. He's got 988 rushing yards this season, averaging about 4.5 yards carry and has plenty of juice left in this homestretch. The Eagles are going to need him to continue to come up big to key the running game.

9. Turnovers hurt. Always. Boston Scott fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half when he collided with Zaccheaus – the Giants turned that into eight points – and Hurts threw a pick-six when Dallas Goedert slipped making his "out" cut and the pass was intercepted by Adoree' Jackson and returned 74 yards for a score.

10. Seven different players caught passes, led by Goedert's 7 receptions for 71 yards. Brown had 6 catches for 80 yards and Smith added 4 for 79 and the score. Big props to Gainwell, who had 3 receptions for 38 yards to go along with 41 rushing yards on 6 carries. Good balance here – Hurts threw for 301 yards and the Eagles ran for 170 yards. Just need to be better on turnovers and the red zone (2 touchdowns on 5 trips) – something the coaching staff will continue to hammer home all week.

The Eagles look to celebrate the holiday by securing sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a win over the Giants. New York looks to play the role of the Grinch by mucking up the end of the regular season for the Eagles.

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