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Spadaro: A near-perfect first half set the tone for a Giant victory

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

They talked all week of having so much "pent-up energy," about how they were "ready to explode" and that all of them, collectively, "were ready to play their best game" when the NFC Divisional Round Playoff Game kicked off against the New York Giants on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

And then the Eagles went out and jumped on the Giants with a perfect first half, taking a 28-point lead into the locker room en route to a 38-7 win and a date in next Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field against the winner of today's Cowboys-49ers game.

"We were so amped up to play and that was obvious, wasn't it? I mean, we couldn't wait to get out there," running back Miles Sanders said. "We got right into it, the defense did its part and we just balled out."

It was every bit the domination that a 28-0 first half would suggest. The Eagles gained 18 first downs to New York's 3, outgained them 258 total net yards to 64, converted 6 of 7 third downs, and scored touchdowns on all four trips inside New York's 20-yard line.

Absolutely everything worked for the Eagles from the very start of the game. Philadelphia had the ball first and promptly drove 75 yards on 8 plays and quarterback Jalen Hurts, who had no restrictions at all and who looked like the Most Valuable Player-level performer he has been all season, completed all five of his passes for 68 yards – the final one a throw to the right side for tight end Dallas Goedert on a third-and-5 play from the New York 16-yard line. Goedert reached out and made a one-handed catch and then barreled and spun his way into the end zone and the Eagles had the early lead they coveted and the Linc, already amped to the hilt, exploded.

"That stadium, it was amazing out there," Goedert said. "The energy was incredible."

Then it was the defense's turn and a pass rush that led the NFL with 70 quarterback sacks during the regular season ended New York's first drive with a pair of sacks – the first shared by end Josh Sweat and linebacker Haason Reddick on a third-and-3 snap and then by Reddick on fourth-and-8 from the Philadelphia 40-yard line – and the Eagles' offense took back the football.

"We saw the offense do its thing and we wanted to make a statement, too," Reddick said. "Just get after him (Jones). That's what we've been doing all season."

This time, the offense emphasized the run with 33 yards on six carries, with a big play coming on a third-and-2 snap when the Eagles lined up in a quarterback sneak formation, only to have Hurts pitch left to running back Kenneth Gainwell. He picked up 14 yards and the Eagles were in business. Hurts finished off the drive with a quick pass in the flat to wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who took advantage of a great block from A.J. Brown on cornerback Adoree' Jackson, and Smith dashed into the end zone to complete the 9-yard scoring play.

There were two more scores in the half – Boston Scott's 3-yard run capped a 9-play, 63-yard drive to make it 21-0 and then Hurts, so good and composed and on the money with every decision he made, scooted into the left corner of the end zone to end a 14-play, 72-yard drive with 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Jake Elliott drilled the PAT for a 28-0 advantage as the crowd, on its feet the entire game, roared its approval.

It was an overwhelming display of football from the Eagles, who outgained the Giants 416-227 on the night, scored touchdowns on five of six trips to the red zone, and simply outplayed New York in every single facet of the game.

"We've got a lot of really, really good players on this team and in this locker room," center Jason Kelce said. "When we play well and don't hurt ourselves, it's going to be hard for anybody to beat us."

There was a lot to love in this game, so let's take a look at some of the particulars that were obvious and some that maybe were not so clear ...

• The perimeter blocking was just fantastic, and that extends to Goedert, Brown, and everyone who had a chance to get outside and knock the stuffing out of the second level of the Giants' defense.

"That's part of the game," said Brown, who had three catches for 22 yards and made several key blocks to spring big gains. "You have to embrace it and do your job. We do our jobs. It's great to help someone make a play."

• Philadelphia's offensive balance was on point and the usage of the running backs worked perfectly. Gainwell had his first 100-yard game in the NFL, gaining 112 and a touchdown on 12 carries and he looked so good, decisive, powerful, fast, and shifty. Sanders was outstanding with 90 yards on 17 carries and Scott did his part with 32 yards and a score on six attempts. The running back depth, a question mark for some before the season, has worked out so well for this team. Philadelphia put up 268 yards on the ground. Huge.

• New York's defensive tackles, Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, are two of the best in the business, and the Eagles neutralized them. Give credit here to guards Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo, along with center Jason Kelce. Andre Dillard replaced Dickerson for a handful of plays in the second quarter and also did a very nice job.

"We applied attention to them," Kelce said of the job done against Lawrence (six total tackles) and Williams (two total tackles). "Lawrence got the better of me at times and I got him, and that's the back and forth of a battle like that. I definitely appreciate it when I'm not blocking him on my own and we have more hands on him. He's a great player. Leonard is a great player. We applied attention and you make sure those guys aren't ruining the play."

• New York picked up some yardage in the second half after the game was out of reach, but for the most part, the Eagles' defense did exactly what it set out to do – render running back Saquon Barkley ineffective (he finished with 61 yards on nine carries – 39 were on one carry – and had just two receptions for 21 yards) and make life miserable for Jones. On his first eight dropbacks, Jones was sacked twice and was knocked down four other times. Philadelphia registered five quarterback sacks. The Eagles also limited Jones' running opportunities. One week after torching the Vikings with 78 yards on the ground, Jones gained only 24 on six carries on Saturday night.

• Big interception by cornerback James Bradberry as the Eagles registered the lone takeaway in the game. The offense didn't turn the interception into points, but the pick illustrated just how blanketed the New York receivers were down the field. New York had its only success throwing short passes and getting the ball out of Jones' hands quickly.

• Maybe you didn't notice it, but punter Brett Kern was fantastic with three punts inside the 20-yard line and two of them inside the 10-yard line. He averaged 43 yards per punt and was able to keep New York pinned deep in its own territory.

The Eagles throttled the New York Giants 38-7 to advance to the NFC Championship Game. They will host either the Dallas Cowboys or the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

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