EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Six games in, the Philadelphia Eagles we all expected from Day 1 showed up on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium and blew the doors off the New York Giants, 34-13. It was a complete 60-minute performance from the Eagles to even their record at 3-3 as the team heads into a mini-bye weekend that everyone will savor.
The Eagles played terrific football in every phase of the game. A Kamu Grugier-Hill interception on the Giants' first possession set the tone, and the Eagles' offense turned that takeaway into seven points. Philadelphia led 14-3 after one quarter, 24-6 at the half, and then just controlled the clock and played physical, bruising defense to win the second half.
What was different for the Eagles on Thursday night after five up-and-down games, the last two of them tough losses, playing on the road on a short week?
"We were focused and we took care of the details. We had fun out there and that was the most important thing," said tight end Zach Ertz, who had seven receptions for 43 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown catch. "It was a short week, but we worked. We had a great game plan and we went out and executed, took an early lead and just kept playing."
"These past few weeks," said running back Corey Clement said, "we weren't really the Philadelphia Eagles for anybody who was looking in from the outside. Today was a great platform to showcase who we really are."
A team looking for a spark got plenty of them on Thursday night. The Grugier-Hill interception, created when middle linebacker Jordan Hicks got his hands on an Eli Manning pass intended for tight end Scott Simonson, was one of them. So was the touchdown that followed. A DeAndre Carter 23-yard punt return set up a second touchdown in the first quarter. A Carson Wentz scramble and heave down the field to wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the second quarter gained 58 yards and led to a Zach Ertz touchdown catch. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had two touchdown catches and finished with eight receptions for 74 yards. The offensive line, banged up and sore with right tackle Lane Johnson nursing an ankle injury that eventually forced him out of the game, and with left tackle Jason Peters out of the game in the second half with an injured bicep (he said he was "OK" after the game) moved pieces around – Halapoulivaati Vaitai played left tackle, Isaac Seumalo moved from left guard to right tackle, and Stefen Wisniewski came in at left guard – and dominated the line of scrimmage.
The defense was fantastic. Only rookie running back Saquon Barkley, a sensational player who racked up 229 total yards and a touchdown, hurt the Eagles' defense. Otherwise, they harassed quarterback Eli Manning, who was sacked four times and threw the interception. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught just six passes for 44 yards and cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills played confident, aggressive football. When nickel cornerback Sidney Jones left the game early with a hamstring injury, safety Avonte Maddox – who is showing some real maturity and versatility as he handles multiple positions in the defense – moved to the slot and cornerback Rasul Douglas played safety. The defense kept New York out of the end zone on three red zone trips, and the Giants scored just six total points.
Punter Cameron Johnston averaged 48 yards net on five kicks. Jake Elliott had two field goals and four extra points. Carter's big punt return set up a touchdown.
The Eagles are back where they belong.
"It was great playing with a lead. We know that when we are in that situation we can rush the quarterback and that's what we love to do," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. Cox had six total tackles, one quarterback sack, and three hurries against Manning. "It felt good out there. Big win against a division opponent on the road. We'll take it."
Wentz was especially outstanding as he completed 26 of 36 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Given a solid pocket, Wentz picked apart the Giants' secondary, with Jeffery, Ertz, and Agholor doing most of the damage on the receiving end. When Wentz needed to buy time, he did that and kept his eyes down the field. It was a brilliant performance in the nick of time for a team that entered the game reeling after two straight losses.
"It's taken us some time to find ourselves but I think tonight we did it," Hicks said. "To go out there and win a game like this, doing it from start to finish, that's what we want to do. We got things going early, something we hadn't been doing. Tonight I think you saw Eagles football. We have to keep it going and get on a roll."
Winning the NFC East punches a ticket to the postseason, so this was a good start. The Eagles don't see the Giants again until the end of November when they begin a stretch of four out of six games against the division.
"We know that if we win the division we're in the playoffs," Ertz said. "It's important to win these games."
Everything worked for the Eagles on a night when Eagles fans again flooded the road stadium. As the seconds wound down in the fourth quarter, the "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES" chants were loud and proud. Giants fans scurried for the exits. Eagles fans stayed around to celebrate.
That's the kind of night it was, and it felt a bit overdue. At 3-3, the players will take the weekend off and rest and heal and then turn their collective attention toward the Carolina Panthers, who come to Lincoln Financial Field a week from Sunday.
"We want to go 1-0 every week. That's the goal," Mills said. "We put in the work this week, even though it was a short week. It paid off. Getting the quick start, man, that felt great. That felt like the way we know we can play. That was Eagles football."