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10 things we learned from the Eagles’ big win over the Giants

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Takeaways from the game.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles defeated the New York Giants on Thursday evening, 34-13. Here’s a look at the things we learned from Philadelphia’s big divisional win.

1 - The Eagles are fun again

Wasn’t last night’s game so much fun?

It feels like it’s been too long since an Eagles game has been so thoroughly enjoyable. Lately the Eagles have been painful to watch due to their insistence to shoot themselves in the foot at key moments and generally make sloppy mistakes.

That wasn’t the case last night. Everyone balled out from the jump. That was very encouraging to see a must-win game against a division opponent.

It was also just nice to see the Eagles win comfortably for once. They haven’t done that since the beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, 38-7. Until now, everything’s come down to the wire.

Beating a bad team Giants doesn’t magically fix all of the Eagles’ issues but it does take some sting out of the reigning Super Bowl champions’ slow start to their 2018 campaign. It’s good to know Eagles football can still be enjoyable.

2 - Carson Wentz is clutch

“Clutch” is a description usually reserved for end-of-game heroics but I believe it applies to Carson Wentz’s performance against the Giants as well.

This was a big spot for the Eagles. After losing two games in a row, Philadelphia easily could’ve come out struggling and dropped to last in the division with a loss to the Giants. But Wentz didn’t allow that to happen. He put the team on his back and led the way to victory.

Wentz finished the game with the following numbers: 26/36 (72.2%), 278 yards (7.7 average), 3 TD, 0 INT, 122.2 passer rating. That’s great stuff. And speaking of clutch, just look at these third down numbers: 14/15 for 168 yards and two touchdowns for a 152.9 passer rating. Whew.

We saw the benefits of Wentz holding onto the ball as he extended plays and made some really big throws. His first touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery was a beauty. I really liked the deep completion he had to Nelson Agholor on a play that looked designed just to move the chains. There are obviously some drawbacks to Wentz’s aggressive style but the good clearly outweighs the bad with him. He can be so impossible to defend at times.

Since returning to the field in Week 3, Wentz has completed 68.4% of his passes for 1,192 yards (7.5 average), 8 TD, 1 INT, and a 104.7 passer rating. He’s also picked up 58 yards with his legs. Wentz has extended his touchdown pass streak to 19 games, which is the longest in Eagles franchise history and second longest current streak in the league right now.

Wentz is having this success despite coming off ACL/LCL injury and not having a full offseason of practices to work on chemistry with his targets. He’s also dealt with a lot of drops and less than ideal pass protection. These are far from perfect conditions.

In other words, Wentz is really good and the Eagles are very fortunate to have him. His presence makes this team a contender.

3 - To no surprise, the Giants stink

Sitting at 1-5, the Giants are done. No one should be surprised because it was so predictable that they’d be bad once again.

Eli Manning is washed. The Giants’ offensive line is bad. Pat Shurmur is incredibly uninspiring. New York’s defense isn’t any good.

The good news for the Giants is they have a quarterback of the future waiting in the wings. Oh, wait, they don’t. Because they drafted a RUNNING BACK at No. 2 overall, which was so dumb.

Saquon Barkley is obviously really good. We saw on that Thursday night.

But we also how his success didn’t mean much for the Giants, who scored a measly 13 points.

For those saying “Well the Giants can draft a quarterback high this year” — you might be right. But it’s bullshit to think that was the plan all along. The Giants drafted Barkley because they felt like he could maximize Manning. Also, if they’re just intentionally going to throw away a season to get a high pick, the Eagles (and other teams) will certainly take those easy wins, thank you very much.

Until the Giants find a legitimate successor to Manning, they’re going nowhere fast.

4 - The Eagles own the Giants

Giants fans shouldn’t even bother talking trash to the Eagles. They just don’t have a strong leg to stand on.

Sure, the Giants have four Super Bowls, but the Eagles have the most recent one. And the Eagles are now 17-4 in their last 21 games against New York. The Eagles have been bending the “New York Football Giants” over their knee and spanking them for years now. Who’s your daddy, Giants fans?

It’s interesting to note the Eagles’ dominance over the Giants has significantly impacted the all-time series between the two teams. Including playoffs, the Eagles are 85-86-2 against the Giants dating back to 1933. As far as I can tell, the Eagles have never really led this series because the Giants dominated it so early on. Now the Eagles have a chance to tie it up with a win over New York at home in Week 12. The Eagles will then have an opportunity to take the lead in 2019.

5 - It’s good to see the wide receivers getting more involved

Heading into Week 6, the Eagles had the second lowest percentage of passing yards to wide receivers at just 40.15%. That number increased on Thursday night thanks to some good performances from the wide receiving corps.

Alshon Jeffery caught eight of his team-high 12 targets for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery only averaged 9.3 yards per reception but he was effective in key spots: moving the chains and scoring points. He did a real nice job of shaking free in the end zone on Wentz’s first touchdown pass to him. It’s also good to see Jeffery look way less plodding on screens than he did last year. And how can you not love his post-game quote?

After two rough weeks in a row, Nelson Agholor bounced back with three receptions for 91 yards. Two of those catches came on broken plays. The first one was basically Agholor intercepting a pass that easily could’ve been picked by the Giants after Wentz had his arm hit while he was throwing. The second was Agholor realizing Wentz’s options were covered and deciding to break off his route to get open down the field. Nelly’s ability to get yards after the catch really comes in handy.

Even Jordan Matthews had a pair of nice grabs for two first down conversions. He also would’ve drawn a big pass interference penalty if the refs didn’t wrongfully pick up the flag called on Janoris Jenkins.

It was nice to finally see Wentz getting help from his wideouts.

Side note: Zach Ertz continues to be a beast. The 27-year-old tight end is up to 48 receptions for 480 yards, two touchdowns, and 24 first downs. He’s such a reliable chain-mover.

6 - The offensive line still has some issues, but it could be worse

Wentz had been sacked 12 times and hit 27 times in his first three games since returning to the lineup. Here’s the game-by-game breakdown:

Week 3 — 5 sacks, 8 hits

Week 4 — 4 sacks, 11 hits

Week 5 — 3 sacks, 8 hits

Now let’s add the Giants game:

Week 6 — 1 sack, 5 hits

That’s much better.

Now, it’s not exactly surprising that the Giants failed to get to Wentz. They have the fewest sacks in the league this year. Their pass rush isn’t any good.

But New York had also been without their top pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, until last night. And the Eagles’ starting offensive tackles — Jason Peters and Lane Johnson — were both clearly playing at less than 100%.

The point here is that things could’ve gone worse than they did. I mean, just look at the Giants’ offensive line.

Hopefully Peters, who is now dealing with a biceps injury in addition to his quad issue, and Johnson, who is a warrior for toughing out his ankle sprain last night, can rest up and get right. It’d be nice if the Eagles o-line can build on this performance.

7 - The defense deserves some love

Who knew the Eagles’ home defense was allowed to show up on the road?

The defensive line deserves a lot of credit for showing up big on Thursday night. Eli Manning was sacked four times and hit 13 times. Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett each had six tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and threee quarterback hits. Bennett also had a great strip-sack while beating the NFL’s highest paid offensive lineman, Nate Solder, with ease around the edge.

One of the most surprising developments was that the backup defensive tackles finally showed up. Treyvon Hester had two tackles and one quarterback hit. He’s certainly looking like an upgrade on Bruce Hector, who wasn’t giving the team anything. And then Destiny Vaeao had a sack!

The Eagles’ ability to generate pressure made life easier on the secondary. To their credit, the defensive backs mostly held up their end of the bargain. Jalen Mills got beat by Cody Latimer on a contested catch for a big gain but was good in coverage outside of that. Ronald Darby logged four pass breakups and looked like a guy playing for a new contract, which he is. We know the corners aren’t going to play this well every week but they are capable of good moments. Here’s hoping to see more of them.

Avonte Maddox, who was interestingly named a team captain for this game, continues to not look totally out of place at safety. The rookie chased down Barkley’s big run early in the game to prevent a touchdown. That ended up saving four points. Maddox had a similar moment in the Vikings game last week against Adam Thielen. Maddox’s hustle drew praise from Jim Schwartz, who is clearly showing trust in the rookie.

Last, but not least, it’s time to show some love to Jordan Hicks. The guy set the tone last night by tipping Manning’s pass and allowing it to get picked off by Kamu Grugier-Hill. Hicks continues to be a stat-sheet stuffer; he finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles. I think he may have been the only Eagles defender to solo tackle Barkley at one point. Nigel Bradham also had a strong game with six tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one pass defensed, and one quarterback hit. Collectively speaking, we probably under-appreciate how Hicks and Bradham are a nice duo of starting linebackers.

8 - The backfield could still use a boost

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

WENDELL SMALLWOOD

Rushing: 18 carries, 51 yards, 2.8 average, long of 8 yards
Receiving: 1 reception, 0 yards

COREY CLEMENT

Rushing: 11 carries, 43 yards, 3.9 average, long of 14 yards
Receiving: 3 receptions, 26 yards

TOTAL

Rushing: 29 carries, 94 yards, 3.2 average
Receiving: 4 receptions, 26 yards, 6.5 average

...

After the game, per Les Bowen, Clement said he told Howie Roseman that he doesn’t need to acquire a star back. Roseman challenged him to prove him wrong. I love that attitude by Clement. But I also still think the Eagles could use help here.

Clement is clearly good and deserves more touches. The problem is he’s still dealing with his quad issue. Prior to the game, Erin Andrews reported Clement was still on a pitch count.

As for Smallwood, he’s performed admirably relative to expectations. He’s done well for what he is: a fourth-string running back. But it’s hard to feel super comfortable about merely sticking with him, Clement, and Josh Adams (who didn’t even get an offensive snap last night) for the rest of the season.

There’s just nothing overly impressive about Smallwood. He’s not really going to make people miss and create extra yardage for himself. The perception of his performance would also be a lot worse if he ended up losing that fumble. That mistake could’ve potentially let the Giants back into the game.

Hopefully the Eagles find a way to add another back.

And as a quick aside here, I’ve seen people point out that the Eagles won the game because they were more balanced offensively: 36 passing attempts to 31 rushing attempts. I’ve also seen some people still continue to criticize Doug Pederson, which baffles me. The Eagles were moving the ball through the air just fine. No need to run for the sake of arbitrary “balance” when the pass is working.

9 - DeAndre Carter has earned his roster security

I love this guy. He’s my new and improved Damaris Johnson (shout out to BGN alumnus Dan Klausner).

Carter has really made the most of his opportunities while taking over as the Eagles’ punt returner. He had five returns for 47 yards against the Giants, including a 23-yarder at one point that gave the Eagles good starting field position.

Carter previously earned his spot on this team but the Eagles cut him in order to call up Adams. Philly put him on the practice squad but then called Carter up once again. Hopefully the Eagles realize he deserves to stick around. His ability to return punts could make life easier on Darren Sproles, whenever he returns. I also wouldn’t mind Carter seeing some more offensive snaps from time to time. The guy makes plays.

10 - The Eagles are still the best team in the NFC East

The Eagles’ slow start would look much worse if they were in a tougher division. Fortunately for them, they are not.

Philadelphia is now first in the NFC East heading into Sunday’s Week 6 games. Eagles fans should be rooting for the Panthers to beat Washington and the Jaguars to beat the Cowboys this weekend. That’d allow the Eagles to maintain and increase their division lead.

The Eagles themselves will play the Panthers in Week 7. Philly will have some extra rest heading into that matchup back at the Linc. That game should give us a better idea if this week’s win was just all about the Eagles being back or if the Giants are just truly terrible. I think there’s truth to both of those things. Hopefully the Eagles’ win does prove to be a step in the right direction.