When you grow up as a Philadelphia Eagles fan there are three things you are taught right away: you hate the Dallas Cowboys, you hate the Washington Football Team, and you hate the New York Giants. The Birds and G-Men have played 182 times since October 15, 1933 when the Eagles were shellacked by New York, 56-0.
Since that first game, the largest margin of victory in the 90-year series, the Eagles have fared a little better than the Giants and own a 92-88-2 record against their NFC East foe to the north. It really doesn’t get too much closer than that and, until Philly’s current three-game winning streak, it was almost even! Hell, NFL Films named this rivalry the best one in NFL history!
These two teams have met four times in the playoffs, with each side winning twice. The Giants won the first two matchups, in 1981 and 2000, while the Eagles won the last two, in 2006 and 2008. Saturday night’s game will be the third time Philly and New York have met in the divisional round, but the first time that the Eagles have had home field advantage.
While I remember three of the four playoff games between the Birds and Giants, I wasn’t even alive in 1981, and maybe you weren’t either! So, let’s have a quick refresher on how these four showdowns went, with some help from John Stolnis who was doing research on this very topic earlier on Monday:
1981 Wild Card: Giants 27 Eagles 22
The defending NFC Champion Eagles began the 1981 season with six straight wins but stumbled towards the end of the year by losing four in a row before blasting the Cardinals 38-0 in the last regular season game to clinch a home Wild Card tilt. It was the fourth straight year the Birds made the playoffs and Dick Vermeil’s team was looking to finally win that elusive Super Bowl.
Well, as you could probably tell by the heading of this section that did not happen. Arch rival New York awaited them in the Wild Card round, their first playoff appearance in nearly two decades, and upset the Eagles at the Vet. The Giants scored 20 points in the first quarter and despite a Philadelphia second half comeback attempt, the Eagles never led in the game.
The Giants bruised Marion Campbell’s defense on the ground, piling up 183 rushing yards on 42 carries, including 161 by Rob Carpenter on 33 carries. New York QB Scott Brunner had three touchdowns but just 96 yards passing on the day. Eagles RB Wilbert Montgomery ran for two scores but totaled just 65 yards on 18 carries, while QB Ron Jaworski threw for just 154 as Vermeil’s squad was outgained 275-226 on the day. The Giants would later lose to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.
2000 Divisional Round: Giants 20 Eagles 10
In year two of Andy Reid’s tenure at the helm of the Eagles, the Birds improved from 5-11 in 1999 to 11-5 in 2000. The season famously started off with an onside kick against the Cowboys that the Eagles recovered and set the tone for a successful season. The Birds decimated Dallas, 44-14, in what you might remember as the “Pickle Juice Game.”
The Eagles finished the year in second place in the NFC East, a game behind division champion New York, and played Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round. After going down 3-0 early in the second quarter, the Eagles scored 14 quick points before halftime and added a fourth quarter TD from Donovan McNabb to Jeff Thomason to beat the Bucs 21-3. The Eagles defense held Tampa under 200 total yards and sacked Shaun King four times.
In the next round, New York awaited. The Giants had defeated the Eagles twice before in 2000, a 33-18 victory at the Vet in Week 2 and a 24-7 win at the Meadowlands in Week 9. Like the Eagles here in 2023, the Giants were looking to complete the three-game sweep of the Birds in this one.
Ron Dixon, a name I will always remember, returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles were immediately behind the 8-ball. Angie Harmon’s ex-husband picked off a McNabb pass 1:40 before halftime and returned it 32 yards for a score to give the Giants a 17-0 lead. David Akers kicked a field goal with 26 seconds left in the half to give the Eagles some momentum (???) but it didn’t matter.
January 7, 2001: Jason Sehorn with a nice pick six of Donovan McNabb during a 20-10 Giants Playoff Divisional Round win over the Eagles pic.twitter.com/fP6pReYP6q— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) January 7, 2021
Another Giants field goal in the fourth hammered the final nail into Philly’s coffin and New York moved on, despite having zero touchdowns scored by their offense. McNabb had a rough game, turning the ball over twice and completing under 50% of his passes.
The Giants won the NFC and had the pleasure of being suffocated by the 2000 Ravens defense in the Super Bowl. Stupid-ass Ron Dixon scored New York’s only TD in that game...with another 97-yard kickoff return.
2006 Wild Card: Eagles 23 Giants 20
After a down year in 2005, the Eagles bounced back in ‘06 with a 10-6 record and an NFC East title. The season was not without plenty of drama however. The Birds roared out to a 4-1 start, with their only loss being to the Giants in OT, but then lost five of their next six games and lost McNabb to injury in Week 11.
Sitting at one game under .500 heading into December the Eagles and new QB Jeff Garcia needed a miracle and...well, they got one! The Birds won all five of their December contests, including three straight divisional road games, on their way to the division title.
The Birds were looking for revenge against New York after their playoff loss six years prior, but the first quarter didn’t go as hoped. Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress for a touchdown and the opening 15 minutes ended with New York on top, 7-0. Brian Westbrook got going in the second quarter and scored a 49-yard touchdown, the longest playoff rushing score in franchise history, to tie things up.
Philly and New York traded field goals after that and then Jeff “Our Baby” Garcia marched the Eagles down the field and hit Donte’ Stallworth for a touchdown to Philadelphia a 17-10 halftime lead.
Akers banged home another field goal in the third quarter but the Giants answered with one of their own to make it 20-13. Then Manning marched New York down the field again and found Burress for a touchdown again and the game was tied at 20 and you would be forgiven if you thought the Eagles were going to lose to New York in the playoffs AGAIN.
Westbrook and the offensive line had other ideas, however, and bled the clock down expertly until they were in field goal range for Akers who made a 38-year field goal as time expired to give the Birds the 23-20 win! The Eagles, who lost at New Orleans in the Divisional Round the following weekend, wouldn’t win another home playoff game until 2017.
2008 Divisional Round: Eagles 23 Giants 11
A mere two years later the Eagles and Giants met in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and this one was quite pleasing for Philly fans. Ahead of the season, the Eagles signed CB Asante Samuel away from the Patriots and drafted DeSean Jackson in the second round, two players who would play key roles for the Birds all year.
The Eagles finished the regular season with a 9-6-1 record that slotted them into the playoffs as the 6th seed. Their Wild Card game was in Minneapolis against the Vikings, Adrian Peterson, and their dominant run defense.
[Quick personal aside, if I may: I was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time and looked up tickets on a whim to see if I could maybe get one or two for under $100. What I found shocked me. The Wednesday before the game I purchased eight seats in a row for $15 each hahahahahahahaha. What a pathetic fanbase! Anyways, I went to the game with some friends, had beer bottles thrown at me, and almost got kicked out for wanting to fight the beer bottle throwers. The Phillies had won the World Series a few months earlier, you really couldn’t tell Philly fans anything at that point.]
Philly won the game thanks to a magical 71-yard screen from McNabb to Westbrook that put things out of reach.
The Giants were up next. They were the top seed in the NFC and the defending Super Bowl champions, but they had sputtered to the finish line of the regular season, losing three of their final four games including one at home to the Eagles.
Per extremely annoying tradition, the Giants returned the opening kickoff deep into Philadelphia territory, but the Birds held them to a field goal. Key offseason addition Samuel picked off Manning on the next drive (Samuel’s second straight playoff game with an interception) which directly led to a McNabb touchdown. The second quarter saw each team make a field goal and McNabb commit an intentional grounding penalty in the endzone to give New York a safety.
A 10-8 halftime lead was still Philly’s however and the teams couldn’t create any separation from each other in the third quarter as they both made field goals. The Birds scored 10 points in the fourth and Quintin Mikell picked off Manning to end the game and the Eagles left the Meadowlands with a 23-11 upset.
The Eagles went on to the NFC Title game and I definitely don’t remember a disheartening, 100-minute fourth quarter drive by the Arizona Cardinals that ended in a game-winning touchdown pass to fucking Tim Hightower happening at all.
So, with all of that being said we will soon add another chapter to this ancient rivalry. Can’t wait to see which Eagles player will cement their legacy in Philadelphia with a big play against the Giants and join Chuck Bednarik, Herm Edwards, Randall Cunningham, Jeff Garcia, DeSean Jackson, and David Akers in Eagles history.