The Eagles were back to blowing kisses to their fans. Coach Nick Sirianni was back to his fist-pumping, headset-throwing gesticulating self. Everything was good once again in Eaglesland thanks to the Christmas present of the hapless New York Giants visiting Lincoln Financial Field on Monday.
The Eagles did what they were supposed to do against a team that has the NFL’s largest point differential by beating the Giants, 33-25, snapping their three-game losing streak.
The victory moved the Eagles to 11-4 and gave them sole possession of first place atop the NFC East, beating the woeful Giants for the fifth-straight time and in 13 of the last 15 games.
But questions still loom about this team.
The 2023 Eagles were put on stage to audition for the Super Bowl. After Week 16, they still do not look like a Super Bowl-contending team, especially after just getting by teams like the Giants.
This game was supposed to be set up where style points would have helped raise the confidence level of a coaching staff under fire, a flagging team looking for any morsel of its 2022 incarnation and a dubious, demanding fanbase.
It did not boost anything.
It only added more questions about an underachieving team.
With seven seconds left in the third quarter, the Eagles were clinging to a 20-18 lead after Jalen Hurts’ third interception in the last two games was a pick-six, followed by a two-point conversion because of a Hurts’ horse collar penalty. With four ticks left to play, and the Giants sitting at the Eagles’ 26, New York was in a position to tie the game.
It should not have come down to that.
The Eagles needed a 32-yard completion from Hurts to A.J. Brown early in the fourth quarter on a third-and-20 to save them.
Entering the game, the Giants were the only team in the NFL to score less than 200 points (189) and had been outscored by an NFL-high 149 points (gave up 338 points). Over the previous three games, the disparity between the Eagles and Giants was Grand Canyon wide.
On Christmas Day, that gap narrowed. The Giants scored almost as many points against the Eagles as they did in the three previous games combined. Prior to Monday, the Eagles had outscored New York 97-30, including the 38-7 NFC playoff romp last season, beating the Giants by an average of 32.3 to 10.
Entering the game, the Giants gave up an NFL-high 76 sacks, permitting opponents an average of 5.4 sacks a game. The Eagles had one sack for minus-two yards, and it came more on a scramble than a sack.
Hurts went 24 of 38 for 301 yards, including two completions to the Eagles’ hidden Rob Gronkowski, tight end Grant Calcaterra, with one touchdown pass, one touchdown rushing and a costly interception.
The Eagles ended Giants’ back-up quarterback Tommy DeVito’s 15 minutes of fame. It’s part of a handful of good, mixed along with the bad and ugly mistakes the Eagles continue to make in their fortunate 33-25 victory over the New York Giants.
Cornerback Kelee Ringo’s first career interception came in the end zone, closing off a game that should not have been as close as it was.
Kicker Jake Elliott going four-for-four, hitting field goals of 28, 21, 44 and 43 yards. Elliott is so automatic this season that he’s taken for granted. In truth, he’s been one of the most reliable pieces the Eagles have had this season.
Running back D’Andre Swift on the Eagles’ late-fourth quarter drive, tearing through the Giants’ defense for 43 yards on seven-straight carries. It included, once again, Swift showing great game awareness, sliding to the ground after gaining 12 yards to the Giants’ 27, forcing New York to take its timeout at 2:23, leaving the Giants with one timeout left.
Hurts’ 32-yard pass to A.J. Brown on a third-and-10 at the Eagles’ 26 early in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Eagles were floundering against a team that they should have been dominating, but when they began running into each other, literally, and throwing pick-sixes, the game took a different turn. Fortunately, Hurts found Brown down the sideline for a 32-yard gain getting the ball over the Giants’ outstretched Isaiah Simmons to preserve the drive. It was the play of the game. The drive resulted in Swift’s five-yard touchdown and a 27-18 Eagles’ lead with 11:05 to play.
The Eagles first half. They needed this. The Eagles scored on four of their five first-half possessions. They outgained New York, 212-101, averaging almost double yardage per play than the Giants, averaging 6.1 yards a play to 3.3. Hurts completed 11 of 19 for 157 yards and a touchdown, while the Eagles defense held the anemic New York offense to six first downs.
Hurts scrambling to find Kenneth Gainwell for 19 yards on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 44 on the first play of their fifth drive just before the two-minute warning at halftime.
Edge rusher Haason Reddick’s four-yard sack at the Eagles’ 25 with 2:50 left in the first half.
Receiver DeVonta Smith’s 36-yard second-quarter touchdown reception from Hurts on the Eagles’ third drive. The Smith beat the Giant’s nickel corner Cor’Dale Flott on a crossing pattern and reached the end zone helped by a great block down field by Olamide Zaccheaus on the Giants’ Adoree Jackson. Zaccheaus and Jackson would figure prominently in this game for different reasons later. It was Hurts’ first touchdown pass since his two-yard TD toss to Smith in the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ 42-19 debacle against San Francisco on Dec. 3. Smith later had a big 18-yard reception that set up a first-half closing Jake Elliott field goal for a 20-3 Eagles’ lead.
Hurts finding Calcaterra for his first catch of the season on the Eagles’ second possession. The busted play had a bad snap that Hurts picked up at the Giants’ 29 and throwing a knuckleball that Calcaterra, who took it to the eight-yard line on a third-and-three. Calcaterra made another catch in the third quarter, a 12-yard reception for another first down on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 40.
Hurts finding Dallas Goedert on the Eagles’ second drive at the Giants’ 24 on a fourth-and-five at the Giants 30.
Center Jason Kelce getting into and blowing out the Giants’ very formidable Dexter Lawrence, getting great leverage and driving back not only Lawrence, but defensive end Jihad Ward and linebacker Bobby Okereke on the Hurts’ one-yard TD on the Eagles’ first possession.
Swift’s 12-yard run on the Eagles’ first play of the game, setting up Hurts’ “Brotherly Shove” TD.
Britain Covey’s 54-yard, first-quarter punt return, breaking the tackle of the Giants’ Dabe Belton, running across the field and running free down the sideline to the Giants’ 13. It set up the Eagles’ first score, a one-yard Hurts’ sneak.
Linebacker Shaq Leonard bursting through to take down Saquon Barkley for a one-yard loss on the second play of the game at the Giants’ 26 on a second-and-eight.
This is under bad because the Eagles’ second offensive series should have resulted in a touchdown, rather than a field goal. After Swift’s three-yard touchdown run was overturned, the Eagles saw an 18-play, 72-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 11 seconds go to waste. The stop gave a deflated Giants’ team some faint hope that grew as the game progressed.
Nickel corner Bradley Roby’s missed tackle on Darius Slayton on the Giants’ second possession at the Eagles’ 46 on a third-and-six. The short pass resulted in a Giants’ first down at the Eagles’ 37 and eventually led to New York getting a 52-yard field goal.
Reddick’s roughing the passer penalty on first-and-10 with 1:10 to play at the Giants’ 25. It got New York going for a moment, before the Eagles survived. It was the Eagles’ ninth penalty for 65 yards.
Safety Reed Blankenship getting roasted by Slayton for a 70-yard touchdown with 5:22 left to play. It was the longest score of the season for the pitiful Giants’ offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor let it go and Slayton just ran by Blankenship, who was slow to turn and adjust. It’s a wonder the Giants did not look at running that play earlier in the game.
Hurts’ 76-yard, third-quarter pick-six to Jackson, then topping that off with his horse collar penalty showing frustration. It was part of a disastrous third quarter for the Eagles, marked by Hurts’ 13th interception and third interception in the last two games. It marked the second Eagles’ turnover in which the Giants scored. It was the Eagles’ 23rd turnover this season (13 interceptions, 10 lost fumbles).
Left tackle Jordan Mailata’s block in the back literally shoving Giants’ safety Xavier McKinney into making a tackle on A.J. Brown on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 28. Two plays later, Hurts tossed the pick-six.
The fumbled kickoff to open the second half. Everything was working so well for the Eagles in the first half that the Giants had to find something hilarious when Zaccheaus ran into Boston Scott at the Eagles’ 14 to open the second half. The collision jolted the ball free and the Giants’ Isaiah Simmons was there to fall on it. New York took full advantage when Barkley charged into the end zone from seven yards out, pulling the Giants to within 20-10 with 13:41 left in the third quarter. The boos started coming on Christmas Day and it was well deserved. It was the first touchdown for the Giants in seven quarters, since the third quarter of their 24-22 victory over Green Bay on Dec. 11.
Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.