The Eagles kept their NFC East hopes very much alive with Monday night’s comeback win over the Giants.
Here are five reasons they won:
The comeback kid
One of the things missing from Carson Wentz’s professional resume has been fourth-quarter comebacks. Before Monday night, he had just five in his career.
That’s 16 fewer than Russell Wilson, 13 fewer than Derek Carr, 12 fewer than Ryan Tannehill and two fewer than Blaine Gabbert.
But No. 6 was a beauty, and it couldn’t have been more timely given that the Eagles needed the win to save their season for now. Trailing by 17-3, Wentz completed 22 of his last 29 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns on the Eagles’ last five possessions to fuel their overtime win.
He did it with a patchwork group of receivers. Did it with screens and flares and generally getting the ball out a lot faster than he did earlier in the game. Coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh also finally moved him around a little bit.
Wentz used running back Boston Scott as a receiver, hitting him for 10 yards on a third-and-5 flare on the third-quarter touchdown drive that kick-started the comeback, and connected with him twice more on the Eagles’ next possession for 17 and 16 yards.
He made three big passes in a row on the Eagles’ game-tying touchdown drive, hitting rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for 22 yards on a third-and-4, connecting with wide-open Dallas Goedert for 28 yards, then completing a 12-yard pass to Greg Ward that gave the Eagles a first-and-goal at the 1.
On the Eagles’ game-winning drive in overtime, Wentz completed all four of his passes, including his second 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz.
Running back Boston Scott, tight end Josh Perkins, and wide receiver Greg Ward all are summa cum laude graduates of the Eagles’ practice squad.
Scott spent the first five games of the season on the PS before he was promoted. Ward had spent the better part of the last three years on it before being bumped up to the 53-man roster before the Seattle game. And Perkins was on it for the first 11 games this season before getting promoted before the Miami game last week.
Monday, all three played integral roles in the Eagles’ come-from-behind win over the Giants. Scott came off the bench in the third quarter when Miles Sanders was dealing with cramping issues. He got 16 touches and collected 128 yards from scrimmage, including a 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that got the Eagles within seven points.
With Nelson Agholor sidelined with a knee injury, the Eagles went into the game with just three wide receivers, plus former wideout Perkins. When Alshon Jeffery injured his foot in the second quarter, well, it was all hands on deck.
Ward played 77 of the 89 offensive snaps and had four receptions, including two critical catches on the Eagles’ game-tying and game-winning touchdown drives. Perkins played 30 snaps and had five catches for 37 yards.
Scott, who has been compared to Darren Sproles as far as body type and playing style, had a huge 25-yard run on a pitch play on the third play in overtime that put gave the Eagles a first down at the Giants’ 39. He cut behind excellent blocks by center Jason Kelce and right guard Brandon Brooks. He later had a 6-yard run up the gut that set up Wentz’s game-winning, 2-yard touchdown pass to Ertz.
The Eagles managed to beat the Giants twice last season, but it certainly wasn’t because of the way they defended Barkley. He piled up 371 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns in the two games, averaging nearly 9 yards per touch. He rushed for 231 yards against them in the two games.
Barkley isn’t having anything close to the season he had last year. Slowed by an ankle injury, he had averaged just 3.0 yards per carry in the previous six games, but the Eagles needed to contain him so that they could put most of their defensive focus on Eli Manning and the Giants’ passing game.
The Eagles held Barkley to 66 rushing yards on 17 carries. He also had three catches for just 1 yard. Barkley’s longest run was 11 yards, and 14 of his 17 runs were for 5 or fewer yards. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on first down.
Last week, Zach Ertz had one of the worst games of his career against the Dolphins. He had just three catches for 24 yards, dropped a pass near the goal line and failed to hang on to another pass in the end zone that he got both hands on but was unable to secure.
With his sore hamstring having an extra day to recover, he played much better Monday night. Ertz was targeted 13 times by Wentz and had nine catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
The touchdown catches were huge: a 2-yard catch with 1:53 left in regulation to tie the game, and another 2-yard catch five minutes into overtime to win it and keep the Eagles’ playoff hopes off a ventilator.
Besides the two TD catches, Ertz also had back-to-back receptions of 30 and 24 yards in the second quarter that set up a 34-yard Jake Elliott field goal.
The second-half pass defense
The Eagles’ pass defense cost them the game last week in South Florida. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills got torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker.
The first half Monday night was more of the same. Manning, who hadn’t played in three months, threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
While Mills played OK in the first half, Darby’s problems continued. He gave up two touchdowns to Giants rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton.
But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made some adjustments in the second half, mainly not playing as much of the single-high safety that he favors, and the Eagles just played up to their capabilities a little better.
Manning completed just 4 of 11 passes for 24 yards in the second half. Slayton, who was targeted six times in the first half and had five catches for 154 yards and the two TDs, was targeted only twice in the second half by Manning. He had no catches.
Manning targeted Slayton on a third-and-3 pass over the middle late in the fourth quarter after the Eagles had tied the game. The pass was broken up by Sidney Jones, who hadn’t played in more than a month after getting benched for poor play. Perhaps a play like that will help Jones’ confidence going forward.