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Eagles hang on to hope, and NFC East shot, with ugly Giants win | Early Birds

“Four straight wouldn’t have looked good in Philly,” defensive end Brandon Graham said with a laugh. “I would’ve been scared to walk outside if we had lost that one.”

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson waves to the crowd after Monday night's overtime win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson waves to the crowd after Monday night's overtime win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

So, it got worse before it got (a little) better.

Yes, the Eagles eventually pulled out a 23-17 win with a second-half rally and ended Monday night tied for first place in this dreadful NFC East. But keep in mind that the Giants are a very bad, two-win football team.

Whether on a warm Miami afternoon or a cold rainy night in Philadelphia, the Eagles have proved they can be overmatched by even the worst opponents. On Monday, in prime time, it took overtime for them to escape a fourth straight loss.

In other bad news, the list of Eagles’ injured players grew. First, Alshon Jeffery was carted from the sideline with a foot injury. Then right tackle Jane Johnson got rolled up on, writhed in pain on the field, and was carted off with an ankle injury. And finally cornerback Jalen Mills left the game with an elbow injury. Stay tuned this week for more updates on their conditions.

Looking ahead, the Eagles will hit the road next Sunday to play the 3-10 Redskins. Hopefully it’ll be less ugly than this one.

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Mentally, Eagles stayed cool, calm, and focused on not losing another one

Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham didn’t want to think about what a fourth straight loss would’ve done for the collective psyche not only of his team but also of their fan base. Particularly that of the tens of thousands of fans who showed up and stayed late into a sopping wet Monday night to watch the struggling squad in person.

“Four straight wouldn’t have looked good in Philly,” Graham said with a laugh. “I would’ve been scared to walk outside if we had lost that one.”

On the surface, it was a joke, but there was more than a morsel of truth there. The boos that rained down on the Eagles as they headed for the locker room at halftime trailing 17-3 were serious, a sign of a loyal fan base losing its last shred of hope in this patchwork, oft-uninspiring, occasionally-absolutely-dreadful team.

In that halftime locker room, coach Doug Pederson and his players swore there was no screaming or shouting or grand motivational speeches.

“Everybody kind of understood what was going on, and it was just a matter of pride,” Pederson said. “It just comes down to that. It’s a want to, a will, a desire, and that’s what I saw at halftime from the guys.”

Many players described the vibe as calm.

Running back Boston Scott — who came off the bench in the third quarter and logged a touchdown and a bunch of impressive runs, including a big one in overtime — said he would call the mood relaxed.

Right guard Brandon Brooks said there was nothing out of the ordinary, just an assuredness that despite all that was stacked against them (including the growing list of injuries), they could pull this one out.

Graham agreed, noting there was a similar attitude among defensive players.

“We were just like, ‘Hey man, we’ve been stopping 'em. We had two plays [the two first-half touchdowns the Eagles allowed],’” Graham said.

“Nobody was panicking,” said safety Malcom Jenkins. " Everybody seemed like they were eager to get to the second half."

The Eagles ultimately salvaged some semblance of hope, at least on paper, in an NFC East in which they’re somehow tied for first; and some semblance of sanity for increasingly frustrated fans.

They won ugly, and sometimes that’s needed. But judging by the quality of most of their game, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to win out.

Graham, for one, didn’t want to talk yet about the next opponent, 3-10 Redskins, and certainly not the 6-7 Cowboys and the Giants rematch after that. It’s a mental thing, he said.

With on-the-field issues continuing to pile up, the Eagles certainly will try to hold onto the mental edge as they head into a short week of practice and the home stretch of the season.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Les Bowen has your complete game story, if you’re in the mood to relive that overtime win and Zach Ertz’s two touchdowns.

  2. Paul Domowitch hands out grades for the game. It was a B overall.

  3. EJ Smith writes about Sidney Jones and the crucial role he played with just one defensive snap.

  4. Jeff McLane writes that running back Boston Scott was the unsung hero in the win. He ran ten times for 59 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 69 yards.

  5. Columnist David Murphy says the recent injuries have exposed the Eagles’ talent problem and they’ll be responsible for a quick end to the Eagles’ season.

  6. Also on the injury front, Bob Ford column-izes on how injuries could stand in the way of the Eagles’ playoff hopes even in a dreadful NFC East.

  7. Columnist Mike Sielski writes about Carson Wentz and whether he can be an Eli Manning.

From the mailbag

Why on that 3rd down run, did Miles Sanders run into the blocker instead of bouncing outside? Could have tiptoed in for the TD — @BigAU_27 via Twitter

Hey, AU. Great question. All of us up in the press box were asking the same thing. It isn’t out of the ordinary for Sanders to make some rookie mistakes like this, to lack the vision and awareness to bounce outside in such a situation. He’s young and has some college-to-NFL adjusting still to do.

I didn’t get to talk with him after the game, but my guess is he would say he wishes he could take that play back and he’ll use it as one of many learning experiences this season. As his former college teammate and Giants running back Saquon Barkley can attest in his sophomore season, an NFL career can bring ups and downs. In-game decision-making can improve over time.