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Five reasons the Eagles beat the Giants

His unit's performance Thursday night is why defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz isn't going to pound the table in the offseason for a shutdown corner.


His unit's performance Thursday night is why defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz isn't going to pound the table in the offseason for a shutdown corner.

"Our lifeblood is always going to be putting pressure on the passer,'' Schwartz said earlier this week. "I think that's the best way to succeed in this league. If you can find a way to do that, I think you are going to be successful over the long-term. If you struggle to do that, you're going to be behind the eight ball the whole time.''

That's his way of saying that if you can get pressure on the quarterback, you don't necessarily need Deion Sanders and Eric Allen playing cornerback for you.

Schwartz's defense has struggled of late getting pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. But not Thursday. While Eli Manning wasn't sacked, he was hurried much of the night by the Eagles' front four, which gave the Eagles' defensive backs a fighting chance against Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.

The numbers aren't particularly pretty. Manning threw for 356 yards. Beckham had 11 catches for 150 yards, including three receptions of 25-plus yards. Cruz had eight catches for 84 yards. But neither of them had a touchdown catch.

Manning threw just one. That was a 13-yarder to Shepard, the Giants' slot receiver, who beat Malcolm Jenkins for a score late in the first half. But the Eagles picked off Manning three times - twice by Jenkins, including one that he returned 34 yards for a touchdown - and a final time by safety Terrance Brooks with five seconds left on a ball that was underthrown thanks to pressure by defensive end Vinny Curry.

Curry, Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Beau Allen combined for nine of the Eagles' 10 hurries. Fletcher Cox forced a hurried incompletion from Manning on a third-and-eight in the red zone late in the first quarter.

Cornerback Nolan Carroll might've had one of his best games as an Eagle. With referee Clete Blakeman's crew giving the defensive backs some leeway as far as hand-use and physicality, Carroll took full advantage of it. He made several nice plays in the second half against both Beckham and Cruz. He prevented Beckham from picking up a first down on a third-and-four catch on the Giants' next to last possession.


The prodigal right tackle returned from his 10-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs and provided a spark to the offense and some peace of mind to rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

The Eagles scored just two offensive touchdowns against the Giants, but Johnson played a role in both of them.

Along with tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Nelson Agholor, he had one the key blocks on Darren Sproles' 25-yard first-quarter touchdown run that gave the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish.

Later, he and the rest of the Eagles' offensive line gave Wentz the necessary protection to wait for Agholor to get open on a slow-developing route that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown pass. It was just Wentz's third TD pass in the last five games and Agholor's first scoring catch since Week 1.

The Eagles rushed for 118 yards on 30 carries against a Giants defense that had been holding teams to 90. They ran often to Johnson's side. He helped spring Ryan Mathews for a 17-yard gain on the Eagles' first offensive play, had a nice block to help Sproles gain 17 yards on a second-quarter screen pass, and later had a big block on Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn on a 13-yard run by Sproles, who finished with 40 rushing yards on seven carries, and 23 more yards on two receptions.


This was one of those bend-but-didn't-break games for the defense. The Giants racked up 470 yards, which was the second most against the Eagles this season. Manning's 356 passing yards were the most the Eagles have given up this season.

But the defense's primary focus was on keeping the Giants' dangerous wideouts in front of them and keeping them out of the end zone. The cornerbacks primarily played the man not the ball, and left the interceptions to the safeties.

The Giants had converted 60 percent of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns this season. They made it inside the 20 five times Thursday night, but Shepard's 13-yard touchdown was the only time they found the end zone. They had to settle for Robbie Gould field goals the other four times.

The Eagles are 24th in the league in yards allowed per play, but 12th in points allowed because of their stinginess in the red zone. They are fifth in red-zone defense, allowing just 22 touchdowns in 49 challenges (44.9%).


The Eagles have used more three-tight end sets this season than any team in the league. One hundred fourteen of their offensive plays, or 11.3 percent, have featured three tight ends.

Usually it's been Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton. But in recent weeks, they've occasionally been replacing one of them with offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo. Seumalo played nine snaps against the Giants.

The formation has been very successful, both when they've run the ball and when they've passed out of it.

They used three-tight end sets on 16 of their 55 plays Thursday against the Giants. Ran it 11 times for 44 yards against the league's sixth best run defense. Threw from it five times. Carson Wentz completed four of those five attempts for 33 yards.

Four of the Eagles' 15 first downs came out of three-tight end sets. So did two of their four third-down conversions.


The Eagles' special teams coverage units have been outstanding all season, and that continued against the Giants. Punter Donnie Jones had a 47.8-yard net average. The Giants' Dwayne Harris had three punt returns for just -2 yards. Trey Burton dropped him for a loss on a punt with four minutes left.

When the Giants replaced Harris with Odell Beckham with a minute and a half left in the game, a combination of excellent hang time by Jones and gunner Nolan Carroll's ability to get down the field, forced Beckham to settle for a fair catch, which forced the Giants to start their final drive at the 15.

On Caleb Sturgis' five kickoffs, the Giants never advanced the ball beyond the 25 yard line.

The Eagles have allowed just two punt returns longer than 12 yards the entire season. With the exception of an onside kick against Cincinnati, they haven't allowed a kickoff to be advanced beyond the 35. They lead the league in opponent average drive start on kickoffs (22.4).