The Eagles defeated the Giants, 25-22, Sunday. Here are five reasons for the victory:
That stands for keep it simple, stupid. And that's essentially what Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins told defensive backs coach Cory Undlin and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz late in the second quarter — minus the stupid part — after the defense and its New Kids on the Block secondary left Giants tight end Rhett Ellison wide open for a 20-yard completion, then had several players out of their gaps two plays later on Saquon Barkley's 51-yard touchdown run, which gave the Giants a 19-3 lead at the time.
The Eagles were without their primary defensive play-caller, linebacker Jordan Hicks. Three guys started on the back end — De'Vante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan, and Cre'Von LeBlanc — who either weren't on the team (Bausby and LeBlanc) or the 53-man roster (Sullivan) as recently as three weeks ago.
When the Giants went to their hurry-up offense in the first half, there was, quite naturally, confusion. Followed by mistakes.
"It was putting us in a bind as far as communicating,'' Jenkins said.
So he urged Schwartz and Undlin essentially to dumb things down on the back end a little bit, which would allow Bausby, Sullivan, and LeBlanc to think less, get lined up more quickly, and play faster. To their credit, Schwartz and Undlin listened to Jenkins.
Eli Manning, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 236 yards and a TD in the first half, was 7-for-12 for just 61 yards and zero TDs in the second half. The Eagles held the Giants to 5.63 yards per play on first down in the second half after allowing 9.84 per first-down play in the first half.
In the fourth quarter, LeBlanc slipped on a cut by Odell Beckham Jr. and gave up a 19-yard completion on a third-and-8 play. But he made up for it four plays later when he forced an incompletion on a third-and-4 pass to Beckham in the end zone.
Yeah, he got away with a hold on the play. But you do what you gotta do when you're trying to cover one of the best wideouts in the universe in a must-win game.
Return of the run game
One thing that really helped the defense in the second half was the Eagles' ability to run the ball, control the clock, and keep the ball out of Manning's and Barkley's hands.
In the first half, the Giants ran 36 plays to the Eagles' measly 23. In the second half, the Eagles ran 16 more plays than the Giants (37-21), who had the ball for just 10 minutes and change in the final two quarters.
The Eagles ran the ball 29 times against the Giants, including 19 times in the second half. Rookie Josh Adams, who had just 4 yards on four carries in the first half, had 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the second half, including five rushing first downs and three double-digit-yard runs.
The Eagles' offensive line, which has been inconsistent all season, took the fight to the Giants' defensive line in the second half.
Adams had an impressive 19-yard run that kick-started a third-quarter scoring drive. With the Eagles in "13'' personnel (1RB, 3TEs) on a second-and-10 play, he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and picked up a first down.
On the fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave the Eagles the lead, Adams had back-to-back 15- and 11-yard runs before scoring on a 1-yard run and also converting the two-point try.
Given the state of their injury-ravaged secondary, the Eagles needed to get consistent pressure on Manning, and they did. It didn't help a great deal in the first half, when Manning still managed to complete 76 percent of his passes and average 9.4 yards per attempt. But it did in the second.
Michael Bennett and Chris Long had two key second-half sacks that impacted the outcome of the game. Lining up inside, Bennett beat Giants right guard Jamon Brown with a nice swim move early in the third quarter and decked Manning for an 11-yard loss on second-and-7.
That play helped the Eagles start their next drive in favorable field position near midfield, which led to the second of Jake Elliott's three field goals.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bennett gift-wrapped another sack for Long on a third-and-10 play at the Giants' 22. He again beat Brown inside, forcing Manning off his spot, where he ran right into Long, who had beaten right tackle Chad Wheeler off the edge.
The Giants were forced to punt for the third straight possession. The Eagles again got favorable field position, their 39, and proceeded to drive 61 yards on seven plays for Adams' go-ahead touchdown.
The Eagles had 13 total pressures on Manning, according to Pro Football Focus, eight more than they managed to get the week before against the Saints' Drew Brees. Long and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox each had five. Bennett had three.
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Doug’s daring decision
For the 15th time this season and the 68th time in his three years as Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson threw caution to the wind and went for it on fourth-and-1 with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied.
The safe, old-school thing to do would've been to punt the ball, pin the Giants against their goal line, and try to get the ball back. But given the unpredictability of his defense and its recent history of fourth-quarter collapses, getting the ball back wasn't something Pederson could count on.
So he went for it, even though not making it would mean giving the Giants the ball in the general vicinity of midfield, just a stone's throw from Aldrick Rosas' field-goal range.
Using "11'' personnel (1RB, 1TE), the three wideouts lined up in a bunch formation to the left with tight end Zach Ertz lining up on the right side.
Nelson Agholor, who hadn't caught a pass all day, ran a 6-yard stop route and settled in an opening in the Giants' zone. Ertz and Golden Tate crossed in front of Agholor. After they cleared out, Wentz hit the wide-open Agholor for an easy first down. It worked as beautifully as the Philly Special.
After three runs by Adams gained 5 yards, Jake Elliott came on and won the game with a 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds left.
A week after targeting Ertz just three times in the Eagles' 48-7 loss to the Saints, Wentz reconnected with his buddy Sunday.
Wentz targeted Ertz eight times. He caught seven of them for 91 yards, including a big, momentum-shifting 15-yard touchdown late in the second quarter after the Giants had taken a 19-3 lead.
Five of Ertz's seven receptions resulted in first downs, including a 24-yarder on the same drive he caught the touchdown pass, a 10-yarder on a third-and-8 play in the third quarter, and a 10-yarder on a second-and-11 on the Eagles' game-winning drive.
Ertz, who is tied for third in the league in receptions with 84, already has six touchdown catches this season, all in the red zone. He is tied for third in the league in red-zone TD catches. He's tied for sixth in catches for first downs (47).