PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Lady Gaga vs. The Ballerina. LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora can renew their hostile name-calling on the field when the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) host the New York Giants (2-1) Sunday night in a matchup between NFC East rivals.
There’s always been plenty of animosity among these opponents, but McCoy and Umenyiora have taken it to a new level. Their verbal sparring sounds more like The Rock and John Cena preparing for a WrestleMania fight.
“I think he thinks that he is better than what he really is,” McCoy, the Eagles’ All-Pro running back, said this week. “I think he is a ballerina in a Giants uniform. Other than that, that is all I got to say about Osi.”
Umenyiora took the high road this time, avoiding a derogatory response. But he’s called McCoy “soft” and “overrated” in the past. Umenyiora also has referred to McCoy as “Lady Gaga” and wished him a Happy Mother’s Day on Twitter.
Umenyiora and his teammates can expect an earful from a sellout crowd at the Linc that’s sure to be more fired up than usual because beloved former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins will have his No. 20 retired before the game.
“It’s pretty crazy. Obviously those fans don’t like us very much and they make sure we hear it every time we’re out there, we’re warming up and coming out of the tunnel,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “Every snap, every play, it’s intense. You can cut the tension with a knife in the stadium. It’s always a great place to play when you’re under that pressure and you feel good about it and you want to go out there and make a play.”
There’s one play in Philadelphia Eli Manning will never forget. Manning made his NFL debut against the Eagles 2004, replacing Kurt Warner late in a blowout loss. He endured what he considers the hardest shot of his career on a sack by Jerome McDougle.
Manning has since won two Super Bowls and clearly established himself as an “elite” quarterback. McDougle turned out to be a first-round bust. But that hit is etched in Manning’s mind and playing in front of the rabid Eagles fans is an obvious reminder.
“It’s tough and it’s loud and the fans are unique,” Manning said. “It can be a fun place to play, and we just got to go in there and we got to have great communication between our offensive line. I got to be loud and if we’re making checks and making different calls, everybody’s got to be on the same page. It always makes the experience of playing in Philadelphia very interesting.”
The defending Super Bowl champions have struggled against the Eagles in recent years. The Giants have lost seven of the last eight with their only win coming in Cruz’s breakout game in Philly last September.
New York knocked Michael Vick out of that game and rallied for a 29-16 win that proved to be the difference in the standings. The underachieving Eagles finished 8-8, just one game behind the first-place Giants. Both teams finished strong last year, but the Giants got in the playoffs and beat New England for their second NFL title in five years.
“They have a great quarterback in Eli and do a lot of good things on offense, exceptional things on defense, and that’s what makes a great football team,” Vick said. “When you’re able to gel together and put it all together then you’re able to go on a run like that. We did pretty much the same thing, but it was just too late.”
The Eagles are coming off a 27-6 loss at Arizona after Vick rallied them to consecutive one-point wins with final-drive touchdowns the first two weeks. They’ve committed 12 turnovers in three games, including nine by Vick on six interceptions and three fumbles.
They have to find a way to protect the ball better against the Giants, who shut down Cam Newton in a 36-7 win at Carolina last Thursday.
“Arizona was tough last week, as far as their defensive ends and what they do,” Vick said. “Osi and Justin Tuck, you know they’re just as good, if not great. They pose a lot of challenges. They just have a great defensive scheme and we have a lot of respect for them, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to man-on-man and getting it done in the moment.”
Manning is off to an outstanding start, throwing for 1,011 yards with a passer rating of 97.1. But the Giants appear to have a running game they lacked most of last year. Andre Brown filled in for Ahmad Bradshaw and ran for 113 yards against the Panthers. Manning also found a new target in Ramses Barden, who had nine catches for 138 yards in that game.
“They are a very balanced offense,” Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It’s something you don’t see very often in this league. They’re very balanced. They can run and they can pass the ball. You have to start out early and get stops on third-down and get off the field.”
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