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By Joseph Santoliquito
East Rutherford, NJ (CBS) — Eli Manning sat there helpless, the twisted grimace on his face spelling out resignation, seconds after Nick Foles connected with DeSean Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard, fourth-quarter TD pass.
The Eagles snapped a three-game losing skid, to improve to 2-3 with their 36-21 victory over the horrible New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, and in the process ended the Giants’ season in early October.
Foles came on for the injured Michael Vick late in the second quarter to complete 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
“The win was a team win, I felt comfortable,” Foles said. “You know if you keep building on those one plays, the team feeds off that and you have to keep going. I’m thinking that way [about being a starter]. I had a great team around me to help me win. We’re going to enjoy today and keep moving forward.”
It was a crossroads game for the Eagles, who find themselves suddenly in first place in the woeful NFC East, after Denver’s 51-48 victory over Dallas.
The Eagles pounded the Giants for 439 yards of total offense, averaging 5.5 yards a play. Jackson was an integral part of the offense again, catching seven passes for 132 yards, including the fourth-quarter score that gave the Eagles a commanding 36-21 lead.
But more importantly, the Eagles didn’t turn the ball over, forcing four Giants turnovers—three in the fourth quarter.
It was a game that seemed to drone on interminably. The two teams combined for 20 penalties for 224 yards. And though Foles looked decent, there will no doubt be plenty of chatter that a quarterback controversy is brewing.
But Chip Kelly was emphatic, stomping out any idea of that, flat out saying if Vick is healthy, he’s the starter.
“I felt confident in Nick with Mike not being 100-percent,” Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly said. “I thought Nick did a nice job. I was really happy with Nick. He’s a student of the game and prepares himself like he is a starter. He’s been there every day in practice, and in this league, I think you need two quarterbacks. Our game plan doesn’t drastically change [whoever the quarterback is]. Nick has a good grasp and a good understanding of what we’re doing.”
Vick left with 1:25 remaining in the first half with a pulled left hamstring.
With 4:53 left in the first half, on a first-and-10 from the Giants’ 31, Vick looped left and found a crease down the left sideline for a 13-yard gain to the New York 18. But a problem arose when Vick took a step out of bounds. He came back to the field limping, pinching his left hamstring as if trying to convince himself he didn’t pull his hamstring.
Vick stayed on to finish the drive, which resulted in an Alex Henery 29-yard field goal, which gave the Eagles a 16-7 lead. Henery was a gleaming positive, going five-for-five in sending the Giants to 0-5 for the first time in a nonstrike year since 1979.
Vick stayed on for one more play, but came out after an incomplete pass with 1:25 left, giving way to Foles, who took the Eagles up the field for Henery’s fourth field goal in the half, a 36-yarder on the final play of the second quarter.
“[Vick] didn’t look like he was moving well, and I’m not going to put anybody in harm’s way, so I felt he didn’t have that step where he can get out of the way,” Kelly said. “That was my decision [to take Vick out].”
When he was in, Vick was productive. He departed after completing 6 for 14 passes for 105, and rushed for 79 yards—including a 34-yarder that led to Henery’s first field goal.
Brandon Boykin has his problems. He was flagged with a 15-yard fair-catch interference call, then three plays later, was hit with an interference call for 20 more yards, which brought the ball to the Eagles’ 19.
Five plays later, Manning scrambled right to hit Rueben Randle for the second TD pass in the third quarter and a 21-19 Giants lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
“We had a good pass rush tonight and put some pressure on Eli, and that helps,” Eagles’ defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We took a nice step forward today that we have to build on. We have a lot of work left, but it was a good step. After a loss like we had against Denver, it was more about gaining confidence in the techniques that we’re using and the defenses that we’re playing. It wasn’t about ripping and yelling and screaming. Everyone has so much pride that when you get a beat down like we did in Denver, the only way to get back is to get back through fundamentals of the smaller things and it worked.”
Boykin made up for his miscues later with an amazing diving interception in the fourth quarter. Manning later threw another pick to Cary Williams, his third interception in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, his seventh pick fourth-quarter this season—and the Giants NFL-high 20th turnover.
“I thought [the defense] did a good of creating and getting the ball back for us,” Kelly said. “We started to generate a little pass rush and get to Eli a little bit. We liked our week of preparation and we have to be able to replicate that.”