PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Alshon Jeffery’s smile seemed to light up the Eagles’ huddle as they gathered around to hear Nick Foles call a play. It appeared to be that light, that carefree, that relaxed, despite the Birds trailing after the New York Giants went down the field and scored on their first drive.
NFL players always say the right things when the cameras are on about how they respect the opposing teams, regardless of their record. Don’t believe it.
The Eagles were laughing at the hapless 2-11 Giants, who have been a joke this year, though those chuckles changed by the time the lights went on at MetLife Stadium Sunday evening.
Nick Foles isn’t Carson Wentz, but Foles did very well completing 24-of-38 for four touchdowns and 237 yards. It was good enough for the Eagles to escape with a 34-29 victory over the lowly Giants, who had not scored 29 points in 29 games, dating back to Jan. 3, 2016 (a 35-30 Eagles victory).
The Eagles improved to 12-2, will host a home playoff game. The victory also ensured a first-round bye.
It did get scary, thanks to the Eagles suddenly inept defense. The Eagles missed tackle, after tackle, after tackle. The quick slant seemed to be open all afternoon. Cornerback Ronald Darby, though he had one of the game’s biggest plays, appeared wary of everything thrown in his area.
The Eagles gave up 504 yards to a two-win Giants team that was averaging 296.2 yards coming in.
With :38 left, the Giants were sitting at the Eagles’ 11 and looking at the go-ahead score on fourth-and-goal. It’s when the Eagles were fortunate that the dreadful Giants reappeared and Eli Manning overthrew Evan Engram in the end zone.
Still, the Giants were left with one desperation shot that was snuffed out by Malcolm Jenkins tackling Roger Lewis.
It was Jenkins that blocked a field goal with 11:26 left to play that preserved an Eagles’ 31-29 lead. Darby’s second-quarter interception turned the whole course of the game. The Eagles were waning, down 20-7, and not able to make a stop. Darby’s turnover and return set up Foles’ 10-yard TD to Zach Ertz.
Foles may have eased the anxiety of losing Wentz. Getting shredded defensively for the second-straight week opens up new concerns. Over their last three games, the Eagles have given up an average of 29.3 points, 373.7 yards and 48.6% conversion rate on third down. Compare that to 17.4 points, 291.6 yards and 28.6% over their first 11 games and that has nothing to do with Wentz missing from the equation.
The Eagles have a problem. And it’s something that needs to be fixed fast if this team has any chance of playing into late January.