PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — This is what it was supposed to look like. Visions of Carson Wentz tossing rainbows, and, believe it or not, Nelson Agholor catching them. The frame was supposed to include a cornerstone piece like Lane Johnson, completing a healthy and intact offensive line (though that didn’t last long when Allen Barbre left with a hamstring injury), creating space and giving Wentz time to throw. Sustained drives that chew up time, and an opportunistic defense that made each team that they faced pay in turnovers for a ferocious pass rush.
What Eagles fans saw instead this season was the truncated version, sans most of the above.
A glimpse of what could be, however, was nice this close to Christmas, when the Eagles upset the playoff-bound New York Giants, 24-19, at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night before a national TV audience. The victory snapped the Eagles’ five-game losing skid, though it had to be bittersweet looking at a team that could have been playing for something meaningful in December and not just to look good for national cameras.
What was also impressive is that the Eagles continued to play with verve, since their 32-14 debacle in Cincinnati on Dec. 4. They had nothing to gain by beating the Giants, who had quite a bit at stake if they lost. New York is still in very good shape to make the postseason, while the Eagles added a cosmetic splash to this forgettable season by improving to 6-9.
Wentz completed 13 of 24 for 152 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Wentz showed steady leadership, and he continues to show toughness, after being placed in some precarious spots by coach Doug Pederson. He was hammered late by Oliver Vernon with 4:33 left in the third quarter. Vernon was called with a roughing the passer penalty, and everyone wearing midnight green at the Linc took collective deep breath.
There were some things to ponder moving forward, like Pederson’s decision to run a reverse call early in the fourth quarter—and using Wentz as the lead blocker. This came minutes after Wentz returned to the field after passing concussion protocol. It was a major risk that Pederson took and it made you wonder what the rookie NFL coach was thinking by jeopardizing the future of the franchise like that.
With 1:37 left to play, Pederson made yet another egregious decision when he had Wentz look for Jordan Matthews on third down at the Eagles’ 42. The play resulted in an incomplete pass and the Eagles were forced to give Eli Manning and the Giants one more chance to win with 1:30 to play. A running play would have absorbed more time and given the Eagles more latitude.
In a blink, the Eagles were ahead 14-0, on a Darren Sproles’ 25-yard touchdown, made possible by a Johnson block, and a 34-yard interception touchdown return by Malcolm Jenkins, who had two interceptions in the game.
Still, it had to end tense.
This time, however, the Eagles closed it out, unlike the previous two weeks when they were in a position to win and couldn’t make a play.
With 2:00 left, the Eagles got some help when Giants’ right guard John Jerry jumped offsides, making a fourth-and-one into a fourth-and-six at the Eagles’ 37. Nolan Carroll then came up with a big breakup of a pass intended for Sterling Shepard.
With :14, and the Giants at the Eagles’ 34, Terrence Brooks came up with the play of the game when Manning was intercepted for the third time.
It was a good way to break a losing streak, though in the same token maddening to know there was a chance the Eagles, the version that showed up Thursday night, could have been playing deep into January.