By Kevin McGuire
It was not pretty, but the Philadelphia Eagles locked up a first-round bye week in the postseason with a 34-29 victory over the New York Giants. Nick Foles took over at quarterback for the Eagles in place of the injured Carson Wentz, and he provided stability on offense against a woeful team that was not about to roll over. The Giants shredded the Eagles defense and jumped out to a big lead in the first half, but the Eagles kept things together and locked down the win in the second half.
After a smooth opening drive for a touchdown, the Eagles offense had to get in sync and it took a little time to get back in the flow with Nick Foles at quarterback. The Eagles were just 6-of-13 on third down and got stuffed on a fourth down conversion attempt. Foles passed for 237 yards and four touchdowns, with one to four different receivers. Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Trey Burton all got in the endzone through the air.
The running game combined for 108 yards on the ground, but no touchdowns. Jay Ajayi led all rushers with 12 carries for 49 yards. The running game left something to be desired, but the rest of the offense was more than effective enough to carry the team to a victory, and the offensive line did well to provide time for the passing game to connect.
Although the Eagles made some key defensive plays once the offense lost Carson Wentz last week in Los Angeles, the defense was slow out of the gates Sunday afternoon against the Giants. New York scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game, and Eli Manning was automatic on third downs in that span. By the end of the game, the Giants’ 29th-ranked offense racked up over 500 yards of offense against the Eagles. All three of New York’s first three touchdown drives traveled either 75 or 80 yards.
The second half was a different story. Although the Giants sustained a couple of drives, New York had a 10-play drive end with a missed field goal and a 13-play drive end with a turnover on downs. The defense did come up with a key turnover in the first half when Ronald Darby picked off a pass from Manning and returned it 37 yards to setup a touchdown that made it a one possession game.
Special Teams: A
It was a really good day in the special teams department for the Eagles. The Eagles blocked an extra point and a punt in the first half. Jake Elliott knocked down his two field goal attempts and four extra-point tries for 10 points. Punter Donnie Jones remained steady as well in punting and holding. The return game still lacks much of a game-changing moment, but the coverage remains pretty solid as well.
It was to be expected the offense might be lacking some cohesiveness with Nick Foles stepping in to be the team’s starter for the remainder of the season, but the defense once again showed far too many warts. And to have that many issues exposed against one of the worst teams in the NFL this season suggests Jim Schwartz needs to tighten things up a little bit if the Eagles are going to remain a viable threat in the NFC playoff picture. This was the third rough game in a row for the defense. Fortunately, Doug Pederson has the offense continuing to plug away. It would have been nice to see a little more out of the running game in the game plan.
Up Next: The Eagles return home for the first time in four games for a Christmas night matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Oakland will be coming off a Sunday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Raiders may not have lived up to their lofty expectations this season, but they may still be a potent enough offense to give this Eagles defense some troubles if they don’t figure out their issues in practice this week. Hopefully, playing at home may be just what the doctor ordered.