The Philadelphia Eagles (12-2) defeated the division rival New York Giants (2-12) by the final score of 34-29 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Nick Foles put together an excellent game in his first start as the replacement for the injured Carson Wentz, the defense continued to struggle and the Eagles clinched a first round bye in the playoffs. It was a hard fought game that was perhaps closer than many expected, but in the end the Eagles pulled it out and added to their NFL-best win total.
1. Nick Foles is quite capable to run the Eagles offense
When MVP candidate Carson Wentz left the game due to a knee injury in last week’s win over the Rams, many people thought that the Eagles chances at making a deep playoff run this season were gashed. However, Nick Foles stepped in and has proven to be able to run the Eagles offense well. In the Eagles win, Foles finished with 237 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly, Foles didn’t commit a turnover (although he did fumble once, but it was recovered by Philadelphia).
The Eagles need Foles to play within himself and to not turn the ball over. He checked off both of those boxes on Sunday afternoon on the way to leading the Eagles to the win. If the Eagles are to make a deep playoff run this season, they are going to need Foles to put up more games like the one he did against the Giants.
2. Jay Ajayi continues to receive the majority of touches in the running back rotation
Jay Ajayi, who the team traded for earlier in the season, took a couple of weeks to get acclimated with the Eagles offense, but ever since last week’s win over the Rams, he has received the majority of carries amongst the running backs. After totaling 15 carries for 78 yards last week, Ajayi tallied 12 carries for 49 yards on Sunday in MetLife Stadium. Many people were clamoring for Ajayi to get more carries as the weeks have gone along, and it seems as if head coach Doug Pederson has gotten the message.
Ajayi, since arriving in Philadelphia, has totaled 56 carries for 356 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He has been the Eagles’ most explosive running back since he arrived here, and now he is being rewarded. Ajayi has received double digit carries in each of the past two games, and with the way he has been producing, that upwards trend will continue.
3. The Eagles defense has another terrible performance
Going into the three game road trip that the Eagles just completed, the team had arguably the NFL’s top defense. The Eagles headed into the road trip boasting gaudy numbers of 25 percent opponent’s third down conversion, 270.4 yards per game and 16.2 points per game. However, the Eagles defense was an entirely new unit over this three game road trip. The Eagles allowed their opponents to convert 49 percent of their third downs while also allowing 373.6 yards per game and 29.3 points per game.
The Eagles gave up a horrendous 504 yards to the previously 31st ranked offense in the NFL, the New York Giants. The secondary got burnt all day and people continued to miss tackles in the secondary, resulting in a couple of big play touchdowns for the Giants. Giants quarterback Eli Manning totaled 434 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, something that he hasn’t done all season long. The Eagles have been one of the best defenses in the league for most of the season, but if their recent stretch of bad play continues into the coming weeks, it will derail the team’s hopes of making a deep playoff run.
4. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz fails to make adjustments throughout the game as the team’s secondary has it’s worst day of the season
The Philadelphia Eagles possess one of the NFL’s best pass rushes, and for the second time this season, the Giants put together a perfect game plan to neutralize it. In the first matchup between the two division rivals in Week 3, Eli Manning passed for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, the Eagles pass rush didn’t play a factor, failing to sack Manning at all and only hitting him four times. This was due to the Giants’ game plan that involved getting the ball out extremely quick by utilizing the short passing game.
Fast forward to today’s game, and the same thing happened. The Giants utilized much of the same game plan as they did in the team’s Week 3 matchup with the Eagles, but to much more success. The Giants pounded the ball using the short passing game, specifically the slant route over the middle of the field. Sterling Shepard totaled 11 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown and Evan Engram added eight catches for 87 yards. When the Eagles corners tried to play aggressively, the Giants adjusted and used the double move to perfection. Tavarres King used the double move to get a 57-yard touchdown catch and run in the third quarter. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz flat out failed to make adjustments during the game and that resulted in the Eagles narrowly escaping MetLife Stadium with a win.
5. While Ronald Darby got specifically picked on throughout the game, he came through for the Eagles with his second quarter interception that turned the game around
6:29 to go in the second quarter with the score Giants 20, Eagles 7. An Eli Manning pass intended for Roger Lewis was intercepted by Ronald Darby and returned 37 yards to set the Eagles up deep inside Giants territory. Up until this point, the Giants offense was able to do whatever they wanted against the Eagles defense (to the tune of 20 points), and things weren’t looking good. However, the Eagles were able to score a touchdown on a 10-yard pass to Zach Ertz (more on him later) to get the game back to one possession. This proved to be the shift in momentum that the Eagles needed as they ended up getting the win by the final score of 34-29.
6. The Eagles tight ends come through once again as they score two touchdowns, play integral part in the win
In Zach Ertz’s first game back from a concussion that he suffered in the second half of the Week 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, he proved to be an important factor in the offense. Ertz didn’t miss a step, as he totaled six catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Ertz caught the aforementioned touchdown pass that helped to turn the game’s momentum toward the Eagles, but that wasn’t the only key play that he made. Ertz, on a key third down with 9:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, helped to extend an Eagles drive when he broke a tackle to get the first down on his way to a 15-yard catch.
Ertz wasn’t the only tight end to have an impact on the game. Trey Burton continues to make an impact for the Eagles this season. Burton caught only two passes for 15 yards, but one of those passes was for a touchdown. Burton now has five touchdowns on the season, and one would presume that his increase in production is going to lead to more time on the field in the upcoming weeks.
7. Nelson Agholor continues his 2017 redemption tour with a stop in New York
Nelson Agholor, the man who many were proclaiming to be a bust heading into this season, made New York the next stop on his redemption tour. Agholor totaled seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown catch, which came on a fade that was under thrown, exemplifies just how much Agholor has improved this season. He was able to make a beautiful adjustment in the air to reach over the defender and make a difficult catch. Agholor has totaled 55 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns thus far in 2017, and he could be a name in the discussion for Comeback Player of the Year.
8. Eagles special teams played a crucial role in the win over the Giants
The Eagles special teams, just one week after allowing a punt to be blocked and returned for a touchdown, had themselves a bounce back game agains the Giants. The unit recorded a blocked extra point on the Giants first touchdown of the game, a blocked punt that set the Eagles up deep in Giants territory, and a blocked field goal to prevent the Giants from taking a lead in the fourth quarter. Jake Elliot hit on both of his field goals and Donnie Jones had an average day punting the football. Overall, the Eagles special teams put together a great game to help the team to their 12th win of the year.
Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson left the game with a head injury after taking a couple of rough hits to his head on a play in the second half.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be taking on the Oakland Raiders on a Christmas night game at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Brad Penner/AP PHOTO