Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Eagles save their season

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 25

Trailing by 16 points with four minutes remaining in the first half, it appeared as if the Eagles’ season was headed for an inglorious finish.

Yes, the Eagles would have still been alive in the NFC East race if they had lost to the Giants, but they also would have been tied for last place. And, with a three-game losing streak and four straight losses at home, there wouldn’t have been much hope that the Eagles could win enough of their final five games to repeat as NFC East champions.

But the Eagles kept hope alive with a spirited comeback, using their running game and an improved effort by their defense to turn their fortunes around – at least for one week – with a 25-22 comeback victory over the visiting Giants. The winning points came on Jake Elliott’s 43-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining.

“Nothing’s ever easy,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “Nothing’s ever pretty. You’ve just got to fight and scratch to get the job done.”

Pederson was speaking about the Eagles’ defense and, in particular, the defensive line, but his comment applied to the entire team. The Eagles never gave up during a bleak-looking first half, which gave them the opportunity to escape with a win during the second half.

The victory pulls the Eagles (5-6) with one game of the Cowboys and Redskins, the NFC East co-leaders at 6-5. With the Cowboys hosting the Saints, who have a 10-game winning streak, on Thursday, the Eagles could be shooting for a three-way tie for first place on Mon., Dec. 3, when they host the Redskins.

Comeback builds confidence

But nobody would be talking about the Eagles’ chances for moving to the top of the NFC East if it weren’t for Sunday’s comeback victory.

“It’s huge for our confidence,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Not just to win, but to win the way we did.”

The Eagles were thoroughly outplayed during the first half. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 130 yards and had 99 receiving yards when the Eagles beat the Giants 34-13 on Oct. 11, piled up 94 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving while scoring two touchdowns during the first half.

But the Eagles finally reached the end zone on a 15-yard pass from Wentz to Zach Ertz (7 catches for 91 yards) with 1:04 remaining in the first half, reducing their deficit to 19-11. The Giants drove down for a fifth score in five first-half drives, but Malcolm Jenkins intercepted an ill-advised Eli Manning pass inside the 5-yard line to prevent the Giants from doing any more scoring.

“That really sparked the defense going into the second half,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said.

After allowing a ridiculous 346 yards during the first half, the Eagles limited the Giants to 56 yards during the second half. The defensive line, in particular, played much better, although the Giants inexplicably only gave Barkley (13 carries for 101 yards) five touches during the second half.

“I think our defensive line rose to the occasion in the second half,” Pederson said. “(The defensive line) put pressure on the quarterback and forced quick throws.”

The Eagles limited the Giants to three points in the second half.

“We just eliminated the big plays,” defensive end Brandon Graham said in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn. “We started tackling better.”

Band on the run

Another factor in limiting the Giants’ offense was keeping the ball away from them. The Eagles turned to their sometimes-forgotten running game in the second half. With Josh Adams (22 carries for 84 yards) carrying most of the load, the Eagles moved steadily down the field. The Eagles finished the game with 28 passing plays and 27 running plays.

“We always come into every game planning on being balanced,” Wentz said, “and I think the O-line is at its best when we do.”

The running game also benefited Wentz (20 of 28 for 236 yards, 1 TD), who seemed to take what the defense gave him instead of trying to force throws to make big plays.

“They say the running game is the best friend of the quarterback,” Wentz said, “and that’s 100 percent true.”

The balanced Eagles steadily chipped away at the Giants’ lead. A 28-yard field goal by Elliott cut the lead to 19-14 with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter, and then a 1-yard touchdown run by Adams – and a 2-point conversion run by Adams – put the Eagles ahead, 22-19. The Giants rallied to tie the game on a 29-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas with 5:49 remaining, but the Eagles closed out the game with a methodical drive.

Taking over at their own 25-yard line, the Eagles used a mix of runs and passes to reach the Giants 42. After Adams was stopped for no gain on third-and-1, Pederson decided to go for it on fourth down. A failure to pick up the first down would have left the Giants with approximately 20 yards to go to move into position for a potential game-winning field goal. But Wentz found Nelson Agholor wide open down the middle for a 12-yard gain and a first down. It was Agholor’s only catch of the game.

Three more runs by Adams set up Elliott for the game-winning field goal. Elliott boomed a 61-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants, 27-24, last season at Lincoln Financial Field. By contrast, this 43-yarder to break the tie with 22 seconds remaining was nearly a chip shot.

“We’re just excited to get back in the winning column,” Graham said.

Giant mistakes

The Eagles had lost three of their previous four games, and hadn’t won in the United States since beating the Giants on Oct. 11 (their only win during that span was over the Jaguars in London). During the first half, it appeared they were headed for another defeat.

Eli Manning picked apart the Eagles’ depleted secondary. When Manning wasn’t picking on the secondary, Barkley was piling up yards, including a highlight film-worthy 51-yard touchdown run.

But Manning, despite finishing the game with 26 completions in 37 attempts for 297 yards, made several key mistakes that gave the Eagles a little extra daylight entering halftime. After the Giants scored on their first drive, with Barkley taking a 13-yard screen pass up the middle for the touchdown, the Giants decided to go for a 2-point conversion after an Eagles penalty on the extra point moved the ball half the distance to the goal. Manning tried to find Elijhaa Penny on the left side by the goal line, where the pass was broken up, instead of throwing to an open Rhett Ellison toward the back of the left side of the end zone.

Manning made another crucial mistake late in the first half. The Giants were already in field goal range at the Eagles 27 when Manning tried to force a pass down the middle to Odell Beckham Jr. instead of dumping the ball to a wide-open Barkley underneath. Jenkins intercepted the pass, which kept the Giants’ lead at 19-11 instead of giving them an opportunity to increase it to 22-11 with a field goal.

The Giants had scored on all four of their first-half drives until Jenkins’ interception. But, with Barkley playing a limited role, they only scored on one drive, with a field goal, the rest of the game.

The points the Giants left on the field during the first half opened the door for the Eagles’ comeback, but the Eagles aren’t about to apologize for how they won the game.

All that matters is that they won the game, keeping their division and playoff hopes alive.

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