Eagles hang on to beat Giants, snap 3-game losing streak

Roob’s Observations: Eagles hang on to beat Giants, snap 3-game losing streak originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It didn’t really feel quite like a win because the Eagles kept trying to turn it into a loss. But it was a win and a win the Eagles desperately needed.

And as bad as they played at times and as many mistakes as they made, 11-4 looks a heck of a lot better than 10-5.

The Eagles ended their three-game losing streak with a hold-your-breath 33-25 win over the Giants at the Linc Monday, and wins against the 3-12 Cards at the Linc Sunday and these same Giants at the Meadowlands a week later give the Eagles the NFC East title no matter what anybody else does.

Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from a win that shouldn’t have been this close.

1. For me, this game was one play. Jalen Hurts’ 32-yard strike to A.J. Brown on a desperation 3rd-and-20 early in the fourth quarter when everything was going wrong for the Eagles. A 17-point lead had been whittled down to two, thanks to 15 Giants points off two turnovers – that kickoff return disaster with Olamide Zaccheaus at the Eagles’ 14-yard-line and Adoree’ Jackson’s 72-yard pick-6 that was more Dallas Goedert’s fault than Hurts’ fault. Then the Eagles get the ball back and immediately commit two penalties. So they’re sitting there facing a 3rd-and-20 on their own 26-yard-line after giving away nearly all of a 17-point lead against a 5-9 team that’s 2-6 on the road and hasn’t beaten a winning team all year. This was a crisis point. The Giants had all the momentum. Cowboys fans everywhere were getting excited. It felt like that three-game losing streak was about to turn into a four-game losing streak. Then Hurts threw an absolute miracle 32-yard strike to A.J. Brown and before the Giants could catch their breath, Kenny Gainwell ran 22 yards down to the Giants’ 20. Two plays later, D’Andre Swift scored and the lead was back up to two possessions at 27-18. Still not ideal. The Eagles should have blown this team out of the water. But that pass, that play, showed there’s still some magic in Jalen Hurts’ right arm, still some magic on this football team.

2. Really, the only difference between this game and the last three was that the Eagles won it. But yikes. The Eagles are so much better than the Giants – and they looked it in building a 17-point halftime lead. And then they just reverted back into 49ers / Cowboys / Seahawks Eagles. Terrible mistakes. Awful turnovers. Horrible decisions. That 17-point lead turned into a two-point lead – that’s been happening with big leads all year – and then a 12-point lead turned into a five-point lead and the Eagles had to hang on by the skin of their teeth before rookie Kelee Ringo finally ended it with an INT in the end zone as time expired. Never should have come to that. I’d love to sit here and say a win’s a win, and there’s no style points in the NFL, but let’s be honest. There’s no excuse for letting the Giants off the hook. The Eagles are heading to the playoffs, and they’ll most likely win the NFC East. But this isn’t a Super Bowl team. Right now, they’re not even close. That was the goal this year. That was the standard.

3. And this is nothing new. Up 16 on opening day in England, had to hang on for a five-point win. Up 27-7 against the Vikings, hung on to win by six. Up 11 against the Jets and outscored 17-0 the rest of the way. Up 10-0 in Seattle last week and outscored 20-7 the rest of the way. That just can’t happen. The Eagles did enough to win against a terrible Giants team, but the Eagles have still not put together a single 60-minute game with just good, solid football and no awful mistakes. Most of these blown leads have been more about what the Eagles have done poorly than anything the other team did well. They’re handing teams chances, gifting teams opportunities. I’d love to know how good the Eagles could be if they ever played a full game. We’ve never seen it.

4. I like the way the Eagles alternated D’Andre Swift and Kenny Gainwell. Swift netted 92 yards on 20 touches, Gainwell 79 yards on nine touches. That’s 176 yards from the two running backs. I’ve been campaigning all year for the Eagles to split up the workload between the two backs because it just makes them unpredictable and more difficult to defend. And you could see it Monday. Swift ran 19 times for 96 yards and a TD and Gainwell ran six times for 41 yards and caught three passes for 38 yards. And Brian Johnson stuck with the running game. In the first game, the backs ran 9 times for 26 yards. Second half, 26 times for 133 yards.

5. I actually really liked the way Jalen Hurts played. The interception was more on Dallas Goedert slipping than anything else, and I thought Hurts made some big throws in clutch situations and really was sharp when he had to be. He made good decisions, avoided throwing into traffic, looked comfortable in the pocket, beat the Giants’ constant blitzes with dump-offs to the backs and tight ends, drove the ball down the field and used seven different receivers. This was the best he’s looked in a while. He put up 33 points, threw for 301 yards and didn’t fumble. Still some things to work on, but after the way the last few weeks went this was a welcome site.

6. Remember when I had to come on here and defend Britain Covey? Search my timeline, you’ll see. Covey can flat-out play and people who were actually paying attention last year aren’t surprised by what he’s done this year. The one thing the Eagles needed more than anything else Monday was a fast start, and Covey made that happen with his career-long 54-yard punt return down to the Giants’ 13-yard-line after the Giants went 3-and-out to open the game. Two plays later, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead and didn’t look back. Covey added a unique return in the second quarter on a short 26-yard Jamie Gillan punt, leaping to field the kick and then weaving for 11 yards, turning the play into just a 15-yard net gain for the Giants. Just a very heads-up play. Covey also caught his first career pass Monday, a seven-yarder on the 1st-quarter field goal drive. But I’ll tell you what, for a team coming off three straight losses, desperate for a spark, that 54-yard return just 85 seconds into the game was huge.

7. Honestly, it was tough watching Shaq Leonard his first two games. He looked like a shadow of his former self. And maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that after spending 5 ½ years with the same team, then sitting out for a month, then coming here and learning a new defense – and then another new defense. But Leonard was terrific against the Giants with a sack – his first sack since the last day of the 2000 season – along with two tackles for loss and seven total tackles. The Eagles were down three linebackers Monday if you include opening-day starter Nakobe Dean, along with Zach Cunningham and Nicholas Morrow. They needed a big-time performance from Leonard as well as undrafted rookie Ben VanSumeren, who had never played an NFL snap on defense. Not an ideal situation going into a must-win game with your fourth and fifth linebackers, but Leonard and VanSumeren were both fine. This wasn’t 2020-2021 all-pro Shaq Leonard, but he gave the Eagles what they really needed.

8. There was a lot to like on defense. Other than the 69-yard Darius Slayton touchdown, they were pretty sound. A lot to fix but held the Giants to 292 total yards, limited Saquon Barkley to 3.5 yards per carry on 23 rushing attempts, got some big 4th-down stops, held the Giants under 300 yards and really only allowed the one long 4th-quarter touchdown drive – which shouldn’t have happened – but still, of the Giants’ 25 points, seven came on defense and seven were on special teams. So the defense really only allowed 11 points – a TD, a field goal and a two-point conversion. And it’s just nice to see some of these young guys running around and adding some juice to the defense – Ringo, Sydney Brown, Eli Ricks, VanSumeren, obviously Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, even Nolan Smith. Those guys are going to make mistakes, but they’re making them going 100 miles an hour and that’s encouraging. It got a little hairy at the end, but this time they found a way.

9. How about the DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown Appreciation Society? Smith missed practice with a knee injury Thursday and Friday and was limited Saturday. Brown took a ferocious shot in the back late in the third quarter and may have missed one snap. Both of them just played so tough. Smith caught four passes for 79 yards with a 36-yard TD and Brown was 6-for-80. They are just so clutch and on a team that’s had so many bad wide receivers – I’m tempted to list them all but I won’t – they just always come up big in the biggest moments. Brown now has 101 catches this year for 1,394 yards – 102 yards from his own franchise record – and Smith is 78-for-1,036 – and joined Mike Quick and DeSean Jackson as the third Eagle with two 1,000-yard seasons in his first three years. They each have seven touchdowns. Two incredible players.

More coming …

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