Behind a classic-second half performance Monday night by quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit to defeat the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime and keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Just keep believing,” Wentz said he told the offense at halftime. “Keep believing, and it’s time to make a decision how this is going to define us tonight. Obviously, we knew it was not our first half. That was a rough one and that was an ugly one. We just said, ‘Keep believing and keep staying together.’ Defense was going to take care of their piece, which they did. And we were able to do enough offensively to get this win.”
The victory gives the Eagles a 6-7 record overall, tied for first place with the Dallas Cowboys in the woeful NFC East.
If the Eagles win their final three games starting this Sunday at the Washington Redskins (1 p.m., Fox), they will clinch the NFC East and the No. 4 seed and host a Wild Card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field. The other two remaining games are Dec. 22 at home against the Dallas Cowboys and Dec. 29 at the Giants.
Birds coach Doug Pederson was asked if his players were angry at themselves during practice this week for allowing their record to be so bad.
“Listen, we hadn’t won a game since our bye up until tonight, so guys are disappointed,” Pederson said at his post-game news conference. “Guys are mad. Guys are frustrated. I’m frustrated. So sometimes it kind of flushes out some things during the week, and we had a really good week of practice, and the guys, I could really see the guys kind of turn a corner from the standpoint of coming together as a football team, especially this time of the year. We’re into the last month of the season. And we know what’s in front of us. We know what’s at stake, the guys do know what’s at stake. It was a good week.”
Because of injuries to wide receiver Nelson Agholor and running back Jordan Howard coming into the game, plus losing wide receiver Alshon Jeffery early in the second quarter, Wentz was down to using receivers and ball carriers who were on the practice squad at the beginning of the season. Running back Boston Scott, wide receiver Greg Ward and tight end Josh Perkins all took turns stepping up in the second half.
The Eagles were able to put together drives at the end of the game without the services of All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who was carted off the field in the second quarter after suffering what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.
“The biggest thing is we had a lot of guys go down and we had a lot of contributions from some young guys,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who finished with four tackles, two defended passes and a forced fumble. “Guys that were sitting on our practice squad maybe a couple months ago came up with some big plays to help us win this game when obviously we didn’t come out with a good start.”
The Eagles fell behind 17-3 on two long passes from Eli Manning to Darius Slayton in the second quarter. The first was a 35-yard catch and run eight seconds into the quarter. The second was a 55-yard bomb to Slayton, who was open by at least 10 yards when he caught it.
In both cases, it was veteran cornerback Ronald Darby attempting to cover the 22-year-old rookie out of Auburn.
Cornerback Jalen Mills said the Birds defense did not have a good first half but came through when it counted.
“We play four quarters of football,” Mills said. “At the end of the day, that wasn’t us. We’re at home. We have to protect our house. At halftime, we made the corrections, guys knew what we had to do. “
Mills was asked about the tone in the locker room at intermission.
“It was pretty calm,” said Mills, who led the team with five solo tackles. “We knew we made a couple mistakes out there, we knew the corrections that we made. (Defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz talked to us about the corrections to the defense, in the second half we made those corrections.”
The Eagles shut out Manning and the Giants in the second half, holding Big Blue (2-11) to just 29 yards of offense and two first downs.
The Eagles offense finally started to click at the end of the third quarter.
Scott capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive (5:39) with a 2-yard rushing touchdown, cutting the deficit to seven points with 1:28 left. It was his first rushing touchdown as an Eagle.
The fourth quarter and overtime were all Wentz. After the Eagles came up short on their first drive, Wentz freelanced his way to a 14-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz with 1:53 left that tied the score 17-17.
The Giants went three-and out, as did the Birds, and the game went to overtime.
While the Giants sent four players out for the coin toss for overtime, only Jenkins represented the Eagles.
The Giants made the call. While the coin was in the air, the Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety pointed at the coin as it hit the ground. The Birds won the toss and never looked back. Jenkins was asked if sending only him out for the toss and pointing at the coin was a physiological ploy.
“It did go our way,” Jenkins said with a big grin. “I didn’t call it, so I can’t take credit for it…but good call by them.”
The Giants seemed helpless to stop Wentz and the Eagles, who went eight plays, 75 yards in 5:13 to score the winning touchdown, another 2-yard pass to Ertz.
“We were confident,” Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard said at his locker after the game. “It just didn’t happen that way. That’s the way the game goes sometimes. We have to get back to the drawing board and figure it out.”
Wentz finished the game 33-of-50 for 325 yards and two touchdown passes. He was sacked three times but did not throw an interception.
Scott carried the ball 10 times for 59 yards and a touchdown. Miles Sanders rushed for 45 yards on 15 carries.
Ertz led the Eagles with nine catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Scott also caught six passes on six targets for 69 yards.
Perkins made the most of his opportunity, making five catches on five targets for 37 yards.
Much-maligned rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside contributed two catches on three targets for 29 yards, including a crucial third-down, 22-yard reception on the game-tying drive.
Manning finished the game 15-of-30 for 203 yards and two touchdown passes. He was sacked twice but not intercepted. Saquon Barkley rushed 17 times for 66 yards.
Slayton had a career day, catching five passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. ••