The Eagles got a much-needed win on Thursday night, dominating the Giants 34-13. The win gets the Eagles back to .500 at 3-3, puts them at 1-0 in the division and 2-2 in the conference, and has them sitting atop the NFC East pending Sunday’s results. This all begs the question: Are the Eagles back or did they simply take advantage of a terrible opponent? We think it’s more of the former, and here’s why.
For the first time since February 4, 2018, the Eagles offense had legitimate, sustained rhythm. The playcalling was much more balanced, and they were able to stay ahead of the chains. The Eagles were efficient in the red zone, converting four touchdowns and two field goals in six trips. They were able to extend drives, going 9-16 on third downs. The Birds continued to get more vertical than they had been early in the season, averaging 10.4 yards per completion. The offensive line was far from perfect, but Carson Wentz was sacked and hit less than he had been in his first three starts. Speaking of Carson Wentz, he continues to look better with each passing week and had a stellar outing on Thursday night. Eight different receivers caught a pass, and the wide receivers produced 14 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns and several huge third down catches. Despite a couple close calls, the offense didn’t turn the ball over. For the first time this season, the offense looked like we expected them to look.
The defense harassed Eli Manning all night long, compiling four sacks and 13 QB hits, and again had a sack taken away on a questionable roughing call. The unit combined for nine passes defended as the much-maligned secondary stepped up, holding Odell Beckham Jr. to just six catches for 44 yards. The linebackers continued to be active, and Jordan Hicks and Kamu Grugier-Hill combined for an impact play with Hicks deflecting a pass that Grugier-Hill hauled in for an interception. The group was also fantastic in the red zone, not conceding a touchdown on three Giants trips. While the defense had solid performances against Atlanta Week 1 and Indianapolis Week 3, and even last week against the Vikings, on Thursday night each unit complemented the others allowing the defense as a whole to thrive.
In addition to each defensive unit finally playing as a cohesive unit and playing off of each other, the biggest takeaways defensively are the improvement in two of the biggest areas of concern this season: big plays and failing to get off the field.
Outside of Saquon Barkley’s long run, the Eagles did a great job limiting the big play on Thursday night. The Giants’ receivers managed a couple of chunk plays, but the complete team effort mitigated their impact.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Eagles got off the field on third and fourth down. The Giants were just 4-14 on third down, with one of those conversions coming in garbage time. The Giants were also 0-1 on fourth down.
The tackling left something to be desired, but it was a positive showing from the defense.
Doug Pederson responded from one of his worst coaching performances last week with an excellent effort on Thursday. While the offense was again a little pass-heavy early, overall it was much more balanced than it had been the last few weeks. He did a great job getting the offense in a rhythm. We saw a bit more of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field together, which is something the Eagles should be doing to create advantages. For the first time this season, the team appeared ready to play from the opening kickoff, and they also showed much more discipline. Overall a great response from Doug.
For the first time this season, the Eagles put together a complete effort and looked like the team everyone expected them to be. The offense was in rhythm, it was balanced, and the wide receivers stepped up and made an impact. The defensive units complemented each other, making each other’s jobs easier, and showed progress in the two biggest areas of concern. And the coach shook off a rough outing and coached and excellent game.
Yes, the Giants aren’t a very good football team. But rather than playing down to their competition, the Eagles came out and beat them soundly. They rose to the occasion in what was as close to a must-win game as you can get in Week 6 of the season. And in doing so, they showed marked improvement in areas in which they’ve been struggling.
There is still work to do, and the Eagles will need to show they can play this way consistently and against better competition. But they finally looked like a hungry and focused group and showed they can play the way everyone expected them to play. Thursday night provided an opportunity for the Eagles to get back on track and establish something they can build off, and they answered the call in resounding fashion.