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By Connor Donald, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
After a couple tough matchups with the top dogs of the NFC North, the Ravens and the Steelers, the Eagles got an early must win, divisional date with the New York Giants in week seven. The 1-4-1 Eagles and the 1-5 Giants are very much in reach of the first place 2-4 Cowboys. Who would have thought we would be talking must win games in week seven and chasing a 2-4 first place team in the NFC East. Only in Philadelphia and only in the NFC Least.
The first half was far closer than it should have been. The Eagles offense ran 44 plays to the Giants 20. The Eagles gained 222 total yards to the Giants 124 yards. While the Eagles also had just over 20 minutes of possession to the Giants just under ten minutes. An ill-advised Carson Wentz interception throwing in the end zone and a Jake Elliot missed field goal to end the first half, ultimately left us with a three point lead, 10-7, instead of a 6 or even 13 point lead that it could have been. As Joe Buck called it, “a woulda, coulda, shoulda first half for the Eagles”. Wentz decision making pushes him to a league leading tenth interception and continues to struggle with the concept of simply throwing the ball away. The defense looked great forcing and recovering a fumble, getting an interception and applying some great pressure on Daniel Jones.
The second half was largely a boring slug fest of three and outs, until Daniel Jones busted off an 80 yard run, before face planting close to the ten yard line tripping over his shoe laces. Ultimately leading to a Wayne Gallman touchdown and the Eagles going down 14-10 just over half way through the third. The third quarter ended with a beautiful Wentz to Fulgham connection, if anybody is still wondering about this connection and emergence, it’s real! Sadly the drive ended on a fourth down attempt to Hakeem Butler that was a clear pass interference against the Giants.
The Giants took advantage of the miss PI call and marched 97 yards in 15 plays and burning 7:50 to the end zone for a Sterling Shepherd touchdown. This leaving the Eagles with just under seven minutes to claw back an eleven point lead. Thanks to a 59 yard John Hightower catch, the Eagles were set-up for a red zone appearance that led to a Greg Ward touchdown. Richard Rodgers continued to step up and be a second half hero with a 30 yard connection from Wentz to get them deep into Giants territory for a typical Eagles heart attack comeback! And Boston Scott made the 18 yard touchdown grab on a dime from Carson Wentz! With 40 seconds to go the Giants had one final chance and in 2017 Super Bowl fashion, Brandon Graham with the strip sack recovered by Vinny Curry to secure the win.
One positive takeaway was the defense, for the most part. The major ouch play being the 80 yard Daniel Jones run that led to the touchdown. The front four were getting to Daniel Jones with pressure all night including some timely sacks by Derek Barnett and, yes I have double and triple checked the play, Nate Gerry. They were also able to force a fumble and Jalen Mills had an interception. One week after calling for Schwartz’s job, again, the Eagles defense stepped up and gave the offense countless opportunities. The defense helped to win the turnover battle, something critiqued week over week. The defense made timely stops, something critiqued week over week. Love Schwartz or hate him, he brought his defense out with the must win mentality and kept things afloat for much of the game. However, helping keep a sinking ship of an offense afloat can’t last all night, even against the Giants.
There are some issues within the defense, and no I am not going to rag about the linebackers, although they are an issue, we have beat that topic to death. Nickell Robey-Coleman has struggled in the slot and he continued to in this game allowing a couple catches and a costly pass interference on Engram that led to the Gallman touchdown. Evan Engram made Gerry, Parks, among others look bad in the middle of the field. The stat sheet only tells part of the tale for the defensive line, who may have struggled late against the run, but came up big in creating and sustaining pressure in Daniel Jones face all night, including of course the final strip sack by Brandon Graham to secure the win!
It really was a woulda, coulda, shoulda game for the Eagles offense throughout, and I don’t normally agree with Joe Buck, making the game far closer than it should have been. Yes the offensive line is still banged up, and struggled immensely with their sixth combination of linemen this year, an NFL record. Lane Johnson also left late again, personally I believe Johnson needs to get healthy and playing half games all year is not good. Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders were missing and boy could you tell Sanders was missing as the run game was stagnant for a second game this year without him. The Eagles were at their best pushing an uptempo offense, which they got away from late in the first half and continuing into the second half until of course we were behind and needed the points.
Offensive positives remain similar to the last three weeks. Travis Fulgham (5 receptions, 73 yards) remains the best receiver and a pleasant surprise in an otherwise tumultuous and overall frustrating season so far. He also drew a big pass interference on the final offensive drive for the Eagles. Greg Ward ended up a crucial part to the offense as well with 5 receptions for 42 yards and the only passing touchdown. And even without Ertz and Goedert, Richard Rodgers stepped up big time making six catches on eight targets for 85 yards. And of course Boston Scott despite the disappearing act for much of the game made the heroic touchdown grab with 40 seconds left to put the Eagles ahead. His catch largely being the only positive from his overall game.
In typical Eagles fashion, we were treated to a Thursday night heart attack special. This Eagles team continues to show it has no quit and is one of the most resilient teams in the NFL! We now lead the NFC Least, if only for a couple days, with a huge meeting with the Dallas Cowboys coming up next weekend.