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Eagles Armchair: Birds get by with a little help from their friend Pat

Going Deep

The Eagles defense looked lost in the first half. Floundering against Eli Manning and company, the Eagles allowed 346 yards of offense in just 30 minutes, with a 51-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley creating a 19-3 lead before the half. Things were on the verge of getting ugly.

The Birds looked disinterested and were out-played by a team they had blown out just one month earlier. A touchdown pass to Zach Ertz and a Malcolm Jenkins interception made it a one possession game before the half, but the Eagles were still going against two of the most explosive players in the NFL with Cra'Von LeBlanc, Nate Gerry and DeVante Bausby on the field. Luckily, the Eagles also had a friend on the opposing sideline. Pat Shurmur, former Eagles offensive coordinator and interim head coach, decided he didn’t need to capitalize on excess talent his team had.

Barkley picked up 131 yards from scrimmage in the first half, but played just 16 of the Giants' 21 snaps in the second half, registering just 5 touches as the Giants scored just 3 more points.

"The offensive coordinator and our head coach are the coach for a reason," Barkley said, trying to be a good sport. "I know everyone wants to be a coach, and thinks what we should call. They know what they’re doing. And they’re putting us in the right positions to win.

"If I carry the ball 20 times. If I carry the ball three times, how many times it takes to win a game, I’m willing to do. We just didn’t finish this game"

The rookie quickly put to rest any rumors that he was dealing with an injury while Shurmur admitted he was simply resting his running back. While Barkley rested, the Giants punted on three straight drives. It wasn’t Shurmur's first error of the game, the coach decided to go for two, based on a gut-feeling. The try was unsuccessful. But Shurmur waited until the second half to really help the Eagles. Instead of attacking the Birds' depleted linebacking corps with Barkley and the injury-laden secondary with Odell Beckham Jr., Manning targeted the gamebreakers just 5 times in the second half as the Eagles stormed back to take a 22-19 lead.

"Knowing they were struggling [with injuries] in the secondary, personally I would've loved to attack them," Beckham told reporters after the game. "But that wasn't in our game plan."

It seemed like everyone at Lincoln Financial Field knew the Eagles would struggle to contain big plays after their performance over the past few weeks, except Shurmur. The Giants have two generational talents on their offense and going against a defense that had allowed 956 yards and and 75 points over the past two weeks, it should've been a huge day for them. But Shurmur's shoddy play-calling down the stretch handcuffed his playmakers and gave the Eagles a chance to get back in the game. 

Certainly some credit has to be given to Jim Schwartz and his team's halftime adjustments, but Shurmur's refusal to exploit the talent disparity on the field Sunday was unfortunate for his team. The Eagles were knocked down and Shurmur helped them answer the bell and potentially save their season with a dramatic victory. Now, that's a good friend.

Injury Report

Did not play: Darren Sproles (hamstring), Jalen Mills (foot), Sidney Jones (hamstring), Avonte Maddox (knee), Jordan Hicks (calf)

Michael Bennett: Bennett left the game early in the first half with a foot injury and was questionable to return at halftime. Despite missing most of the first half, Bennett played extremely well in the second half, recording a sack to end the Giants first drive of the third quarter and teaming up with Chris Long on another sack later in the half.

Measurables

6: Since the Bye Week, Nelson Agholor has recorded just 6 catches. Prior to the bye, or perhaps more importantly, before the acquisition of Golden Tate, Agholor averaged north of 5 catches per game.

In an effort to get Tate involved with the offense, Agholor's impact has taken quite a hit, which is unfortunate. The former first-round pick was a huge part of the Eagles offense last year, but he has become an afterthought after an unnecessary trade.

10: 2018 marks the tenth time in franchise history the Eagles have started a season 5-6. Only once have they made the playoffs after such a start. In 2006, Jeff Garcia ripped off five straight wins en route to the NFC East crown. The Eagles would eventually fall to the Saints in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

.500: For the first time in the history of the Eagles-Giants rivalry, the Birds have evened the all-time record. Since their first meeting in 1933, the Giants have led the Eagles through 173 meetings. But after winning 18 of the last 22 games, the Eagles and Giants are knotted up at 86-86-2.

Turning Point

The Eagles managed to cut the Giants lead to just 8 points in the closing minutes of the first half, but the Birds special teams struggled to contain Corey Coleman on the ensuing kickoff, allowing a 46-yard return. The Giants drove down into field goal range, but Manning got a little greedy and tried to force a ball to Beckham in the end zone.

Jenkins undercut the poorly thrown ball and ended the drive, sending the Eagles into the half down just one score. The Eagles hadn't intercepted a pass since Week 6. Jenkins' pick gave the Eagles a much-needed stop and swung momentum into their favor. The Eagles would allow outscore the Giants 14-3 in the second half en route to victory.

Up-Down Drill

Up: Josh Adams

Adams' stock continues to rise as he became the first Eagles' running back with 22 carries since 2016. Adams finished off the Eagles' second touchdown drive with four straight carries, scoring from one yard out, then also converting the two-point attempt. The undrafted rookie had three carries over 10 yards and it could've been a huge day for him, had a holding penalty not nullified a 52-yard touchdown run. The emergence of Adams has been the lone bright spot over the past few weeks.

Down: Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery had two catches in the first half nullified by penalties, but his 21-yard catch on the Eagles' game-winning drive was one of the most important plays of the game. Jeffery has never been a volume receiver for the Eagles, but he recorded just three official targets in the game. It is worth wondering how much the addition of Tate has affected Jeffery's ability to make an impact on the offense.

Up: Kamu Grugier-Hill

Grugier-Hill has been a bright spot on the Eagles defense in 2018, becoming one of the few guys capable of making a big play. The linebacker led the Eagles in tackles and tackles for loss on Sunday, coming up with a big tackle on the final play of the game.

Down: Nate Gerry

Gerry had a rough afternoon starting in place of Jordan Hicks. He got lost in coverage a number of times and struggled to fill gaps in the run game. Luckily for the Eagles, the Giants abandoned their run game in the second half, or else things could've gotten out of hand quickly.

Three-Step Drop

1. Tim Jernigan was back yesterday and represented a much-needed upgrade in the middle of the Eagles' defensive line. The veteran didn't record a tackle, but his presence in the rotation allowed Fletcher Cox to get free and record three quarterback hits.

Jernigan may not be the game-changing presence he was last year as he returns from his back injury, but he certainly is an upgrade over TY McGill.

2. The Eagles were seriously undermanned in their secondary on Sunday, but reinforcements should be coming by Monday night. Maddox and Jones could be ready to go and Mills shouldn’t be far behind.

Considering the strength of their opponent yesterday, the Eagles win over the Giants isn't terribly impressive. But considering who they had defending the pass, holding Beckham to just 85 yards and Manning to one touchdown isn't bad at all.

3. Carson Wentz didn't put up huge stats on Sunday, but he was effective and played within himself. Even as the Eagles went run-heavy in the second half, Wentz made the necessary checks at the line of scrimmage and kept the chains moving with a couple key throws.

The Wentz we saw yesterday was very similar to the guy we saw a season ago. He didn’t try to do too much and executed the offensive gameplan for four quarters. Wentz taking a half-step back in favor of a better run game might be what is best for this team right now.

Who's Next

The Eagles will get an extra day off and then host the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. Washington has struggled since Alex Smith was lost for the season with a broken leg. In his place, Colt McCoy has posted a quarterback rating of just 73.9 in a pair of losses.

At this point, the Redskins aren't a much better team than the Giants and if the Eagles can pull out a win on Monday night, they will head to Dallas for a showdown that will decide first place in the NFC East.

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