By silencing a rising New York Giants team with a decisive victory in front of a national audience, the Philadelphia Eagles established themselves as a team worthy of their record and top spot in the NFC East.
By Mike Diviney
In an NFC that is presenting much better than anticipated in the early going, a Week Six divisional contest turned into a statement win for the Philadelphia Eagles, who routed their visiting rivals, the New York Giants, 27-0.
Despite entering the day at 4-1, the Eagles hadn’t demonstrated the ability to play a full game well from both sides of the ball. After the Cowboys’ road win in Seattle, the stakes had been raised: the Eagles were playing as much to keep pace atop the division as to avoid falling into a second-place tie with the Giants.
The Eagles rose to the occasion before an electrified home crowd Sunday night, posting their first shutout in 18 years.
Led by a rejuvenated front seven that battered Eli Manning all night long, the defense notched eight sacks on New York quarterbacks, including one on the final play of the game. The Giants running game was stuffed, the lesser component of an offense that mustered just 254 yards, and much of that after the game had been decided.
The Eagles accumulated 448 yards, and perhaps most importantly, displayed a ground attack that resembled the league’s best in 2013. Lane Johnson’s return is certainly part of the reason for that. Backup linemen Matt Tobin and David Molk also contributed with improved play as they continued to acclimate themselves to the offense.
LeSean McCoy ran with more purpose than he had thus far displayed in 2014. He was decisive, invited contact, and managed to get himself in space enough to do what he does best: cut and churn and continuously flow up-field.
Sproles chipped in with 39 yards, including a beautiful 15-yard touchdown scamper, but it was Shady’s night, as he went for 149 yards on 22 carries.
The running game also contributed to a crisp, effective passing game. Quarterback Nick Foles completed more than 65 percent of his passes, adding a pair of first-half touchdowns that thankfully overshadowed his two terrible interceptions.
Foles has been good this season, but not great. Fans would do well to remember that he’s started just 22 games in his entire career. He recorded the third-highest passer rating in the history of the NFL last year, but that was an aberration. No one should expect him to duplicate that. Foles is going to have some growing pains. His youth does not excuse some of his miscues, most of which have been annoying more than devastating, but it may explain them. That the team is 12-2 since he became the full-time starter is the most important stat of his career.
Foles is more than a game manager, but like any quarterback, he needs the running game to be effective in order to succeed long-term as a passer. Sunday night bore that out. That the Eagles were able to go 4-1 with such a struggling rushing attack is a credit to Foles as much as to the Eagles defense and special teams, which was superb against the Giants.
Sproles had a 43-yard punt return, and the always-active Chris Maragos partially blocked a punt. Rookie Cody Parkey drilled two more field goals, one from 45 yards out, as he continued an excellent first year.
After being unable to get pressure on the opposing quarterback earlier in the season, the Eagles front seven has sixteen sacks in the last three games. It is imperative they continue that resurgence, because it enables them to mask the one major flaw on this team: the defensive backfield. With the exception of Malcolm Jenkins, none of the other starters on that unit is above-average.
Going into the bye week, with an extra week to savor a win or stew over a loss, Chip Kelly had his troops primed again. It was the Eagles’ eighth straight win at home, rewarding the fans for their loyal, occasionally harsh, support.
The Eagles arrived Sunday night. By laying a true beat-down on the pretenders from New York, the team validated its record. That was only necessary for their harshest critics—and for the New York Giants, who came into the game mouthing off about how the Eagles had not beaten anyone to be considered the team to beat in the NFC East. The defending divisional champs shoved those words down their throats in front of a nationwide, prime time audience.
From here, however, the Eagles will head to Arizona for a difficult matchup against a dominant Cardinals team. Philadelphia is presently mentioned as one of the top five teams in the NFL. In order to stay there, the Eagles need to build on this game and continue to pile up wins because the division is better than anyone expected.
Maybe the Eagles are too.