The Eagles were on the brink of losing to one of the worst teams in the NFL — way worse than the Miami Dolphins, and this was in their own building. The Giants entered Monday with an eight-game losing streak and a washed-up Eli Manning under center.
In a season full of humiliations, this would’ve been Armageddon, and if it was to be the end for the Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins was going to make sure his teammates knew there was more than just the playoffs on the line.
"Jenk kind of told everybody, ‘How do you want to be remembered,'" said Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. "'What are you here for and how bad do you want it?' And I think that showed on both sides of the ball."
The offense improved dramatically en route to 20 unanswered points, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime to secure the 23-17 Eagles victory.
But defensively, it was as if famed T.C. Williams coach Bill Yoast told the Eagles, “I don’t want them to gain another yard.” After Manning threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, most of that to Darius Slayton, suddenly the Giants' offense could barely gain an inch.
The Giants managed only 29 total yards in the second half. They picked up two first downs and failed to sustain a drive longer than four plays in six meaningful possessions. And Manning completed 4 of 11 passes for 2.2 yards per attempt and was sacked twice by Vinny Curry.
It was total domination.
“Nobody was panicking,” said Jenkins. “Everybody just really seemed eager to get to the second half, made some adjustments, everybody had some energy coming right back out of the locker room. It was a good feeling to see everybody believing that we were gonna turn it around.”
Jenkins downplayed his halftime speech, saying it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but offered some insight into what he told his teammates.
“If we want to be anything as a team, these are the moments that we have to stand up,” Jenkins said. “These are the moments that we have left, so we’re going to take advantage of every opportunity.
“Bowing down, regardless of what the situation was, was not an option.”
Jenkins also credited defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for making some subtle adjustments but not scrapping the game plan entirely. Mills added Schwartz’s voice helped spur the turnaround.
"Schwartz basically came in here and said, 'It's gonna be on us, it's gonna be on the defense,'" Mills said. “We've gotta get those guys off the field and put our offense on the field because eventually we know the more we put them on the field, they're gonna get in the end zone eventually."
Whatever the Eagles said or did, it worked. Brandon Graham felt the momentum shift almost immediately coming out of the locker room.
“The first two stops, we were like, ‘OK, I’m starting to feel it,’” Graham said. “Offense goes down, they get a score before the third quarter ends, man, we’ve got a shot.”
Both Graham and Jenkins pointed out the Eagles were stopping the Giants in the first half, too, but gave up two long touchdown passes to Slayton.
The first play, Ronald Darby missed a tackle on a short slant, which wound up going for a 35-yard score rather than a short gain. The second, a 55-yard bomb, was the result of a miscommunication in the secondary, which Jenkins took responsibility for postgame.
“If we were a weak-minded team, we would’ve been down on ourselves,” Graham said. “We know how much we wanted this game and we needed this game.
“Sometimes adversity hits and we see what you’re made of, and I just love that we fought back and we put ourselves in a position to win the game and we actually took advantage of our opportunity.”
It was a huge win for the Eagles, not only for the sake of avoiding embarrassment, not even because it put them in the driver’s seat in the NFC East playoff race. They didn’t need to win this game to reach the postseason, technically.
But if the Eagles can somehow build on this performance, the second-half heroics might amount to more than a win over the sad Giants.
“I think we know where we are in the season and everything is on the line, so we’re playing like it,” said Jenkins. “We know we’re in the playoffs already, so for us, obviously this is a good win, but this isn’t the destination.”
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