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3 things we learned about the Eagles

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PHILADELPHIA — Just two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were 1-3 and in last place in NFC East.

Now the Eagles are 3-3 and in first place after beating the New York Giants 27-7 Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles intercepted quarterback Eli Manning twice and returned one of the picks for a touchdown as they moved past the Giants in the division. Both teams are now 3-3, but head-to-head competition is the first tiebreaker, so the Eagles are alone in first for now. The third-place Dallas Cowboys (2-3) had a bye this week before playing the Giants next week.

“There’s no big secret to all of this — we’re just playing better football,” said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who had one of the Eagles’ interceptions. “We got off to a slow start tonight on both sides of the ball, but we stuck with it and kept working, and good things started to happen.

“Now we have to build on this win and keep playing the way we’re capable of playing. We still haven’t put together 60 minutes of good football, and that’s our next challenge.”

The big play of the game came when Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll picked off a Manning pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. The Giants never scored again.

“That was just a terrible read by me,” Manning said of Carroll’s interception.

Manning, who completed his first 10 passes, finished 24 of 38 for 189 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions. Manning, who was sacked just four times in the Giants’ first five games, was sacked three times Monday night and was penalized twice for intentional grounding.

“In the second quarter and throughout the second half, we just got outplayed,” Manning said.

What we learned about the Eagles:

1. The Eagles can’t start fast, and they were lucky it didn’t cost them Monday. The defense gave up an easy 80-yard touchdown drive to the Giants to start the game, and then the Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession, holding onto the ball for a mere 46 seconds before punting. The Eagles are playing much better in the second half this season, but those slow starts eventually will keep them out of the playoffs unless they find a cure.

2. Sam Bradford is a pretty good quarterback if he gets time to throw, and he got it Monday. Bradford still made a few terrible mistakes, including three interceptions on poorly thrown balls. However, he also got into a rhythm for one of the few times this season, and when that happened, the Eagles’ offense got on track. Bradford was sacked only once, and for most of the night, he was able to stand tall in the pocket and deliver his passes. “There was some good and there was some bad,” Bradford said. “But I know for us to be where we want to be, I have to play much better.”

3. While the Giants struggle rushing the passer, the Eagles’ rush is getting stronger every week. The pressure on quarterback Eli Manning led to two interceptions, three sacks and two intentional grounding calls, and that is a good night’s work for any defense. The Eagles also shut down the Giants’ ground game, holding running back Rashad Jennings to 63 yards on 13 carries. “We got after them pretty good today, and that was a big part of the game,” Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham said. “No quarterback can play well with people in his face all game, not even one as talented as (Manning).”

Etc.

–RB DeMarco Murray finally showed why the Eagles signed him for so much money. Murray had his first 100-yard rushing game with his new team, after reaching triple digits 12 times last year for Dallas. Murray had 22 carries for 109 yards Monday, an average of 5 yards per attempt, and he scored on a 12-yard run, stiff-arming a Giants defender along the way. “We just kept working at it, and we eventually got on a nice roll,” Murray said. “When we mix things up on offense like we did tonight, this can be a very good offense.”

–LB DeMeco Ryans missed the second half of the 2014 season with a torn Achilles, and he struggled in the first few games this year as he got his timing back. Ryans also has been forced to play a lot, since the Eagles are without injured LBs Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso, and that extra work is paying off. Against the Giants, Ryans had five tackles, batted away two passes, recovered a fumble and came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, when he intercepted a pass — stealing it from Giants TE Larry Donnell — to stop what appeared to be a Giants scoring drive. The pick prevented New York from potentially taking a 14-0 lead. “The sideline was going crazy,” Ryans said of his teammates’ reaction to his interception. “It was definitely a momentum shift and something we needed as a team. I was elated that I was able to be the guy to make that play for the team.”

–CB Nolan Carroll never picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown before Monday — not even in Pop Warner. His first pick-six was a big one, as he intercepted Giants QB Eli Manning and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead that they would never lose. “It’s a good feeling,” he said. “But my mind was just ready to go back out and compete again. My mind was just kind of blank.”


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