NFL Wire News

Eagles-Giants: What we learned


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Reserve tight end Trey Burton returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to help the Philadelphia Eagles to a 34-26 victory over the New York Giants Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The Eagles took a 17-16 lead at halftime and then expanded their lead with 12:34 remaining in the third thanks to their punt coverage unit, which recorded the fourth block punt of the season when James Casey came charging up the middle and got a hand on punter Steve Weatherford’s punt.

The loose ball was quickly scooped up by Burton, who had a clear path to the end zone for the 27-yard score to give the Eagles the 24-16 lead.

“We talk about the emphasis on special teams,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, “It’s huge in this league. I felt like when I came in, it was going to be a huge emphasis of ours. A bunch of guys understand what we want to get accomplished from a special teams standpoint.”

Not even the heroics of Giants receivers Odell Beckham Jr., who finished with a career-high 185 yards on 12 catches and a touchdown, or Rueben Randle, who finished with 158 yards on six catches, could help the Giants pull this one out.

The Giants offense went into hibernation following a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Andre Williams on their opening drive to give them a 7-0 lead.

The Eagles, who had answered the Giants’ opening score with a touchdown of their own, jumped out to a 14-7 lead on a drive that stayed alive despite an apparent interception thrown by quarterback Mark Sanchez intended for tight end Zack Ertz.

On that third-down pass attempt, Giants cornerback Chykie Brown was flagged for illegal use of hands, and the penalty negated safety Stevie Brown’s interception.

Sanchez, who finished 23 of 36 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, drove the Eagles down the rest of the field, capping the scoring drive on a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek with 6:12 left in the first quarter.

The Giants chipped away at the Eagles’ lead, pulling to within one point thanks to three field goals by kicker Josh Brown, who finished with four field goals.

New York got a 53-yard field goal by Brown to make it 24-19 with 4:32 left in the third quarter, but the Eagles weren’t about to relinquish their lead.

Philadelphia sandwiched a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Chris Polk and a 39-yard field goal by Cody Parkey, who had made a 32-yarder earlier in the game, around the Giants’ lone touchdown of the second half, a 63-yard touchdown catch by Beckham.

The Giants will now sort through the rubble of the 2014 season, with decisions likely to come on Coughlin and his coaching staff perhaps as soon as this week.

Coughlin would appear to be safe, though co-owner John Mara, seen in the locker room after the game, declined to comment on the team’s process.

Coughlin said until he’s told otherwise, it’s business as usual for him and his assistant coaches, who will meet with the players one final time on Monday before commencing their annual football operations process.

What the Eagles said:

“I think it’s totally expected. I watch them come out in training and we talked about it. I think the only people who were asking questions about not playing again [was the media].” — Head coach Chip Kelly when asked what the win by his team meant despite the Eagles being eliminated from the postseason.

What the Giants said:

“If this is my last game as a Giant, I am very appreciative. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I have had a wonderful five years here and I gave the team every single inch that I have.” — safety Antrel Rolle, who will be an unrestricted free agent this winter.

What we learned about the Eagles:

1. Despite combining to set a team record of 4,581 passing yards, the Eagles quarterback situation still appears far from settled. Before losing the rest of his season due to a broken collarbone, starter Nick Foles finished his season completing 59.9 percent of his pass attempts, throwing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His backup, Mark Sanchez, hasn’t been much better, finishing his season with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 64.1 percent of his pass attempts. Also coming into this game, Sanchez and Foles each had three lost fumbles. It will be interesting to see if head coach Chip Kelly sticks with Sanchez next year, goes back to Foles or goes in a completely different direction.

2. The Eagles special teams unit are phenomenal. Head coach Chip Kelly is a firm believer in the importance of special teams and winning the field-position battle, and his special teams units have come through all season for him. This year, the Eagles finished with 11 return touchdowns, tying them for the third highest total in NFL history. They also have 10 different players who have returned a touchdown on special teams, which is also a record.

–S Nate Allen, who picked off Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the fourth quarter, finished the season with a career-high four interceptions. Allen also led the Eagles in that category this season, though, unlike teammates Malcolm Jenkins and Bradley Fletcher, Allen did not have an interception return for a touchdown.

–WR Jordan Matthews finished with eight touchdown receptions, placing him fourth among rookie receivers for most touchdown catches. Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants and Mike Evans of the Bucs lead the league with 12, followed by Kelvin Benjamin of the Panthers, who has nine, and then Matthews.

–RB LeSean McCoy finished with 248 rushing yards on 39 carries this season against the Giants, his best season performance this year against any of the Eagles’ NFC East opponents. His second-best showing this season came against Dallas, against whom he ran 41 times for 213 yards.

What we learned about the Giants:

1. The Giants rookie class of 2014 was one of the most productive in Jerry Reese’s tenure as general manager. The duo of running back Andre Williams and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. combined for 19 of the Giants’ 42 touchdowns scored this season. Williams and Beckham, by the way, both finished as the rushing and receiving leaders on the team, the first time the Giants had a pair of rookies accomplish that since 1950 when Eddie Price and Bob McChesney led the team in rushing and receiving, respectively.

2. Odell Beckham Jr. is sick — literally and figuratively. Beckham, the dynamic Giants rookie, revealed after the game that he was bothered by a stomach virus that, at one point in the game, caused him to be sick along the Giants sideline. So imagine what he might have done beyond his 12 receptions for 185 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown reception, if he actually felt 100 percent. Beckham is not only a great talent on the field, he’s a fiery competitor who isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, especially if he gets hit by a competitor.

–WR Odell Beckham Jr., who finished with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, joins receivers Steve Smith (107 in 2009), Victor Cruz (86 in 2012, 82 in 2011), and Amani Toomer (82 in 2002) as the only Giants in franchise history to have at least 80 receptions in a season. Beckham also extended his consecutive-game streak with 90 or more receiving yards to nine thanks to his 185-yard receiving day against the Eagles, tying the mark set in 1995 by former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin. Lastly, Beckham recorded his 12th receiving touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter, tying a Giants franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie set by Bill Paschal in 1943.

–WR Corey Washington was inactive for this week’s game, the first time he has been inactive since Oct. 19 against Dallas. Washington, who had such a strong preseason, has had limited chances on offense due to his inability to earn snaps on special teams. Washington’s inactivity was not related to an injury.

–WR Rueben Randle set a new single-game best by finishing with 158 yards on six receptions. That mark topped Randle’s previous career high of 132 yards, set last week against the Rams. Randle finished the season with 71 catches for 938 yards and three touchdowns, the receptions and receiving yardage being career highs.

–LB Mark Herzlich capped his best season as a pro, finishing with a career-high 47 tackles in eight starts, and recording his first career sack, which came in the second quarter when he dropped Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez for a two-yard loss.

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