Oct. 11-- EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.-It took six weeks, but this was the type of performance the Eagles had been waiting for this season. After appearing like a shadow of the Super Bowl champions while slogging through the first five games, the Eagles assuaged mounting concern about them with a dominant 34-13 win over the New York Giants on Thursday night.
The Eagles had not scored more than 23 points in a game yet this season. They reached 24 by halftime. They totaled only seven first-quarter points through the first five games. They scored on the opening drive and had 14 points by the time the second quarter started. Carson Wentz played to the MVP standard he set last season and the defense swarmed Eli Manning. The Eagles moved to 3-3, giving them the most wins in the NFC East, and they now have extended rest entering next Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
Wentz went 26 of 36 for 278 yards and three touchdowns for his best game of the season Alshon Jeffery caught eight passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement combined for 29 carries for 94 yards in their first game after Jay Ajayi's season-ending injury. And the defense had four sacks and a turnover.
The Eagles used their formula from last season. They built an early lead, allowing their pass rushers to pin their eyes back and get after Manning and the running backs to get consistent carries.
It looked like it would be a good night from the game's first minute, when Jordan Hicks deflected Manning's pass on the second play of the game and Kamu Grugier-Hill grabbed the interception and returned it to the Giants' 16-yard line to give the offense favorable field position.
Still, the red zone has been a problem for the Eagles in recent weeks. They scored touchdowns on only 3 of 9 visits during the previous two games. Wentz made sure the Eagles capitalized on this trip. Facing a third-and-7, Wentz rolled to his right and hissed a pass across his body to Jeffery in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. It was an exceptional play by Wentz, who played like the franchise quarterback on a night the Eagles needed it.
The Giants' only chance to take a lead thereafter came when they regained possession at their 9-yard line with a 7-3 deficit, except Michael Bennett burst past $62 million offensive tackle Nate Solder for a strip sack of Manning. Although the Giants recovered, they were pushed backward and the Eagles had favorable field position after forcing a punt.
From there, the Eagles turned on the rout. Clement's one-yard touchdown run came two plays after a 14-yard rush and on a night when he's trying to convince the front office that they don't need to add a running back in the coming weeks. That touchdown gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead, and it turned out those were the only points they needed.
Of course, they were far from finished. The Eagles converted 9 of 16 third downs on Thursday, including a 58-yard pass to Nelson Agholor in the second quarter. Agholor showed impressive awareness throughout the night, breaking off his route when needed if it helped Wentz complete a pass. Wentz finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown to Zach Ertz. A field goal before halftime gave the 24-6 edge at the break.
If the game wasn't out of reach by then, the Eagles punctuated their lead with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. The Eagles mixed in the no-huddle offense and converted two third downs, including a one-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Jeffery.
Although the Giants looked like a team that will pick near the top of the draft next season, the best part of their evening was the play of rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, a former Penn State star. Barkley rushed for a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter to cut the Eagles' lead to 31-13, and he totaled 130 rushing yards and 99 receiving yards. The Giants don't look like they can contend with the Eagles this season, but Barkley is the type of player who can give the Eagles headaches for much of the next decade.
Even with that touchdown, the Giants could never threaten the Eagles. The Eagles lost both offensive tackles in the second half when Jason Peters exited with a biceps injury and Lane Johnson didn't return after coming up slowly while playing on an injured ankle. But the Eagles didn't need them while nursing a three-score lead. And now those players have extra rest to try to get healthy for the Panthers game.
The Eagles are off this weekend, but they return with two games against playoff opponents from last season before the bye. If they play the way they did on Thursday, the Eagles will return to the Super Bowl contender status they were anointed with before the season. They showed their formula against the Giants, even if was six weeks later than the Eagles might have hoped.
(c)2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.