With two teams whose seasons have been defined by their play in the fourth quarter, it made sense that hardly anything of note occurred in the first three.
The final 15 minutes, though, not only clarified who would win the game but muddied the standings in the NFC East. The Eagles chugged down the field on an 18-play, 80-yard drive that swallowed up 8:51 and then held on to beat the Giants, 17-10, at MetLife Stadium Sunday night.
The Eagles had allowed leads to slip away in the fourth quarter in five of their six losses, and the Giants had come from behind for five of their wins. But that had little impact on anything as Eli Manning lay face-down on the turf, having just fumbled the football away to the Eagles with 1:17 remaining.
"Confidence doesn't get it done all the time," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "You still have to go out there and back it up and perform."
The Giants now are tied with the Cowboys at 6-4 atop the NFC East, with two games remaining against each other. The Eagles kept their mathematical chances alive at 4-6. It was their seventh win in the last eight meetings between the teams.
It's not that the Giants didn't try to turn in another exciting comeback. Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 47-yard completion to the Eagles' 21 with 1:25 left. But on the next play, Manning was sacked from behind by Jason Babin, who punched the ball out of his hands. The Eagles' Derek Landri recovered at the 26 and returned it to the 31, giving the Eagles a chance to seal the win.
LeSean McCoy (113 yards, 23 carries), who had been quiet to that point, ran 60 yards to the Giants' 2 to set up the final kneel-downs and run out the clock.
The Eagles took the lead for good on a monstrous drive that included six third-down conversions in as many attempts. The Giants' defense would hold them for two plays and then not be able to get off the field. The final third-down conversion came when Vince Young hit Riley Cooper in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown and a 17-10 lead with 2:45 remaining.
"It felt like an eternity being on the sideline and just waiting patiently, hoping the defense gets a turnover or forces a three-and-out," Cruz said. "It was tough just watching it."
Imagine how the Giants on the field felt.
"That hurts," Kiwanuka said. "From a defensive standpoint, as a veteran on this team, as a pass-rusher, that's not acceptable."
Last year the Eagles gut-punched the Giants with an epic comeback in the last 8:17 of the game. This drive took longer than it took for them to score 28 unanswered points a season ago, and the result was just as deflating. "That's as big a disappointment as we've had around here in a long time," Tom Coughlin said.
The Eagles' go-ahead touchdown seemed to play right into the hands of the Cardiac Giants. Instead, for the second straight week, with a chance to tie the score late, the Giants' offense flatlined.
The Giants made it 10-10 early in the fourth quarter when Manning showed he can be just as mobile as Young or Michael Vick. OK, stop laughing. The Giants' quarterback is no gazelle, but he was able to move around the pocket enough to buy time and allow receivers to get open.
Manning was flushed to his right before heaving a deep ball down the sideline for a 47-yard completion to Hakeem Nicks. Two plays later, Manning had to escape to his left and found Cruz, who had slipped behind Nnamdi Asomugha in the end zone to catch a 24-yard TD pass.
The 71 passing yards on the drive were nearly as many as Manning had accumulated in the first half.
While both offenses struggled before halftime, the Eagles took a 10-3 lead by combining the skills of two of the players most reviled by Giants fans.
DeSean Jackson returned a punt 51 yards before he was pushed out of bounds -- he was one blade of the synthetic grass away from scoring -- and former Giants receiver Steve Smith scored his first touchdown for his new team on a 14-yard pass from Young.
Smith floated across the middle uncovered and made the reception; Kiwanuka was the only Giant near him, and even he was 15 yards away. "I was wondering who was on me,'' Smith said, "because it seemed like nobody was."
That touchdown gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first half. The Giants then drove for a 48-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes that -- combined with last year's collapse -- ended a streak of 38 straight points scored by the Eagles at the Meadowlands.
The teams may not have been scoring, but they were plenty feisty. After a first-quarter interception, Trevor Laws drilled Manning, prompting Chris Snee to sprint across the field and attack the defensive tackle.
"I turned around and I saw Trevor take a shot at him and I didn't like it," said Snee, who played with a stomach virus he'd been battling since Friday and had to take an IV during halftime. "Our job is to protect Eli. That was an unnecessary shot and I had to let him know about it."
Coughlin said he was disappointed in the penalty by his son-in-law, but also disappointed by the team's reaction to the play. "The guy drove the quarterback in the back. You'd think the team would rally around that," he said. "We didn't do that. We had someone come forward and try to retaliate, which did nothing more than take a 15-yard penalty away."
Several other plays ended with shoves and exchanges, but the most costly one came when Jackson caught a 50-yard pass from Young and was flagged for taunting when he flipped the ball at the Giants' sideline. That and a penalty against the Giants' Linval Joseph for illegal use of the hands were offsetting penalties and nullified the play.
"My question to them is 'Why?' " Coughlin said of his team's baffling performance. " 'What did you think the Eagles were going to be like coming in here?' You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know the team is 3-6, back to the wall, they're going to play their butts off. To get to where we wanted to go, we had to play better and harder, and we didn't. I'm really disappointed."
Notes & quotes: Rookie first-round pick Prince Amukamara made his NFL debut and quickly found his footing with an interception 6:08 into the game. He was beaten by Jackson but recovered to snag the underthrown pass . . . RB D.J. Ware left the game with a concussion after he was leveled by Cullen Jenkins late in the second quarter.