At the time it was a shocking loss. Jake Elliott kicked two field goals in the final 51 seconds, including a 61-yarder as time expired, to give the Eagles a 27-24 win over the Giants Sept. 24 and make them the first team since 1994 to lose on game-tying and game-winning field goals so late in the fourth quarter.
But looking back, that moment also was a hinge for both teams. While they were so evenly matched during the Week 3 meeting, they followed decidedly different trajectories afterward. The Eagles won nine straight, won the NFC East, and could secure homefield advantage through the playoffs on Sunday. The Giants? They lost and lost, fired their coach and general manager, and already are looking toward the 2018 season.
“It’s definitely two different paths since then,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, channeling Robert Frost as best he could.
Those paths converge once again on Sunday as the Eagles visit MetLife Stadium to play the Giants. For the occasion, the Giants reflected on what the early-season loss meant.
Some took away a positive.
“They’re at the top of the NFC as a whole, so for it to go down to a 61-yard field goal, it shows that we can compete with them, we can compete with the best,” Giants running back Orleans Darkwa said.
Others recognized the lost opportunity.
“That would have been a good one to have,” Eli Manning said.
Had the Giants won that day at Lincoln Financial Field, there is no guarantee they’d be in first place and the Eagles in last. But man, it’s hard to think it wouldn’t have made some difference in the Giants’ season.
“That just goes to show what’s happened to us this year with some of the losses we’ve had,” linebacker Devon Kennard said. “I feel like that game when I think back, that one hurt. And it’ll be nice to pay them back this week.”
Evan Engram needs to average 58.0 receiving yards over the last three games to move into third place among the Giants’ all-time rookies in the category. Can he do it? The tight end and first-round draft pick is averaging 47.9 yards per game so far this season and his 623 receiving yards currently trails Sterling Shepard (683), Hakeem Nicks (790), Bobby Johnson (795), Jeremy Shockey (894) and Odell Beckham Jr. (1,305).
Years since the Giants have played in a game such as Sunday’s in which one team is at least nine games over .500 and the other is at least nine games below. The Giants were on the other side of that equation on Dec. 30, 1990, when they were 12-3 and faced the 1-14 Patriots in the regular-season finale.
48: Career touchdowns passes thrown by Eli Manning against the Eagles. That is the second-most he has thrown against any opponent in his career after the 49 against the Cowboys.
3: Career TDs by Sterling Shepard in three games against the Eagles. The Giants receiver has caught one scoring pass in each of the games he has played against the division rival.
PLENTY TO PLAY FOR . . .
The 11-2 Eagles already have clinched the NFC East, but as coach Doug Pederson said this week, “we still have some things to play for, and those are the things that keep the fire lit right now.” A win over the Giants will secure a bye for the Eagles in the playoffs next month. A tie against the Giants will secure that same bye only if the Rams, Saints and Panthers do not win their games. To clinch the top seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs the Eagles need to win and have the Vikings lose to the Bengals. If the Eagles lose to the Giants, they secure nothing more this week.
. . . AND THEN THERE’S PRIDE
Some players might be insulted when asked what the Giants are playing for during these last three meaningless games. Not Landon Collins.
“I love answering that question,” he said.
“We’re playing for this organization for one, the tradition here, and for yourself,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re playing for this game. You love this game, you come out there and play each and every down. This game is not for long so if it’s not for long, then why not give it your best every chance you get? Any given day it could be taken away from you. It can be taken away from you any day.”
Running back Orleans Darkwa said the Giants are playing to win, too.
“We don’t like that feeling of losing, nobody’s gotten numb to it,” he said. “We just have to make sure we can go out there and get a win and what better way to get a win than against the Philadelphia Eagles, you know?”