GIANTS ARE DUE FOR PAYBACK
Jerry Reese summed up this one-sided rivalry with a short aside when he spoke to reporters earlier in the week.
“I can’t remember when we beat the Eagles the last time,” the general manager said.
You have to go back to 2013 to find it, a 15-7 win in Philadelphia on Oct. 27. Since then the Eagles have won four straight and dominated the Giants in those games by an average of 15 points per game.
So if the Giants want to make a point that this year is different, that they’re a revamped team, that they will be able to remain in contention for the rest of the season and advance to the playoffs, what better way to do that than by beating the Eagles?
Consider that there are only 10 players on the 53-man roster who have ever beaten the Eagles in a Giants uniform. Odell Beckham Jr. has never beaten the Eagles. Nor has Rashad Jennings. Or Weston Richburg or Devon Kennard or John Jerry.
“They’ve had our number for whatever rhyme or reason,” Jennings said. “We can’t even consider this payback because that’s what they feel they deserve . . . We’re just trying to get what’s ours.”
Coach Ben McAdoo has never beaten the Eagles with the Giants either. Yet he did not lean heavily on the idea of breaking with past trends — the Eagles have won seven of the last nine meetings and 13 of the last 16 which includes a playoff game — and instead focused on the future this week. The immediate future.
“You shouldn’t need extra motivation any week to perform against anyone in this league,” he said. “Every game is important. You only get one a week.”
But given the standings, the history and the rivalry, this one certainly feels like it has a star next to it and could be looked back on from the end of the season as a pivotal moment in the season.
“It’s one of the most intense games of the year, I feel like,” Richburg said. “It’s a division game and there’s lots at stake. We want to win and they want to win. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
“Hopefully we have a big game,” Beckham said. “We definitely need this win.”
Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin started every week by briefing the Giants’ players on the standings in the NFC East. It was a way of making them aware of where they were and, more often than not, where they needed to be.
McAdoo does no such thing. His focus, he’s said, is not on any other team but the Giants.
“Farm our own land,” he said.
The players seem to be responding to that, even if it means they aren’t exactly sure what other farmers are doing.
“Everyone in the division has a winning record, I know that, and we’re obviously in last place,” guard Justin Pugh said this week.
Don’t sell yourself short, Justin! The Giants might have headed into their bye week in last place, but after Washington tied and Philadelphia lost on Sunday, the Giants jumped into second place, two games behind the Cowboys.
“Oh, we are in second?” Pugh said, startled by the revelation. “See, I guess I don’t pay attention.”
The Giants are hoping that kind of ignorance turns into bliss. At least, though, there is a general awareness of records in the NFC East and there is certainly a palpable sense that Sunday’s game against the Eagles is a significant one.
“I think we understand that we’re not out of this thing,” center Weston Richburg said. “We’re in a good position right now to make some moves. Coming out of the bye, a division game is huge. I think everyone here understands that.”
”Everything is right in front of us,” Rashad Jennings said. “There’s a lot of football to be played in a short period of time and there’s excitement, but we’re not looking too far ahead.”
And even Pugh, who was unaware of the actual standings, understands that the important thing is to keep winning and not worry about anyone else.
“We know what we have to do,” Pugh said. “We have to handle our business at home in the division and it starts with this one right now.”
IS PERKINS A HAT BACK?
Paul Perkins will wear a football helmet in the game on Sunday, but the Giants would like to see the rookie running back in a different kind of headgear, eventually.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said any every-down running back for the Giants must wear “the big sombrero” when it comes to protecting the quarterback. “If a guy can’t do that and he can do the other things, that’s going to limit the opportunities.”
The good news for Perkins is that he seems ready for the crown. He’s never had more than five touches in any single game, but it seems as if that will increase in the second half of the season. He likely won’t completely usurp Rashad Jennings as the starter, but expect Perkins to be a lot more involved.
“He’s certainly someone that we’re excited about moving forward,” Sullivan said. “He’s shown some progress and some versatility in being able to run it, catch it, and, a primary for us, to protect the quarterback.”
LINE IN THE SAND
The Giants’ offensive line has handled a lot of individual challenges this season, most recently making Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald a non-factor in the team’s 17-10 win in London Oct. 23. But this week could be their toughest combined assignment. The Eagles have a deep defensive line that can create a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“They’re loaded up front in the d-line,” McAdoo said. “Inside, they’re physical guys that can play and have athleticism. They’re deep at all four spots. They’ll rotate. It’s like line-switching in hockey. They’ll play one line and then rotate out with a completely new, fresh defensive line. And those guys are just as good.”
The Eagles typically play with their defensive ends set wide, funneling the offense toward the middle. That allows players in the middle — Fletcher Cox in particular — to create havoc with penetration.
“It’s just a different look,” Richburg said. “It’s our job to come out, be physical, and negate the things that they like to do. Keep them from getting in a rhythm.”
“They all have some tricks of the trade,” McAdoo said. “They play with some width and get up the field. They have speed to power. We have our work cut out for us.”
Odell Beckham Jr. turned 24 years old on Saturday, and it had him excited about today’s game against the Eagles. “It’s perfect timing,” he said. “Right around my birthday time. Pretty much on the birthday. I always tend to rise to the occasion around my birthday time.”
While it’s true that Beckham’s production typically increases in the second half of his NFL seasons — and that dividing line is right around his birthday — he’s never scored a touchdown in the game immediately after his birthday with either the Giants or at LSU in college.
How Beckham has performed each year in the game after he blew out his candles:
Yr. ResultRec. Yds. TD
2011 Wat Alabama 2 160
2012 W vs. Mississippi St. 4 50
2013 L at Alabama3 420
2014L vs. Seattle 7 100 0
2015 W at Tampa Bay 91050
ROOKS IN CHARGE
Sunday will be the seventh time that the Giants and Eagles will face each other in a regular-season game while both teams have a first-time NFL head coach. The Giants won the first two such matchups but have lost the last five. Here’s a look at the rookie matchups and the results:
Allie Sherman (NYG) vs. Nick Scorich (Phi)
Alex Webster (NYG) vs. Jerry Williams (Phi)
John McVay (NYG) vs. Dick Vermeil (Phi)
Ray Handley (NYG) vs. Rich Kotite (Phi)
5: Career touchdowns Victor Cruz has scored against the Eagles, the most against any opponent and 20 percent of his overall total of 25. In seven games against the Eagles, Cruz has 36 catches for 549 yards, both the most against any opponent for him.
47: Forced fumbles by the Eagles since 2014, the most in the NFL and a scary number for the turnover-prone Giants. This year the Eagles have forced eight fumbles and recovered seven of them, tied for second-most in the NFL.