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Super Bowl LII: Eagles can thank Giants for jump-starting season

Jake Elliott of the Eagles gets a lift

Jake Elliott of the Eagles gets a lift from teammates Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill (54) after kicking game-winning field goal in 27-24 victory over Giants on Sept. 24, 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Giants may be sick over seeing their NFC East rivals in Super Bowl LII this week, but in a way it’s their own darn fault. They had a chance to stop this, to squash the Eagles’ rise from afterthought to championship contender, way back in Week 3 of the 2017 season.

They couldn’t do it. They lost on a last-second 61-yard field goal, 27-24. That game sent their season spiraling toward the 3-13 embarrassment it became, but in Philadelphia it is remembered as the moment that set the Eagles on their path to this point and first allowed them to believe they could reach it.

“That was a huge win for our football team,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday. “We made a big throw and catch at the end of that game in regulation to set that field goal up and that just sort of ignited ‘finish.’ As coaches we’re always talking about ‘finish,’ and we’ve been able to do that all season. Kind of find a way.”

At the risk of disgusting Giants fans, let’s revisit how that game ended.

The Giants scored 24 fourth-quarter points to take a 24-21 lead with 3:08 remaining. With 51 seconds left in regulation Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott kicked a 46-yard field goal to tie it. The game seemed destined for overtime but the Giants collapsed. They incurred a pair of penalties and shanked a punt to give the ball back to the Eagles at their 38 with 13 seconds left. Overtime remained the most reasonable option.

Then Carson Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery on a 19-yard pass along the sideline between cornerbacks Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins. Jeffery stepped out of bounds at the Giants’ 43 with 1 second left. That was enough time for Elliott to trot out and kick the 61-yard dagger. The Giants fell to 0-3. The Eagles, who were coming off a tough loss to the Chiefs in Week 2, improved to 2-1 and won their next eight in a row.

“We probably don’t win those [types of] games a year ago when we were 7-9,” Pederson said. “That was a game that honestly got us going a little bit. We went on a nice run after that. Just credit the guys for learning from the year before and overcoming some of those obstacles.”

It also cemented faith in a few young players: Wentz and Elliott.

“It was a big momentum change in our season,” Elliott said. “And a big kick for me, too. A big confidence booster . . . You’ve heard some guys talking in the locker room along the way saying how it could have been a momentum-changer and the point when we realized this could be a special team.”

“He came out of nowhere and nailed that kick,” cornerback Jalen Mills said of Elliott’s game-winner. “Now when he goes out there and kicks a field goal everybody is like: ‘He’s gonna make it.’ We don’t even worry about it.”

There are other lessons that the Eagles took from their games against the Giants this season and are likely to employ on Sunday, too. Eli Manning threw for a combined 800 yards and six touchdowns in those two meetings. Lessons from those games facing a cerebral, veteran pocket passer should come in handy against Tom Brady.

But the real Butterfly Effect stems from that Sept. 25 game at Lincoln Financial Field.

“That game right there took everybody,” Mills said. “It took offense, defense and special teams . . . You go into a game like that against a quality opponent and you win by the field goal that we did, it was kind of a turning point.”

New York Sports