Foles shines as Eagles wrap up playoff bye
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nick Foles made sure the Eagles will get some time off after the holidays.
The Philadelphia quarterback threw four touchdown passes Sunday as the Eagles held off the New York Giants 34-29 at MetLife Stadium to clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
Foles, who was 24 of 38 for 237, took over as the starting quarterback after the Eagles lost Carson Wentz last week to a season-ending knee injury.
Making his first start since Nov. 6, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Foles said he had a little bit of rust at first but that as the game went on, things started to flow.
“There are definitely some things when I’ll go back and watch, I can clean up, but I think the big thing was to keep playing and if something does go wrong — maybe you miss a throw or the decision wasn’t what I wanted it — I can absolutely get better,” he said.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning finished 37 of 57 for 434 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception.
Manning also tried to lead his team from behind on its second-to-last drive of the game by going for it on fourth-and-goal at the Philadelphia 6-yard line, but a false start called against right tackle Bobby Hart pushed the Giants back 5 yards.
On the subsequent play from 11 yards out, a pass attempt to Evan Engram fell incomplete as Eagles safety Corey Graham appeared to make contact with the tight end in the end zone.
“It’s tough,” Manning said. “I had (Engram) on a corner route. (Graham) was playing outside leverage, so I tried to back-shoulder it and give (Engram) a chance in the end zone. There was some contact, (but) I don’t know if it was worth a call or not. I just tried to put it up high and have a chance to make a play, but obviously we didn’t.”
The Giants, who scored more than 20 points in a game for the first time since Nov. 12, produced touchdowns on their first three drives of the game. The scores came on a 1-yard run by Orleans Darkwa, a 13-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Tavarres King and a 67-yard catch by wide receiver Sterling Shepard from Manning.
Aldrick Rosas’ extra-point attempt on the Giants’ opening-drive touchdown was blocked by Eagles rookie defensive end Derek Barnett, in what was the first of three major miscues by the New York special teams, the others including a blocked punt and blocked 48-yard field goal.
Those miscues resulted in a 12-point swing in favor of the NFC East champion Eagles (12-2).
“Special teams protection obviously got us in trouble,” said Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo when asked what happened.
“I didn’t get to (special teams coordinator) Tom (Quinn), so I don’t know exactly where it happened. I know that the one field goal was on our right side, but we gotta get it taken care of. When we see the film, we’ll have a better idea if it was steps or we didn’t punch here or punch there, but this time of year, we need to have that all sorted out.”
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wouldn’t say if his team saw something in the Giants special teams protection on tape, but he did credit special teams coordinator Dave Fipp with doing his homework and coming up with a plan that in the end was a large part of the difference.
“Fipp studies the protections and had a couple different wrinkles in there,” Pederson said. “Fipp does a good job of understanding protection and assigning some rushes.”
The Eagles got on the board with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Foles to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the first quarter.
Philadelphia went on a scoring tear with 14 unanswered points in the second quarter thanks to a pair of touchdown passes to their tight ends following two Giants miscues that led to the Eagles’ scoring drives from the red zone.
The first, a 10-yard pass from Foles to Zach Ertz, was set up after Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby picked off Manning’s pass intended for wide receiver Roger Lewis and returned it 37 yards to give his offense the ball on the New York 20-yard line.
The second, a 13-yard catch by Trey Burton from Foles, came after the Eagles’ Kamu Grugier-Hill blocked Brad Wing’s punt deep in Giants’ territory. That touchdown put Philadelphia in front 21-20.
Rosas gave the Giants a 23-21 lead at the half on his 28-yard field goal, but the Eagles took it back with 10 unanswered third-quarter points, Jake Elliott’s 28-yard field goal and wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s 10-yard touchdown catch.
The Giants (2-12) took advantage of an Eagles neutral-zone infraction that gave them a fresh set of downs, which allowed Manning to eventually connect with King on a 57-yard touchdown reception. The two-point attempt failed.
The Giants also couldn’t convert on a 48-yard Rosas field-goal attempt that was blocked by Malcolm Jenkins, which left the score 31-29 until Elliot’s 20-yard field goal increased the Eagles’ lead to 34-29.
NOTES: The Eagles have won four of their past five road games against the Giants and have swept the season series against their NFC East foes in three of the last four seasons. ... Giants QB Eli Manning set a career high for passing yards in the first half of a game (252). ... New York S Landon Collins was ruled out due to an ankle injury he sustained midway through the second quarter. ... Giants LB B.J. Goodson aggravated an ankle injury in the third quarter. ... Giants WR Tavarres King sustained a concussion on his 57-yard touchdown reception. ... Eagles CB Patrick Robinson sustained a head injury and was being evaluated for a concussion. He didn’t return. ... Eagles TE Trey Burton had to come out of the game in the fourth quarter due to cramping. ... The Eagles will host the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 25. The Giants will visit the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.