Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense didn’t keep the New York Giants winless.
It was the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback and a bottom-ranked defense that sent Tom Coughlin and the Giants to a 36-21 defeat Sunday and their worst start since the 1987 strike season when the NFL used replacement players for three games.
Replacing an injured Michael Vick late in the second quarter, Nick Foles led four scoring drives and threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes as Philadelphia (2-3) got back on track after three straight losses.
"Mike was hurt, it was my job to go in there and get a win," said Foles, who completed 16 of 25 for 197 yards, including TD tosses of 25 yards to Brent Celek and 5 yards to DeSean Jackson.
The Eagles defense was just as good. It intercepted Eli Manning three times with the game on the line in the fourth quarter and forced four turnovers, leading to 17 points.
Coupled with Denver’s 51-48 win over Dallas later Sunday, the Eagles are tied for first place in the NFC East with the Cowboys (2-3). Idle Washington (1-3) is a half game behind and the Giants are still only two back.
"It’s huge to get back on the winning side," said cornerback Brandon Boykin, whose diving interception set up Jackson’s score just 2:02 after Celek’s catch gave Philadelphia a 29-21 lead. "We started doing it as a defense in the second half — late in the third quarter and in the fourth. Doing things we weren’t doing before, getting the turnovers, making plays.
The Giants’ 0-5 start is their worst in a non-strike year since 1979 when Ray Perkins took over as coach. This start also comes just two years after New York won the Super Bowl.
"They’re very frustrated, very down," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They’ve worked very hard during the week, built themselves up to a good approach, and then the frustration of not getting the win … they’re doing the best they can. They’re standing up, they’re supporting each other. That’s the way it has to be for a team to continue on."
The Giants won’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves. They play Chicago on Thursday night.
Vick, who ran for a team-high 79 yards and threw for another 105, left the game with a hamstring injury late in the second quarter after a 13-yard scramble. Kelly said after the game that Vick would have returned had Foles been hurt.
"Mike was very effective throughout the game with his runs," said Jackson, who had seven catches for 132 yards. "Teams want to take away certain things, and with Mike it’s taking away the run. It changes the dynamic of the game when he’s not out there. But what you saw with Foles making the good decisions and plays, I was very impressed with what he came in and did. He threw some great balls, made some great plays."
LeSean McCoy added a 1-yard touchdown run and Alex Henery kicked a career-high five field goals for the Eagles, who gained 439 yards in total offense.
David Wilson scored on a 5-yard run for the Giants and Manning threw two touchdowns to Rueben Randle in the third quarter to give New York a 21-19 lead.
Foles and the Eagles’ defense finished off New York in the fourth quarter.
The once mighty Giants’ defense has now given up at least 31 points in each of its first five games, tying an NFL record set by the Chicago Cardinals in 1954.
The difference in this one was Foles. Right after the Giants took the lead on Manning’s 6-yard TD pass to Randle, he led an eight-play, 57 yard drive that ended with Henery’s 41-yard field goal with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles made the plays in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing play after linebacker Mychal Kendricks intercepted a pass by Manning and returned it to the 25, Foles hit Celek, who got away with a push-off on safety Ryan Mundy in the end zone. The scoring pass was set up by Boykin’s pick at the Giants 38.
"I know I can play better," said Manning, who was 24 of 52 for 334 yards. "Sometimes, things are going to go wrong, but you’ve got to make the best decision. Throw it away, take a sack. I know I can’t keep turning the ball over every time."
After being outscored 69-7 in their last two games, the Giants’ offense scored on its opening possession. Wilson capped a 62-yard, five-play drive that featured a 49-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks with a 5-yard run. Wilson injured his neck on the final play of the first quarter and did not return.
It would be the lone highlight of a half that featured drops, penalties and fumble by Brandon Jacobs, who replaced Wilson.
An unnecessary roughness penalty and a questionable decision by Coughlin on a penalty helped the Eagles score on their second possession. Coughlin decided to accept a third-down holding penalty after the Eagles came up 4 yards short at the Giants 47. Vick scrambled for 34 yards on third-and-19 to set up Henery’s 40-yard field goal.
The Eagles eventually took a 19-7 halftime lead, scoring on their final four possessions of the first half, the last coming after Foles took over for Vick.
NOTES: Kendricks’ fumble recovery in the second quarter set up Henery’s 29-yard field goal in the second quarter. … Nicks led the Giants with nine catches for 142 yards…. McCoy’s TD run was his 33rd, moving him into fourth place in franchise history ahead of Randall Cunningham. … Henery’s five field goals tied the second-highest total by an Eagle in a single game, and the most since David Akers had five at Dallas in 2001.