Eagles begin life without Wentz vs. Giants
It was the kick heard ’round the NFL, a 61-yard field goal made by Jake Elliott as time expired that gave the Philadelphia Eagles a 27-24 win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
It was also a kick that improved the NFC’s top-seeded Eagles’ record to 2-1 at the time and launched a nine-game winning streak while also helping to send their long-time division rivals into the pit of despair with their third of five straight losses to open the 2017 campaign.
Two teams, two very different fates.
The Eagles, who visit the Giants on Sunday to wrap up the season series currently hold an 11-2 record, tops in the NFC and tied for the best in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Giants, meanwhile, have the opposite record, 2-11 in a season that has been filled with more disarray than points and which led to the rare in-season firings of head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. New York currently owns the second-worst record in the NFL, topped by only the winless Cleveland Browns.
“Well, yeah,” said Giants running back Orleans Darkwa when asked if that game-winning 61-yard kick made by Elliott set the tone for each team’s season. “Obviously, it hasn’t been the season that we hoped for, but you don’t want to look back. At the end of the season, we’ll reflect on all that, but right now we’re focused on Philly this week and getting a win.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely two different paths since then,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think obviously now with (New York interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo) leading the team, I think guys are going to respond, they’re going to rally, which they should.”
Philadelphia will have to rally the rest of the way without starting quarterback Carson Wentz, whom they lost to a season-ending torn ACL last week.
“It’s crazy,” Giants safety Landon Collins said when asked how much the Eagles offense is likely to change without Wentz running it.
Instead of Wentz, the Eagles will start Nick Foles under center. With that change, however, Spagnuolo isn’t expecting the Eagles offensive attack to change that much.
“I don’t think it’s going to change all that much for us because you’ve got to stop that run game,” he said. “It really didn’t matter who was handing it off. Now, I think Foles throws a really good football — that throw he made against the Rams to kind of clinch it, that was perfect.
“He obviously does a really good job getting ready to play a football game because they didn’t skip a beat when he went in there. Didn’t look like they limited with any checks or anything, so they’ve done a good job down there coaching them and he’s obviously a pro at what he does.”
If Foles has any kind of advantage in getting ready for this week, it’s Pederson, who back in the day was a backup quarterback for numerous teams including the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers.
“I can remember my days in Green Bay and you’re in the meeting rooms with the starter,” Pederson said. “You’re watching the same film as the starter. You’re preparing the same way. You’re getting yourself ready just like the starter would and you’re in your quarterback meetings with your position coach and diving into the game plan and then the film study.
“The film study on your own. Time with the other guys and just preparing and you never know when your opportunity is going to come, and you’ve just got to be prepared.”
Pederson’s biggest challenge is to keep the players’ focus on the grand prize at the end of the road, even if they must get there without Wentz.
“Part of my messaging to the team is just that is that one man, one man can definitely make a difference on your football team, but the fact is we’re still a team and as a group of men, we’re playing well as a team and that’s what we can’t lose sight of,” he said.