National Football League
Eagles earn much-needed win, but it's not enough to calm their nerves
National Football League

Eagles earn much-needed win, but it's not enough to calm their nerves

Published Dec. 26, 2023 11:23 a.m. ET

Maybe something like this is all it will take. Maybe an ugly win over a bad team really is exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles so desperately needed. Maybe a narrow escape will be just enough to get them back on their track.

"I know we're stressing people out at home, but man we needed it bad," defensive tackle Jordan Davis said on Monday. "I can't emphasize enough how much we needed that W."

There is no doubt how badly the Eagles needed their 33-25 win over the New York Giants after three straight soul-crushing losses. They're back in first place in the NFC East now. They still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the conference. It's all good.

So how come the Eagles still feel so bad?


That's what this team continues to wrestle with as they head into the final two weeks of the season. They are 11-4 and might still be the NFC's best bet to reach the Super Bowl. But they played a sloppy game filled with the kind of mistakes they never used to make, barely hanging on to beat a bad Giants team that benched its quarterback at halftime.

They looked like the same flawed team they've looked like for most of the last month. The only difference was that this time they got away with it and won.

"We're not playing good football right now," said Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith. "As an offense, we're not where we want to be. I'm not satisfied. Yeah, we got 11 wins. I'm not happy. It needs to be better for what everybody else in here wants to do, what we want to be. We're nowhere near that."

Added left tackle Jordan Mailata: "We have high standards and it's hard when you know that there's so many opportunities that you know were left out there. A win is always going to be a win, but it's not going to feel great."

Jalen Hurts, Eagles hold off Tyrod Taylor, Giants

To be fair to the Eagles, there was plenty the Eagles could have been happy about on Monday. They had their best offensive day since Week 3, rolling the Giants defense for 465 yards — including an impressive 170 yards on the ground. Jalen Hurts looked like himself again too, for the first time in three weeks, completing 24 of 38 passes for 301 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

But, with the Eagles this season, there's always a "but." Like how they were up 17-3 late in the first half, seemingly cruising to victory, and threatening to add another touchdown before their last drive went awry. Nick Sirianni wasted 15 seconds trying to decide whether to use a timeout in the final minute. Then Hurts stunningly failed to get out of bounds at the Giants 6 with four seconds remaining, which nearly blew the field goal try, too.

They got that, thanks to a questionable delay of game penalty on the Giants, but even their 20-3 halftime lead wasn't safe. On the opening kickoff of the second half, returner Boston Scott collided with receiver Olamide Zaccheus and fumbled the ball away, gifting the Giants a touchdown. The Giants got another when tight end Dallas Goedert slipped, allowing cornerback Adoree' Jackson to catch Hurts' 13th interception of the season and return it 76 yards, making it a 20-18 game.

And even after the Eagles answered that and held a two-score lead again, 30-18, with 5:32 remaining, they allowed a 69-yard touchdown pass from Giants backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Darius Slayton — a big play from an offensively challenged team that hasn't had a play that big all year long.

A mismanaged drive, an unexpected collision on a kickoff return, a receiver slipping on the grass — those may all seem like fluky things. But they're the kind of things that feel like they've been happening to the Eagles all year. And try as they might, they can't get those flukes and those uncharacteristic mistakes and meltdowns to stop.

"You hope you're getting close at this point," Sirianni said. "We know we have better football in us. To be 11-4 and still have better football left in you, that's encouraging. But let's go. We have to get there."

'Just need to keep building' - Jalen Hurts after Eagles' win on Christmas

Smith added: "I'm never going to doubt that we're going to be able to fix it. But we're running out of time."

They sound so much like a team in crisis. But again, they did hold on to win. They couldn't run out the clock like they wanted to do when they got the ball back with 5:22 remaining, but they did leave only 1:10 after Jake Elliott's 43-yard field goal made it an 8-point game. And sure, maybe Taylor was able to march the Giants right down the field again, all the way to the Eagles 26-yard line. But when his last pass was picked off in the end zone by rookie corner Kelee Ringo, Christmas in Philly was saved.

The fact that they won is still important. Maybe it's the infield single they needed to knock them out of their slump. After all, as Hurts asked after the game, "When did winning not become the main thing?"

"It's like a double-edged sword of what's more important, winning or the standard?" Hurts added. "It's a very manipulative thing to the mind sometimes. I can play to the standard and lose and be sick. I can go win and not play to the standard and be like, ‘We have more work to do.' It's that fight we balance as competitors."

It's that fight that the Eagles have also been losing. For most of the season they were winning, but not playing as well as they know they can play. And for three weeks, that cost them dearly. That's why this win was so important, so necessary, even if it didn't leave the Eagles feeling any better about themselves.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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