Sports

Giants’ Surprising Season Ends With a Dominant Eagles Win

PHILADELPHIA — About 45 minutes before kickoff of a divisional-round playoff game that would have seemed impossible for the Giants in August, Coach Brian Daboll and General Manager Joe Schoen met on the sideline. The team’s co-owner, John Mara, soon joined.

Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch hired Daboll and Schoen last January. In their first year, instead of muddling through a rebuild, the Giants won nine games in the regular season and their first playoff game since their Super Bowl victory after the 2011 season.

The Cinderella story of sorts ended Saturday night when the Giants lost to the top-seeded Eagles, 38-7,on a chilly evening in Philadelphia. The Eagles, one of the league’s heavyweights all season, sent the Giants to the off-season with big decisions to make regarding their key players and top assistant coaches.

The Giants slipped into a 14-0 hole in the first quarter, behind a sloppy offensive performance and an explosive start by the Eagles. Philadelphia scored touchdowns on its first two series, the second coming on a drive that began at midfield when linebacker Haason Reddick sacked Daniel Jones on fourth down.

In his first year as a head coach, Brian Daboll took the Giants further than even the general manager expected.Credit…Desiree Rios/The New York Times

Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, who was released by the Giants last May, intercepted Jones on the next drive. By the time Eagles running back Boston Scott plunged into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown, widening the gap to 21-0 with about seven minutes remaining in the half, the Giants’ sideline looked somber. The game was never in doubt, and aside from an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Matt Breida and a few splash moments from running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants showed no resistance.

Still, it was a surprise for the Giants even to reach this point. In an interview in August during training camp at the team’s red brick-ladened facility in New Jersey, Schoen listed few bombastic goals for his team, which had endured five consecutive losing seasons and had not reached the playoffs since 2016. Schoen and the front office inherited a difficult salary-cap situation, which prevented them from adding free agents or trading for star players.

“I just want to see progress,” Schoen said. “I just want to see the team getting better, the execution getting better and not beating ourselves and being competitive in all the games. There’s not a lot that we can do financially, so we’re not able to do a lot of big moves to upgrade what we have. But the guys getting better, competing and playing together as one, hopefully that will catapult us going forward as we set the foundation and the culture.”

The Giants certainly showed progression. They won nine games — they had won 10 in the previous two seasons combined — and their most important players shined. Barkley, who had been plagued by injuries since his rookie year in 2018, revived his career, finishing fourth in the league in rushing yards (1,312). Jones played more efficiently and whittled his turnovers, and he seemed to thrive under Daboll, who as offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills helped develop Josh Allen into an elite quarterback.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts ran for a touchdown and passed for two more.Credit…Desiree Rios/The New York Times

But on Saturday, the supporting cast struggled. Barkley rushed for 61 yards and Jones took five sacks as the offensive line crumbled. Jones threw for just 135 yards as the receivers failed to create space against Philadelphia’s secondary and dropped passes.

The Giants, whose roster all year had holes, by contrast faced a team shrewdly constructed by Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager. Through veteran additions such as Reddick, Bradberry, receiver A.J. Brown and cornerback Darius Slay, along with draftees in quarterback Jalen Hurts and receiver DeVonta Smith, Roseman over the past three seasons has complied enough talent to make the Eagles a Super Bowl contender.

Hurts, the third-year quarterback who passed for 154 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, has blossomed into one of the league’s best young throwers. The Eagles’ rushing attack, led by Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders, compiled over 200 yards and three touchdowns. The defense allowed just 227 total yards of offense.

In the regular season, the Eagles burst out to an 8-0 start and won six of their remaining nine games, including two against the Giants. The netted a league-high eight Pro Bowl selections. They will host the winner of the divisional-round game on Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys for the N.F.C. championship.

Both Jones and Barkley are set to enter free agency in the spring unless they are signed to long-term contracts, and Daboll’s top assistants, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Don Martindale, have drawn interest for head coaching jobs across the league. With a projected $54 million in cap space and a year of experience implementing their system and culture, Daboll and Schoen are poised to employ an improved roster in 2023. But they face key decisions through the spring and summer that will determine if the team will still be viewed with a Cinderella narrative or as an actual contender.

Eagles fans had plenty to celebrate on Saturday.Credit…Desiree Rios/The New York Times

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button