EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles are finally starting to play like a defending Super Bowl champion.
It took six games, but they sent a clear message to the rest of the NFL that they are going to make another run, if their game against the New York Giants on Thursday night was a sign of things to come.
The Eagles (3-3) played fast, Carson Wentz spread the ball around and the defense — particularly the front four — made life miserable for Eli Manning and the Giants in a 34-13 win that enabled Philadelphia to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2016.
“All season long we have been close, we just were not sustaining it,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who caught one of Wentz’s season-high three touchdown passes. “Hopefully this win sparks us for the rest of the year. Obviously, we are going to look at film and learn how we could be better even, but this is something that we hope we can build some momentum on.”
The 34 points were a season high for the Eagles, who beat the Giants for the fourth straight time.
“It’s a big win for us,” said Wentz, who threw for 278 yards and hit Alshon Jeffery on his other two TD tosses. “NFC East and the conference. It’s huge. Being 3-3 is better than 2-4. This is more like who we are. We can build from this.”
The win put the Eagles into a first place tie with Washington (2-2) in the NFC East with Dallas (2-3) a half game back. The Giants (1-5) are fading fast.
“Obviously not where we want to be,” said Manning, who was sacked four times and hit 13 other times. “I’m not happy about it. I am frustrated like everyone. Obviously, all you can do is worry about the next game.”
The pressure was the key for the Eagles. It allowed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to sit back with his linebackers and secondary and kept receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard from making big plays for New York. They were invisible most of the game.
“We want to get after the passer every week,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “These games are battles. It all comes down to which team gets after the passer. We hit Eli and put him on the ground. That was big.”
So was winning.
Five things were learned from the game:
SAQUON BARKLEY: The Giants rookie halfback is carrying the team. The second pick in the draft ran for 130 yards on 13 carries, scoring on a 50-yard run. He caught nine passes for 99, including a tackle-breaking 55-yarder that set up a field goal. That’s 229 yards from scrimmage. He has gained at least 100 in all six games, one off the NFL rookie record set by Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt last year.
“Saquon is a beast,” said Eagles halfback Corey Clement, who scored on a 1-yard run. “It’s hard not to say it. if I was saying anything otherwise, I’d be a hater.”
QUICK START HELPS: The Eagles got big contributions early. An interception by Kamu Grugier-Hill on the opening series set up Wentz’s first touchdown to Jeffery. A 23-yard punt return by DeAndre Carter paved the way for Clement’s score. Coming into the game, Philadelphia had scored seven points in the first quarter. They got 14 against New York.
MORE ODELL CONTROVERSY: Beckham was frustrated. At one point, he head butted a cooling fan on the Giants’ sideline. He also left the field one play before halftime with New York lining up for a Hail Mary. Coach Pat Shurmur said he was going to get an IV.
“I was just trying to get myself fired up,” Beckham said.
INJURIES: The Eagles’ biggest concern has to be left tackle Jason Peters. He left the game with a biceps injury. Backup cornerback Sidney Jones left in the first half with a hamstring injury. The Giants had LB Ray Ray Amstrong (concussion), WR Cody Latimer (hamstring) and CB Antonio Hamilton (illness) leave the game.
THE DIFFERENCE: Wentz had an idea what changed for the Eagles
“I think more than anything we just stayed ahead of the chains,” he said. “I think we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. And really offensively and defensively we just fed off each other. I think that’s something we do so well when we get that rolling and so tonight it was good to get it going.”