The Giants-Eagles rivalry is as intriguing and bitter as any in the NFL, but you won’t hear any of the Giants fanning the flames.
Despite being perilously close to having its dream season dashed at the hands of the Giants (6-3), who no doubt are itching to turn the tables on their hated rivals south on Interstate 95, the Eagles (3-6) won’t be able to use any bulletin board material to fuel them.
The last time they met at MetLife Stadium, Dec. 19, 2010, it was the Eagles who ultimately knocked the Giants out of the playoffs following DeSean Jackson’s walkoff punt return for a touchdown. So, now it’s the Giants’ turn to hopefully do the same. Just don’t expect anyone on Big Blue to publicly enjoy the chance to theoretically end Philadelphia’s playoff chances.
“We can’t look at it like that,” said wideout Hakeem Nicks when asked if he’s enjoying the fact that this could be the Eagles’ death knell. “We have to look at it like this is a hungry team coming out here. It’s a rivalry game. We know they’re going to come out there ready to play and take everything away from us as well.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin took it a step further in playing nice over the airwaves by actually stating that the Eagles are a better team than the one they faced back in September.
“I just think they are better. If you just look at last week’s game, they had every opportunity and they were in position to win,” said Coughlin. “They have their issues with the turnovers, [but] they have scored on defense two weeks in a row. They scored more than one touchdown [and] scored a touchdown and a field goal off two interceptions. I just think they are improved since the first time we saw them.”
Coughlin said both teams may be 180 degrees in opposite directions of fourth-quarter excellence, but it’s the Eagles’ middle quarters that alarm him.
“Their second-quarter is huge in the other way,” Coughlin said in relation to Philadelphia’s fourth quarter woes. “They have 93 points scored in the second quarter. Their distribution of points is such that you can focus very much on the fourth, but a lot of people are forgetting about what they’re doing in the second quarter.”
The Giants are hoping they can jump on the Eagles early to avoid what happened the first time they met when Big Blue needed some fourth-quarter magic to win. The two late touchdowns to seal the road win was the start of five comeback victories engineered by Manning, who said he’s aware they’ll be facing a team with its back against the wall.
“Whenever you play Philadelphia you know you are playing a talented team that plays physical football,” Manning said. “They have lost a few games, but they have been in them until the end [and] been right there [with] a lot of games decided by two points or three points … They are going to come in excited and playing hard. We have to match that intensity.”
Such intensity — and desperation — is what makes the Eagles so dangerous, according to guard Chris Snee.
“We are worried about just getting back in the win column, to take the season series from them and win another NFC East game,” Snee said. “We know it is not going to be easy; it wasn’t easy when we went down there. I know they have lost a lot of fourth quarter leads this year, but that is a talented group [and] they are going to come up here and give their best shot [and] they will get ours. … It will come down to the fourth quarter.”
Big Blue notes
»There are other backdrops to this rivalry that will surely be topics of interests, such as the Steve Smith defection and the Osi Umenyiora-LeSean McCoy summer war of words. During Umenyiora’s contract squabble, McCoy took it upon himself to throw verbal jabs at Umenyiora calling him “overrated.” Umenyiora fired back by calling McCoy a “little girl” and “Lady Gaga.” Although they’ve since played each other, there are no doubt suppressed hard feelings. McCoy ran for 128 yards in the first meeting and that certainly left a bad taste in Umenyiora’s mouth.
“Oh, he said all kinds of stuff,” Umenyiora said of past meetings. “It was pretty intense between me and him. I said a couple of things to him. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was rough.”
Coughlin wouldn’t go anywhere near that rivalry and only had nice things to say about McCoy: “He’s about as elusive as they come. Lots of times [the defenders] are not all blocked and he still makes things happen. He’s very difficult to tackle. He’s fast. He’s very quick. He runs within their scheme extremely well. He can pick a spot on one side of the formation and end up on the other side, outside. He’s a very, very skilled and dangerous running back. … For them to be rushing at 171 [yards] a game, given the talent that they have and what they’ve done with the throwing game over the years, that’s a great tribute to that guy and the coaching staff. They put [the game plan] in his hands.”
»Mathias Kiwanuka had to chuckle at the absurdity that was the “Dream Team” moniker: “That’s why you don’t label a team that early in the season. There are so many things that could happen. They could still come back and have a strong finish towards the end, but as of right now I think people are looking at them kind of sideways for saying that. But regardless of what they call themselves, we’re going to have to just go out there and be prepared to fight.”
»Missing Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) will hurt on so many levels. But perhaps the biggest is the passing game and slowing down aggressive defenses like the Eagles. Bradshaw is the recipient of 66.7 percent of the Giants’ screen-pass targets, which is the highest figure in the NFL this year. Before his injury, he was having his best year yet as a receiver, averaging 7.8 yards per target and 9.0 yards after the catch on 3.4 catches per game. He was especially deadly in the first game the Giants played against the Eagles this year. Bradshaw and the Giants used a screen-heavy game plan in the Week 3 win against the Eagles to challenge Philadelphia’s linebackers and counteract their aggressive defensive line. Manning was 4-of-4 for 27 yards and a touchdown on screen passes to Bradshaw against the Eagles. The Eagles defense has shown a susceptibility to screen passes this season, as they’ve allowed 7.7 yards per attempt on screen passes (seventh-worst in NFL).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.