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Giants-Eagles, Week 18: 5 pleasant plays to end a miserable season

A last look at victory over Philadelphia

Syndication: The Record Kevin R. Wexler / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants ended their rough 2023 campaign with a home upset victory over a bitter rival. New York rolled over the Philadelphia Eagles, and embarrassed the playoff-bound squad, 27-10. Philadelphia benched itskey starters at the end of the first half when the Giants had a 24-0 lead.

The Eagles hamstrings must be sore because they are feebly backpedaling into the playoffs - but at least they’re going to the playoffs. Philadelphia has lost five of its last six games; the Eagles only win was against the Giants on Christmas night.

The 6-11 Giants displayed resilience in their commanding victory. Wink Martindale sent the house and the yard after Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts, while Tyrod Taylor continued to attack the opposing defense downfield. Taylor finished with 297 passing yards, a touchdown, one interception, and four explosive plays (20+ yards) with his arm.

Tommy DeVito made multiple appearances in the game, as Taylor was banged up, but the veteran quarterback finished the game. This game is almost certainly the last game for Sterling Shepard -- the longest-tenured Giant. Shepard finished with three catches for 18 yards; those three catches allowed him to pass tight end Jeremy Shockey on the all-time Giants’ reception list. Shepard now ranks fifth.

The future of running back Saquon Barkley and Xavier McKinney are also undetermined. Both players enter free agency, and both had fantastic games against the Eagles. Barkley finished with two rushing touchdowns and a long 46 yard reception that set up Darius Slayton’s 19 yard touchdown catch.

McKinney had two interceptions in the final three minutes of the first half. He also added a valuable pass batted down. I eagerly look forward to the offseason to see what happens with both players. Adoree’ Jackson may have also played his final game as a Giant.

The victory had slight consequence on the Giants’ draft position. If New York lost, they would have finished with the fifth pick in the draft, rather than the sixth, where they sit now behind the Los Angeles Chargers.

Honestly, for me, it feels great to beat the Eagles in a game that could have been consequential if Washington found a way to defeat Dallas. New York was 2-15 in the last 17 games against the Eagles. Dating back to 2008, the Giants are 7-26 - that’s NOT GOOD!

Some of the losses are nauseating, too. This season was bleak, full of disappointments, mistakes, and questions about the future of this franchise. At least the Giants finished on strongly for their coaching staff, and embarrassed the Eagles for the first time in a long time.

Here are five plays, or sequences of plays, that led to the Giants victory.

Play(s) 1: Turnover season

The Giants defense has been a force this season creating turnovers for an offense that ranked 30th in scoring. New York finished +12 in turnover differential this season, tied with the Baltimore Ravens for best in the NFL; last year, the Giants finished +3. New York forced four turnovers against the Eagles. Here are two from impending free agent - and 24-year-old stud - Xavier McKinney:

McKinney (29) is headed toward the middle of the field on his dropback; right before he gets off the screen, we see him notice Jalen Hurts’ (1) stare down the one-on-one matchup at the top of the screen. Hurts telegraphed his intentions, and McKinney was savvy enough to flip his hips and get to the football with excellent hands, concentration, and spatial awareness along the sideline to secure the interception.

Four plays after his first interception, McKinney jumps this screen by quickly deciphering the blocks and understanding the concept to intercept this first-and-10 throw by Marcus Mariota (8). It was Mariota’s first pass of the game. So, two consecutive Eagles’ passes, from two different quarterbacks, were intercepted by McKinney. Unfortunately, on the next play, Tyrod Taylor would throw an interception in the end zone when targeting Sterling Shepard, up 24-0.

This was the first turnover of the game. Nick McCloud (44) punched the football out of the grasp of A.J. Brown (11), who hurt his knee on the play. Brown did an elite job defeating the jam and presenting his chest to Hurts, but the recovery of McCloud allowed him to punch the football free; just a very resilient play.

Jihad Ward (55) hit a spin move late in the fourth quarter and reached his paw out to knock the football out of the hands of Mariota. It was Ward’s fifth sack of the season, a career high, which qualified the veteran for a $250,000 incentive. Good for Haddy.

Play(s) 2: Slayton touchdown drive

Up 17-0, the Giants were looking for the kill-shot. New York’s defense forced two consecutive three-and-out drives. In just over a minute of play, the Giants drove 73 yards down the field on four plays for a score. The play to set up Slayton’s touchdown was the 46-yard catch by Saquon Barkley:

Reduced mirrored stacks with Saquon Barkley (26) in motion, which frantically prompted the Eagles to push coverage outside to Barkley, who gained plenty of leverage to the outside at the snap. Barkley wheeled into space, and Taylor delivered a beautiful pass with touch to set the Giants up at the 19-yard line:

The Eagles defense is rife with miscommunications and poor coverage. The Giants were able to exploit that throughout the game. Philadelphia did not account for Slayton’s whip-under Isaiah Hodgins’ (18) dig. Slayton had plenty of time to catch the ball and run it in for his fourth touchdown of the season.

Play(s) 3: SAIL - Wan’Dale Robinson - SAIL

The Giants run the SAIL concept with Robinson running the corner, Slayton as the clearout, and the flat route was Daniel Bellinger (82) off the chip-and-release. Great play design, pocket maneuvering, throw, and catch by the Giants to set up this touchdown run by Saquon Barkley; it was his first rushing touchdown of two in the game:

This rushing touchdown by Barkley finished a nine-play, 47-yard drive by the Giants, and gave the team a 10-0 lead.

Play(s) 4: Second touchdown

One drive later, the Giants scored their second touchdown after a six-play, 55-yard drive. This beautiful throw to Darren Waller on second-and-11 was the most significant play on the drive:

Waller does an elite job high-pointing this football and securing the contested catch to set up this 19-yard catch and run by Wan’Dale Robinson:

On the next play, Saquon Barkley scored his second touchdown. This was an explosive trio of plays - one being a short touchdown - that Giants’ fans have craved to see all season:

Love the quick adjustment to get Barkley to the boundary for the option. This was a good game for the Giants’ offensive coaching staff, albeit against a struggling playoff defense.

Play 5: Under pressure

This play is just a microcosm of Wink Martindale’s defense and how it harassed Hurts and Mariota. Early in the game, the Eagles faced a third-and-15 and were able to get to a fourth-and-2 at midfield after a 13-yard catch from Quez Watkins.

The Giants defense brought the pressure all game, twisted, and loaded the line of scrimmage to keep the Eagles guessing. New York had five sacks in the game, but plays like this hindered Philadelphia’s ability to sustain offense.

Bobby Okereke (58) looped around inside slanting defensive linemen to hit Hurts, which injured his finger and forced the incomplete pass. New York’s defense stepped up for their coordinator and ended the season in an admirable fashion.