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Did the Eagles win the game or did the Giants lose it?
Mychal Kendricks picked off Eli Manning and also recovered a fumble in the Eagles' win. (AP)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Eagles had two interceptions in that first outing against Washington. And then … nothing. Poof. They disappeared without a trace, going three games without a pick. Until Sunday. Until they reappeared at the perfect moment.
The Eagles intercepted the Giants’ quarterback three times in three crucial fourth-quarter situations. (The last time the Eagles intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter was 1989 against the then Phoenix Cardinals.) The Birds also recovered a New York fumble earlier in the game. For those of you counting at home, the Giants turned it over four times while the Eagles didn’t give it away once.
“We had those three big [fourth-quarter] turnovers,” Chip Kelly said after the Eagles beat the Giants, 36-21 (see Instant Replay). “When you play against those two receivers (Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks) and Eli [Manning], that’s the strength of their team right now. They’re banged up a little bit up front. You know, David Wilson wasn’t in there. So you kind of knew they were going to throw. That was a matchup that we had to make sure we concentrated on. Eventually we started to get to Eli a little bit."
Things were a little dodgy for the Eagles late in the game. The Birds were up by just one point with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Giants had the ball and they were driving. Then Manning drove them into a ditch. Then he did it again. Then he did it once more for good measure and completely wrecked what was left of New York's chances.
The first Manning mistake came on a short throw to the left -- his arm was hit by Brandon Boykin and Trent Cole -- that was intended for Brandon Jacobs. Instead, the ball landed in the hands of Mychal Kendricks, who snatched it out of the air and took off.
“That’s a big-ass pick,” Kendricks admitted. He also recovered a Jacobs fumble in the second quarter. “It was nice, man. It was needed.”
Kendricks had a clear path to the end zone. Then he tripped. Did he think he had a pick-six?
“Yes,” he said, emphasizing the word and drawing it out while simultaneously shaking his head. “I did. I was very disappointed in myself, and I’m hearing enough crap about it from my teammates, coaches and probably my father and mother, too. Let’s not talk about it.”
Cole wanted to talk about it plenty. As the media approached Kendricks, Cole ran in place and said Kendricks' feet moved too quick for his body to catch up.
"He tore up the turf, didn't he?" Cole asked with a laugh.
It worked out just fine for the Eagles, who immediately punched the ball in for a touchdown on a beautiful 25-yard pass from Nick Foles to Brent Celek.
When the Giants got the ball back on the very next drive, they had it for only three plays before Manning gave it right back to the Eagles. Manning tried to launch a deep pass to Cruz, but the wide receiver ended up in a mid-air wrestling match with Boykin. When they both landed on the ground, the Eagles’ cornerback came away with the ball. The play was reviewed and upheld.
“It happened so fast,” Boykin said. “As a player, when you get the ball on your hands, you don’t want -- when I had possession, I felt like I had possession. I just tried to snatch it away. A lot of times when there’s a tie or a tangle up, they give it to the receiver. I just wanted to establish it in my arm and tuck it as fast as I could.”
The final Manning miscue occurred with about seven minutes left in the game. The Giants were down 15 points, but they were starting to move the ball -- until Manning forced a pass toward Nicks. Cary Williams stepped in front and grabbed it. For a team that had a minus-two turnover differential after the first four games, the fifth outing was a drastic improvement.
“Those three turnovers were huge,” Kelly said. “The difference in the ball game was those turnovers. We didn’t turn it over and they did.”