By Tom Brennan
The Eagles went 0-for-9 on third down, the first time since 2005 that they didn’t have a third-down conversion entering the fourth quarter.
And that stat is more than a factoid.
It became a metaphor for their 27-17 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium that left the Birds with a 3-5-1 record, good enough for first place in the awful NFC East.
The Giants finally figured out how to hold a big lead against the Eagles and now they are tied in the win column for the lead in the NFC East in the middle of November.
Daniel Jones played his best game of the season, Wayne Gallman ran for two touchdowns and the Giants defense came up with the elusive big stops.
Jones had lost 16 straight games to teams other than Washington — against which he was 4-0 during that span — and the Giants were 2-22 against teams other than Washington (5-0) since Dec. 9, 2018.
The Giants had lost eight straight and 12 of the last 13 to the Eagles in a series marked by improbable second-half collapses.
In the last three meetings in Philly, including on Oct. 22, the Giants fell after leading by as many as 11, 11 and 16 points.
Sterling Shepard had been the only player on the roster to beat either the Eagles or the Cowboys in a Giants uniform. No more, though the Giants (3-7) still remain 1 ½ games behind the Eagles (3-5-1) atop the division headed into their bye week.
Excuse Giants fans for not banking on a victory when the Giants jumped out to an 11-point first-half lead. Especially when the Giants came up empty on two chances to drive a stake through the Eagles’ heart late in the first half.
Joe Judge conservatively decided not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles’ 44-yard line, having Jones use a h ard count to try to steal a first down on an offsides penalty. When it didn’t, the Giants took a delay of game and punted.
A three-and-out gave the ball back to the Giants at the Eagles’ 43-yard line with 40 seconds remaining and two timeouts. After getting into position for what would’ve been a 54-yard field goal attempt for big-legged Graham Gano, a holding penalty and a sack kept points off the board.
Miles Sanders returned from injury for the Eagles — and the Giants might be the only opponent that would prefer to see him than the backups. On the opening drive of the second half, Giants-killer Boston Scott tip-toed the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown that, combined with a two-point conversion, shrunk the third-quarter deficit to 14-11.
Of Scott’s seven career touchdowns, six have come in the last three meetings with the Giants. And, if that wasn’t enough proof, third-stringer Corey Clement scored later his first touchdown of the season from five yards out to draw within 21-17.
Two-point-happy coach Doug Pederson called for another attempt that would’ve positioned the Eagles take the lead on a field goal. But Carson Wentz was sacked, meaning the Eagles couldn’t tie on a field goal. A big difference.
Jones finished 21-of-28 for 244 yards and a 100.9 rating. He counted a 34-yard zone-read keeper touchdown among his 66 yards on the ground, and most importantly of all did not commit a turnover for the second straight game.
After the seventh failure, Jabrill Peppers returned a punt 21 yards across midfield to set up the first of two Graham Gano field goals in the fourth quarter.
The Giants’ defense, which allowed two touchdowns in the final minutes to the Eagles earlier this season, forced two late turnovers on downs. James Bradberry knocked down a fourth-down pass with tight coverage and later Dexter Lawrence sacked Wentz on a third down to set up fourth-and-a-mile.