EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The rain-slicked hill almost grew too high for the Eagles to climb Sunday, as the fourth quarter began in what became a 34-17 victory over the New York Giants.
The visitors’ injury list slid past ridiculous all the way to surreal. Mixed with some terrible penalties, the injury plague was about to end a season that could be aptly described using both of those terms.
Then a low Giants snap bounced off Saquon Barkley’s ankle, back to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who had fumbled it toward Barkley. As Jones worked to put the ball away, Malcolm Jenkins pried it from his grasp. It was the sort of thing Jenkins tends to do in important moments.
Jones chased the bouncing ball back toward his goal line, pursued by a pack of desperate Eagles. Fletcher Cox won the race. First down Eagles, at the New York 2. Boston Scott, the lone running back standing, powered up the middle for his second of three touchdowns, and the visitors had a 27-17 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
The 9-7 Eagles are NFC East champions, and will host the loser of Sunday night’s San Francisco-Seattle game, next weekend at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won their final four games after falling to 5-7 on Dec. 1, but they enter the playoffs terribly depleted.
Carson Wentz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards without a wide receiver totaling 500 yards. He finished a hard-won 23-for-40 for 289 yards, without any of his three normal starting wide receivers or his tight end and leading receiver, Zach Ertz, who might be sidelined for the playoffs with rib and kidney injuries.
Wentz was without his remaining best weapon, running back Miles Sanders (ankle), for more than half the game.
The Eagles who weren’t being ushered into the blue tent Sunday or carted down the tunnel fought all the way, against a New York Giants team that they had beaten six times in a row and 10 of 11, a team that had nothing to play for. The Dallas Cowboys could have made it easy by losing to visiting Washington, 47-16.
The continuing injury onslaught overshadowed a dull but fairly effective first half for the Eagles. They moved the ball well their first two drives but netted only a 31-yard Jake Elliott field goal and led, 3-0, at the end of the first quarter.
The defense was playing much better than in the first meeting with the Giants. First downs were 7-1 after the first two possessions for each team. Barkley got to halftime with 3 yards on five carries. Meanwhile, the Eagles were losing Sanders, and then Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks to a shoulder problem that required him to ride a cart inside.
Eagles running back Boston Scott (35) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Running back Jordan Howard, who hadn’t played since Nov. 3. was cleared this week after a shoulder injury but the Eagles obviously did not want to play him. Scott became the sole running back after Sanders left the game in the second quarter.
Brooks went down on the extra point following a pretty across-the-body 24-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to tight end Josh Perkins. For Perkins, a member of the Eagles’ fleet of practice squad call-up weapons, it was the first NFL touchdown since his rookie season of 2016, when he played for Atlanta.
The Eagles’ eight-play, 75-yard drive boosted them to a 10-3 halftime lead — but at an extraordinary cost.
The Giants got even on the first series of the third quarter. The key sequence came when they were stopped on second-and-1 and third-and-1. But on fourth down, Jones bootlegged 17 yards, setting up his touchdown pass to Golden Tate, over Rasul Douglas.
The Eagles dug deep on a 62-yard, nine-play drive that gave them a 17-10 lead with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter. Scott gained 32 yards on four carries, including the 7-yard touchdown run.
Then, another punch in the gut. The first play after the kickoff, Barkley blasted through the right side and kept going, untouched, for a 68-yard tying touchdown. He had 10 yards on 11 carries before taking the handoff.
The Eagles took the lead back on a 55-yard field goal, but the gloom didn’t really lift on a damp, dark evening in North Jersey until Cox chased down the Jones fumble.
Later in the fourth quarter, Scott spun and darted 39 yards with a screen pass, setting up another 2-yard touchdown run. Surprisingly enough, this was the first three-touchdown game of Scott’s 13-game NFL career, which began after the Eagles plucked him from the New Orleans practice squad last season.