If Sunday is Eli Manning’s final game in Philadelphia, he’s not exactly going to miss it.
Manning’s Giants have lost eight of their last nine head-to-head with the Eagles and 16 of their last 20 dating back to 2008. They have lost their last four straight at Lincoln Financial Field, unforgettably on a 61-yard Jake Elliott field goal in Week 3 of last season to send Philly on its Super Bowl run and the Giants down the drain.
And the Giants incredibly have not swept a two-game season series with the Eagles since Manning’s first Super Bowl year of 2007 (and won’t again this year after a 34-13 Week 6 blowout loss at home).
So what will Manning’s likely final act against an old rival bring for Pat Shurmur’s Big Blue squad: A third straight win and another exhilarating chapter of The Eli Manning Redemption Tour? Or a wake-up call from a cranky Birds bunch after beating up on two limited teams in the Niners and Bucs?
A lot of that depends on Manning, 37, coming off the most efficient game of his career in a win over Tampa, completing 17-of-18 passes (94.4%) for 231 yards and two TDs for a 155.8 quarterback rating.
“We’re playing better football right now. We’re finishing drives,” said Manning, whose Giants were 4-for-4 in the red zone in last week’s win over Tampa. “I think we’re running the ball better than we did, so I feel like we’re playing better football, but we’ve got to continue doing that. They’re a good team.”
The Giants’ defense unquestionably has been sub-par, both in last week’s win over Tampa despite the turnovers forced and in that Week 6 embarrassment against the Eagles. Manning, though, needs to be a difference-maker Sunday because one of Philly’s most glaring weaknesses is its banged-up secondary.
Doug Pederson’s defensive front always is a handful and will continue to be, even against an improved Big Blue O-line bolstered by new right guard Jamon Brown. But there will be opportunities downfield if Manning can hit Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Co. against the Eagles’ backup DBs.
“It’s definitely nicked up,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “We got some guys that got banged up in the game against New Orleans, and just trying to keep things together with the guys that we have.”
Taking care of the ball also is a priority, especially after how Manning started that Week 6 loss.
The Giants’ 15-year veteran QB threw an interception on the second offensive play of the game. His pass intended for tight end Scott Simonson was jumped by Philly’s Jordan Hicks and deflected to the Eagles’ Kamu Grugier-Hill for the interception, and Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense cashed in shortly after for an early 7-0 lead.
“Last time we played them, I know exactly why they beat us,” Shurmur said Wednesday. “We didn’t do anything that you need to do against any type of team to win. We turned the ball over, we gave them big plays, we just didn’t play well enough to beat any team, so we have to fix that. That’s more about us.
“We can’t turn the ball over, (basically a) pick six early in the game,” the coach added. “We did a lot of things where you go, ‘Ugh, now I see why we didn’t (win).’ That’s more about us and less about them.”
Part of Manning’s encouraging start to the second half of the season — and these two straight wins — has been limiting turnovers while also putting points on the board. The Giants’ QB turned the ball over at least once in six of the team’s first eight games, but already he has stayed turnover-free in both of the games coming out of the bye with the team averaging 32.5 points per game in these last two victories.
The Eagles’ pass rush could change that. Manning’s only win in his last nine games against Philly came on Nov. 6, 2016, at MetLife Stadium, 28-23, and even in that game Manning was picked off by Hicks with under two minutes and the Giants up five. The Eagles took the ball at the Giants’ 34 and the game ended with Trevin Wade defending an incomplete Wentz pass intended for Jordan Matthews.
Playing in Philadelphia has been even more difficult for Manning and the Giants. They haven’t won at Lincoln Financial since Oct. 27 2013, under Tom Coughlin, by a score of 15-7.
So what is it about Philly that’s given Manning and the Giants so many problems?
“I don’t know,” Manning said Wednesday. “They’ve been good teams … What matters is this game and this opportunity to go out there and get a win.”