January 17, 2023
For the fifth time in history, the Eagles are meeting the Giants in the postseason. The teams are 2-2 in those matchups with the Eagles winning the most recent two games in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The NFC East has the fiercest rivalries in the NFL and it's a foregone conclusion that Lincoln Financial Field will be rocking with tens of thousands of well-lubricated fans ready to beat New York for the third time this season.
Before Saturday's divisional round matchup, there's no better time to look back at the history of this rivalry, nailing down the 10 best Eagles-Giants moments ever. Obviously, this list will include the best of the best for the Eagles. No one needs to rehash the Birds' 2000 playoff loss to the G-Men. I don't write for NewYorkVoice.com.
Let's take a chronological look at the biggest plays and games we've seen between the Eagles and Giants. Spoiler alert: there have been some miracles over the decades.
It was a moment that defined an era of football and one that's queasy to view more than 60 years later with everything we know now about player safety.
In November of the Eagles' championship 1960 season, the Birds were playing the Giants at Yankee Stadium. With the game tied 10 in the fourth quarter, Giants Hall of Famer Frank Gifford caught a pass over the middle of the field. Bednarik, the Birds' linebacker and 60-Minute Man, viscously laid Gifford out, knocking him unconscious on the field.
Gifford had a concussion and missed nearly two years of football.
The lasting image, albeit a controversial one, is Bednarik celebrating after the crushing blow, a picture that sums up the pre-Super Bowl era of professional football, a violent game that would soon become the most dominant force in American culture.
The Eagles would go on to prevail for the Week 9 win before capturing the NFL Championship title the next month.
For those interested, there's a video of Bednarik speaking with NFL Films about "The Hit" available on YouTube [WATCH HERE].
As Herman Edwards would later famously say, "You play to win the game."
Up 17-12, the Giants had the Eagles ready to pack things up and head back down I-95. The Birds had no timeouts remaining and New York simply needed to run out the clock with under 30 seconds remaining. Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik took the snap, fumbled it as he turned to hand it off to fullback Larry Csonka and the ball popped into the hands of defensive back Herman Edwards, who took that baby back to the house for a miraculous victory.
All those Giants fans who had already made their way to exit in what assuredly would be a win had no clue their team just blew it.
The Eagles would go on to make the playoffs that year, the first time they played postseason football since that aforementioned 1960 championship game. Two years later, head coach Dick Vermeil would bring the Birds to the first-ever Super Bowl appearance. For a generation of Eagles fans starved for success in a post-1960 landscape, it was the first moment where things actually worked out in the Birds' favor in a seemingly impossible situation.
The Giants had won the Super Bowl in 1986. Washington did so in 1987. Dallas received its nauseating "America's Team" label in the '70s. The Eagles, along with the Cardinals, were afterthoughts to the general football public in the NFC East.
1988 changed that.
The Eagles won the division for the first time in eight years and fourth-year quarterback Randall Cunningham turned into the most captivating player in the game, an innovator at the QB position with his electric ability to run the ball mixed with a rifle of an arm.
No play better summed up that dynamic ability than a touchdown throw during the Eagles' Week 6 Monday Night Football win over the Giants. In an age before the internet, smart phones and Red Zone, it was nowhere near as easy to keep up with the entire NFL as it is now. Most of the content you consumed was about your local team. This was Cunningham's arrival during the most marquee game of the week.
Facing a third and goal while trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, Cunningham faked a handoff and rolled right. All-Pro Giants linebacker Carl Banks was waiting for him, likely expecting a crushing sack. That's probably what every viewer assumed, too. Banks dove at Cunningham's legs, but the QB was able to jump, place his left hand on the field to avoid going down and fire a touchdown to the right side of the end zone to tight end Jimmie Giles:
this is insane pic.twitter.com/bAA9kk2G1Q— shamus (@shamus_clancy) January 16, 2023
Carl Banks follows me on Twitter. I hope you're reading this, Carl!
I know he was beloved, but, man, Buddy Ryan never won a playoff game with this dude at quarterback and maybe the greatest defense of all time? That's a joke.
It hasn't been the case in a long time, but the Giants used to own the Eagles. Going into the 2001 season, the Eagles had lost their last seven games against New York. That included a three-game sweep the previous year, capped off with a 20-10 divisional round loss with Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn's wild pick-6 haunting Birds fans.
The 2001 season, however, was the beginning of a new era for this division, one that the Eagles would come to dominate.
Head coach Andy Reid got his first W over the Giants in Week 6 of that season, a 10-9 Monday Night Football squeaker. When the team's met again in Week 16 at Veterans Stadium, the Birds had a chance to clinch the NFC East crown for the first time in 13 years.
Third-year QB Donovan McNabb threw for three touchdowns and picked up 48 yards on the ground. David Akers, ever reliable, hit a go-ahead field goal to make it 24-21 with just seven seconds remaining. That was game, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
After Akers' ensuing touchback, the Giants cooked up one last play to go 80 yards and into the end zone. They almost pulled it off. Kerry Collins fired a 14-yard pass to Tiki Barber, who lateraled it to receiver Ron Dixon. Dixon turned on the burners, streaking down the New York sideline. Eagles safety Damon Moore finally got him down at the four-yard line. The Birds were division champs, but had nearly given the Giants a miracle of their own.
This game holds a special place in my heart: as a seven-year-old fan that season, this is the first Eagles game I have concrete memories of watching, jumping up and down in my McNabb jersey after that tackle and celebrating with my dad when he got back from the Vet.
I was young, blissfully naive and assumed the Eagles would win the Super Bowl every year for the rest of my life.
A new generation of Eagles fans gets their own miracle at old Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. With 1:34 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Eagles trailing 10-7, hope felt lost. The Birds were getting the ball back with a chance to make some noise at least.
Jeff Feagles punted the ball away and into the arms of second-year running back Brian Westbrook. Catching it off the bounce, Westbrook bursted through the would-be tacklers for an 84-yard punt return TD. The Giants were stunned, which was increasingly becoming a recurring theme at this point.
"Why in the world do you punt that football where it can be returned?" Cris Collinsworth said on the FOX broadcast.
No clue, man.
This was the beginning of Westbrook becoming one of the biggest fan favorites in team history. The black Westbrook jersey I received for Christmas that year might just be my favorite gift ever.
In his first game with the Birds, Terrell Owens and the Eagles' offense put the entire NFC, not just the division, on notice, as T.O. scored three TDs in his Philly debut, a 31-17 win.
Owens was so dominant and after watching the likes of James Thrash and Todd Pinkston waste the beginning of McNabb's prime, seeing Owens out there snagging touchdowns felt like a superhero was out there. He was unlike any Eagles receiver I'd ever seen.
The Owens-McNabb marriage would crumble the following year, but for that lone season, it was magic.
A side note: coming in relief of starter New York Kurt Warner, Eli Manning made his NFL debut that game. His "Welcome to the League" moment was Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle absolute crushing him and forcing a fumble.
15 years later, Manning said, "I think that's the biggest hit I've taken in my life."
About time: we now get to a playoff win over the Giants.
Not the first nor the last backup QB to lead the Birds to a playoff win, Jeff Garcia continued his wild run in the 2006 season with a Wild Card Weekend win at the Linc over the Giants.
Filling in for an injured McNabb, Garcia went 5-1 to close the regular season, providing enough of a boost for the Eagles to win the NFC East. That led to a playoff matchup with New York. Westbrook was a monster, going for 141 rushing yards, including a 49-yard TD run. Akers was money, making all three of his field goals, including a 38-yarder as time expired to give the Eagles a W:
On this day in 2007, David Akers kicked the #Eagles past the Giants in a Wild Card matchup at @LFFStadium.#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/dSzerviJCT— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 7, 2018
As I noted above, this is the first time the Birds had ever beaten New York in the postseason.
That game, of course, will not be the last time a kicker gets the spotlight in this story...
Ahead of Saturday night, this was the most recent time the two franchises met in the divisional round. The roles, however, were reversed. The Giants were the No. 1 seed coming off a bye. The Eagles were the nine-win No. 6 seed who had pulled off a Wild Card upset in Minnesota the week prior.
It wasn't the prettiest game ever. As this past weekend of playoff football showcased, divisional games in the postseason can get mucked up. It was yet another clutch day for Akers, who made all three of his field goals.
The biggest play came on the first play of the Giants' second offensive drive. Manning threw a duck of an interception to Asante Samuel, who returned the ball to the New York two-yard line. Shortly after, a McNabb QB sneak gave the Birds a 7-3 on the road to a 23-11 victory.
Do I really have to tell you about this one? In a pre-Super Bowl world, this was the pinnacle of Eagles excitement for me.
I think of standing up with my dad in our living room, hands on our knees in full-on anxiety mode, as he kept muttering, "Please take this f*****g back," as DeSean Jackson threw up his arms and pumped himself up while awaiting a punt return at the end of the game.
Overcoming a 31-10 deficit with under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had miraculously tied things up with the heroics of Michael Vick at quarterback. The Birds' defense had forced the Giants to punt with 12 seconds left.
They would just kick out of bounds, right? There's no way they'd give Jackson, then the NFL's greatest open-field playmaker, a shot with the ball in his hands, right?
Matt Dodge, what were you thinking?
As every Eagles fan knows, Jackson muffed the return, causing chaos for the Giants' punt coverage team, before getting it together and speeding by those blue jerseys on his way to pay dirt. Jason Avant had a legendary crack-back block. Jackson ran around the field to ensure all zeroes were on the clock before hitting the end zone. Merrill Reese lost his mind on the now-iconic radio call.
What an afternoon at the Meadowlands.
This was the hottest Eagles game I've ever attended. Kickoff temperature is listed as 89 degrees, but in the blistering early afternoon sun sitting in the top section of the Linc, it felt closer to 100.
The Birds, sitting at 1-1 in this Week 3 divisional matchup, were up 14-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Nothing is ever quite that easy though. Before Eagles fans knew it, the Birds were trailing 24-21 with three minutes remaining, as a quick slant after quick slant from the New York offense crushed Jim Schwartz's defense.
Jake Elliott, who the team had signed just 11 days prior due to an injury to kicker Caleb Sturgis, was there in South Philly to save the day.
Elliott hit a 46-yard field with 51 seconds on the clock to make the game 24-24. That's a chip shot compared to what was coming.
The Eagles' D held tough after that, forcing a three-and-out with a smidgen of time left on the clock. With the ball back and on the Eagles' own 38, Carson Wentz threw a beautiful out to Alshon Jeffery for 19 yards, stopping the clock with just a second remaining. It's the most underrated play of Wentz's Eagles tenure.
In lieu of heaving a Hail Mary, Doug Pederson and the coached staff opted to throw the rookie kicker out there in his second pro game for a 61-yard field goal. The ball ever so slightly made it through the uprights. The Birds won.
As I said, I was at the game. I didn't even go nuts after the kick. I was more shocked and numb. That... that happened? They won? "They never win these games," I thought. 2017 would be the year of the Eagles winning the games they not supposed to win, a stark contrast from everything I had experienced with this franchise previously.
That field goal is one of the innumerable crossroads the Eagles faced during that Super 2017 season. If Elliott's kick comes up short and the Giants prevail in OT, the Eagles are 1-2. Do they go on that legendary run if they lose that game? I truly don't think so.
I hope that all prepared you for Saturday night!
Follow Shamus & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @shamus_clancy | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports
Add Shamus' RSS feed to your feed reader