January 23, 2023
PHILADELPHIA - A wise man avoids all extremes.
That’s a familiar go-to for Nick Sirianni, always in the coach’s back pocket right next to Larry Kehres, and ready to be pulled whenever Sirianni wants to play a little four corners and get out of a press conference by filibustering until the buzzer of two more questions is in sight.
The wise man didn’t avoid an extreme beatdown on Saturday night, however.
Five years to the day the Eagles earned a berth in Super Bowl LII by blistering the Minnesota Vikings, 38-7, in the NFC Championship Game, a [mostly] different group led by Sirianni, Jonathan Gannon, and Jalen Hurts channeled Britney Spears en route to exposing the New York Giants by the same score in the divisional round of the postseason.
Oops!....They Did it Again.
Saturday night was as close as you’re going to get to the mythical complete game, a victory so thorough that the Giants may investigate time travel to Doc Brown their way back to Minnesota and tell Dexter Lawrence to take it easy on the Vikings’ offensive line. Ironically, the only sign the Giants did show up at the Linc was star center Jason Kelce speeding up his snaps to help better deal with the second-team All-Pro nose tackle.
The result was Jalen Hurts playing shortstop as silky as Omar Vizquel on occasion but Kelce, with the help of the powerful Landon Dickerson and the savvy Isaac Seumalo, completely shut down New York’s best player.
Lawrence, who had seven pressures in the Giants’ wild-card win over the Vikings, including bulldozing left guard Ezra Cleveland and forcing Kirk Cousins to throw short of the sticks on fourth down and the season, didn’t sniff Hurts. No sacks, no QB hits, and no pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. In fact, Lawrence had one QB hit in 111 samps against the Eagles this season.
It shouldn’t have been surprising. After the 48-22 rout at MetLife Stadium back on Dec. 11, a New York team source said the Giants were shaken to see just how much better Philadelphia was. The same sentiment was on the display to the public after the 38-7 drubbing in the postseason.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Giants head coach Brian Daboll said. “Couldn’t stop them on third downs or red zone. Running the ball was a collective effort in terms of not being able to get it done. … Philly deserved to win that game. It’s a crash landing in the playoffs.”
Daniel Jones was even more succinct after surviving the crash despite being sacked five times.
“They are good. They are a good team, good defense, good front, and a good secondary,” the Giants QB said.
With Eagles fan Michael Buffer on hand, it wasn’t hard to conjure up the boxing imagery.
In the world of pugilism, styles make fights. In the MMA community, the debate might be if wrestling can conquer jiu-jitsu. In the NFL the Giants' performance in Saturday night’s game against a traditional rival was the equivalent of kindling believing it had a fighting chance against fire.
When the Giants won the coin toss and Daboll foolishly deferred eschewing the opportunity to shorten the game, it was followed by 30 minutes of football that had anyone with a sense of empathy — which was not the nearly 70,000 in attendance — crying "no mas" for the Giants.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are often described as either cocky by opposing fans angry at Sirianni's emotional joy when winning, or self-assured by those close to the team.
“Remember we’re undefeated with Jalen,” one player gushed after the win.
I quickly reminded him that Week 10 against Washington did happen.
“Nah, we beat ourselves,” was the smiling retort.
The potential opponents left for the Eagles are all good football teams, starting with Brock Purdy and San Francisco in the NFC title game, but the focus remains inward and it’s filtered down to everyone.
“It's easy to get caught up in that kind of narrative so, in a way you want to make every game more about you than about them,” rookie punt returner Britain Covey said. “It's nice to kind of say in a sense that our opponent is faceless.
"Does that make sense? Yeah, it's like, this is more about us than it is about them."
John McMullen is a contributor to PhillyVoice.com and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Sports. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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