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January 22, 2023

First half observations: Eagles 28, Giants 0

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Celebration-Eagles-Giants-NFL-Playoffs-2022-2023.jpg Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts signals 'touchdown' in celebration after RB Boston Scott punches it in during the second quarter of Saturday night's divisional round playoff game against the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles put together one of their best halves in playoff history, sprinting to a commanding 28-0 lead over the Giants to open the NFC Divisional Round. Philadelphia was the better team by a comfortable margin, and looks poised to send the Giants packing for Cancun in the second half.

Here's what I saw.

The Good

• If you were worried about how Jalen Hurts and the offense would look, uncertainty hanging in the air regarding his shoulder, it took all of two plays for Philly's star QB to make you feel better. A short first-down run — what a concept — set up a deep shot for Philadelphia on the second play of the game, Skinny Batman lurking deep in the Giants' secondary. Hurts' throw to DeVonta Smith was on the money, moving the Eagles downfield in a hurry:

The real star of Philadelphia's first drive, however, was Dallas Goedert. On the play following Smith's big reception, Goedert made something of a statement play, taking a short throw from Hurts and turning it into nine yards with a bruising run after the catch. It felt like that play was as exciting for the home crowd as the deep shot to Smith, with Goedert ready to inflict some pain on anybody trying to bring him down on Saturday night.

It was his skill, not his size, that allowed Goedert to punctuate the opening series with a touchdown. Deep in Giants territory, Goedert brought in a one-handed catch without ever breaking stride, and he had just enough momentum to reach paydirt and put the Eagles up by a touchdown five minutes into the game.

Hell of an opening series.

• New York looked well on their way to a successful opening series, picking on poor Reed Blankenship for most of their first possession. But when they crossed midfield, they were reminded that Haason Reddick plays for the team in green, with Philadelphia's big offseason acquisition wreaking havoc in the Giants' backfield

After a sack on a critical third down put the Giants at fourth-and-eight, Brian Daboll saw fit to go for it, evidently thinking they'd need to play aggressively as the underdog on the road. He was immediately punished for the aggressive mentality — Reddick burst through the line and hauled Jones to the ground, ultimately being credited with a sack on a play that looked destined to be ruled for intentional grounding:

The NFL's sack-leading team in the regular season is already putting in work in the playoffs. Hard to overstate how good the defensive line has been through the opening 30 minutes. 

• The Eagles have been such a good team on QB sneaks that they were able to execute a fake sneak and turn it into a huge gainer on a toss to the running back. What an insane concept.

That play for Kenneth Gainwell was a great example of why many people (myself included) downplayed the state of Philadelphia's offense in the regular season finale against the Giants. After offering up a bland, conservative gameplan against their rivals to end the season, the Eagles hit New York with a series of haymakers to open the playoff game, executing their bread-and-butter plays while also adding some funk and deception.

While we're on the subject of bread and butter, wide receiver screens have not been super popular amongst fans this season, but it has never stopped Philadelphia from going back to the well. They were rewarded for sticking with it before the first quarter had come to a close on Saturday night — Smith got a quick throw from Hurts and hit the burners, falling across the goal line for six:

New York was able to stop Justin Jefferson a week ago, but they have no answers for a deeper offense so far.

• As if things couldn't get worse for the Giants on defense, Philadelphia spent their third scoring drive absolutely mashing them on the ground. Up to that point, it had been a game largely defined by the passing game, with Hurts and the outside weaponry killing New York. But not even a Landon Dickerson injury mid-series could slow down the run game (he would return), with Miles Sanders and the Giant Killer himself crushing the Giants in the middle of the second quarter.

It almost felt wrong that Scott was the guy who got to kill this drive off, because Sanders was terrific in the middle portion of the field, dancing through tiny slivers of space and bouncing off of Giants tacklers. This half featured some of the best power running that I can remember from Sanders, and if he can maintain that level of play the rest of this postseason run, look out.

But I do appreciate the ongoing "Boston Scott hates the Giants" storyline, and the Eagles might have to keep him for his whole career just for their division matchups with New York. Seriously, if you're a betting type and didn't throw down a little cash on Scott as an anytime touchdown scorer in this game, what were you doing? How many times does this guy have to personally torture the Giants before you take the free money?

At this point, you almost felt like it was time for the Giants to bring the backups into the game. Maybe they would have had a better chance.

• Throughout the week leading into this game, there were a ton of stories about Saquon Barkley being "back," with his ability to hurt the Eagles on early downs a potential swing factor in this matchup.

Perhaps that guy will show up for the second half, because the Eagles dominated the Giants in the trenches and gave Barkley nothing to work with.

• James Bradberry Jr. was a cap casualty for the Giants last offseason, and in the words of the great Happy Gilmore, talk about your all-time backfires. Daniel Jones dropped back to throw on a play late in the first quarter, and Bradberry tracked his eyes the whole way, jumping on Jones' pass for the first turnover of the day:

That had to feel extra sweet for Bradberry, who has had a killer year opposite Darius Slay. He only improved on that start to the game with a huge, progress-stopping hit on the next Giants series, forcing a bobble that eliminated forward progress and left New York short of the sticks. 

• That hit from Bradberry was a snapshot of the story of the half — the Eagles were the tougher, better-prepared team to start this game. Whenever they had the opportunity to lay a big hit on somebody, stiff-arm somebody, or run through a weak arm tackle, they took it. And a lot of that came from the mental prep they did over the last two weeks because the Eagles were locked into what the Giants wanted to do at basically all times. Rarely did the Giants have a chance to catch a ball and run with it, if they had a chance to make a play on a ball in the first place.

It's exactly the sort of performance you want to see from the No. 1 seed after getting a bye week to rest up and prepare. Hard to find anything to complain about so far.

• How about a Hurts rushing touchdown to end the half? The toughest part about Hurts' run for six points was securing the snap in the first place, because once he got the ball under control, he had basically no resistance before crossing the threshold.

Scoring 28 unanswered points to open their playoff run... You can bet the other would-be contenders are paying close attention to this ass-kicking, because it sure looks like someone is going to have to come into Philadelphia next week for a shot at the Super Bowl.

The Bad

• The Giants. Enough said.

The Ugly

• A broken chain stoppage in the first quarter? Come on, man.

• "Daniel Jones got hit so hard his contact lens came out" is a perfect description of how badly the Eagles kicked New York's ass in the first half. Also happens to be exactly what happened.

• Quite a few f-bombs on the first half broadcast, including one from Nick Sirianni. Love that energy.


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