After 2 weeks of anticipation, the Philadelphia Eagles will retake the field on Saturday night. Their opponent will be the new-look Giants, who under first-year head-coach Brian Daboll, have risen from basement dwellers to a competitive team with a hopeful future. No one expected New York to even make the playoffs, let alone make it to the Divisional round.
Looking back on the playoff history between the Eagles and Giants
The teams have split their record in the previous 4 playoff meetings 2-2. This will be their first meeting since 2008 and the first in Philadelphia since 2006. New York won the first two matchups in the series, but the Eagles have since won the next 2. No NFC East teams have played more games against each other, and Saturday at 8:15 is going to add another chapter to the storied rivalry.
How it all began
Before the game starts I want to turn the clock back to January of 2006, the last time there was an Eagles-Giants playoff game in Philadelphia. The 3rd seeded Eagles played the 6th seed Giants, in what turned out to be a classic Wildcard Round thriller, that went all the way down to the wire.
The birds were red-hot to end the season, but many were surprised to see them even in the playoffs. They started the season fast, winning 4 of their first 5 games. However, franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb tore his ACL and meniscus against the Tennessee Titans in week 11 and was replaced by backup Jeff Garcia. The Eagles bottomed out at 5-6, but the team battled back and ran the table to finish 10-6.
Running back Brian Westbrook did everything he could to carry the offense that year, with 1,217 rushing yards, 699 receiving yards, and 11 total touchdowns. The Eagles looked like they were on a Super Bowl hangover for over a year and a half, but Andy Reid was able to pull the team together and make them a formidable playoff opponent.
Much like 2022, the 2006 Giants finished 3rd in the NFC East behind the Eagles and the Cowboys. It was a disappointing season for big blue as they went 8-8 after going 11-5 the prior season. They started the season strong with a 6-2 record, but their season quickly fell apart once defensive end Michael Strahan got injured in week 9 and was out for the season with a lisfranc fracture.
Without one of their best players and leaders, the Giants lost 6 of their next 7 games to fall to 7-8. They were able to save their season from complete disaster by winning the final game of the season against Washington. New York had backed their way into the playoffs and many outside the organization wondered if the core of quarterback Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin could be successful after regular season and playoff letdowns.
January 7th, 2007
The two teams kicked off the game at 4:30 that Sunday, and even during the coin toss, you could feel the intensity within Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Manning and Coughlin looked to make a statement in their first road playoff game. The Eagles’ defense, led by Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Jeremiah Trotter, and Trent Cole, was hungry to get a quick stop but looked completely unprepared for the New York offense.
The G-Men got the ball at their own 28-yard line and on the first offensive play of the game, Manning connected with wide receiver Plaxico Burress for 29 yards. Before Eagles fans could even settle into their seats, the Giants were within scoring position. Running back Tiki Barber hammered the ball down to the 17-yard line, where Burress would get behind the defense for a touchdown on the next play. In less than 4 minutes, the Giants had driven down the field and let everyone watching know they came to play.
Jeff Garcia and the offense took the field pinned back at their own 9 yard-line. Garcia looked like a backup at the beginning of the game, as he threw an incompletion and got sacked by defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
The Eagles went 3 and out, quickly punting the ball to the Giants. New York had good field position to start the drive, getting the ball at the Philadelphia 49-yard line, but the defense responded well by not allowing a first down. The offense was still stuck in neutral, as they ran just 3 plays before punting back to New York.
The Giants threatened to score again on their next possession, getting the ball down to the Eagles’ 37, but the defense held and Coughlin cowardly decided to punt the ball instead of going for a field goal. The two teams traded another round of punts, giving the Eagles the ball with 2 minutes left in the frame. They finally got the offense moving as Garcia and Westbrook took turns running the ball up to midfield. The quarter finishes the Giants leading 0-7, but the Eagles finally look like they’re awake.
A swing in momentum for the Eagles
On the second play of the quarter, Westbrook took the handoff and ran the ball 49 yards down the right sideline for the Eagles’ first points of the game. Eagles fans finally have something to cheer about after the slow start. On the ensuing Giants possession, Eli does his signature move by throwing a terrible interception to Sheldon Brown, who returns the ball to the New York 37. The Eagles suddenly have momentum back on their side.
They run heavy on the next drive, and behind Westbrook and Correll Buckholter, they can power it to the Giants’ 1-yard line. They can’t punch it and have to settle for a 19-yard David Akers field goal. Somewhat disappointing but they have a lead for the first time in the game.
On the next Giants drive, Tiki Barber got it going with runs of 9, 4, and 41 yards respectively. They get it down to the Eagles 2 but Barber gets stuffed at the goal-line on 2nd down and Manning’s throw to tight end Jeremy Shockey falls incomplete. They settle for a field goal as well, tying the game at 10-10.
The Eagles took the field looking to take another lead before halftime. Andy Reid and the offense were in a groove now as they efficiently drove the ball down the field. Garcia used his arm this time, spreading the ball around to receivers Reggie Brown, Donte’ Stallworth, and LJ Smith. With just over a minute left in the half, Garcia went deep to Stallworth, who had slipped down the right side and got open for a 28-yard touchdown. The Eagles stopped the Giants 1 more time to take a 17-10 lead into halftime. After not getting a first down until 1:34 in the first quarter, the offense had come alive and the defense was making timely stops to keep them ahead.
The fireworks of the second quarter quickly disappeared, as the second half started off with 4 straight punts and only 1 first down across both teams. Halfway through the frame, the Eagles managed to put another drive together.
Thanks to almost 40 total yards from Reggie Brown, the Eagles got the ball to the Giants’ 30 but had to settle for another Akers field goal. Philadelphia had built a 10-point lead and as long as they kept their foot on the gas, were in good position to move on to the divisional round.
However, things started to go wrong very rapidly for the Eagles. A 47-yard pass interference penalty on Sheldon Brown brought the Giants all the way to the Eagles’ 14. An 8-yard pass to Jim Finn brought New York to the 6 to end the quarter. Philadelphia had built a lead but was in danger of losing it if they didn’t hold strong in the final quarter.
On the first play of the last frame, Brown and the Eagles D forced Manning to throw an incompletion. The defense bent but didn’t break as the Giants had to settle for a field goal. The Eagles tried to drain the clock by keeping the ball on the ground but after just 1 Westbrook first-down run, had to punt it back. Down by 7, the Giants were running out of time and opportunities to tie the game.
The Giants got the ball at their own 20, having to go a full 80 yards to even things up. Barber gained 18 yards on the first 2 plays, and Manning completed 3 straight passes to bring them to the Philly 23. However, the raucous crowd caused 2 false starts, and another holding penalty backed up New York to the 43-yard line. After starting with a 1st and 30, Manning hit Burress for 2 straight passes and a first down. On the next play, the duo connected again for an 11-yard touchdown. With only 5:08 left to play, the Giants had erased the Eagles’ 10-point lead and tied the game up.
The Eagles got the ball back with a chance to win the game and avoid overtime or any other terrible situations. Westbrook gained 11 yards on the first play, setting the tone for the rest of the drive. Once they got near midfield, Garcia hit Reggie Brown again for 7 yards. Once in Giants territory, Westbrook decided he had had enough.
After the 2 minute warning and with New York out of timeouts, he got 1 more first down, which let the Eagles run the clock down to just 3 seconds. In his first opportunity for a playoff game-winner, Akers confidently came onto the field and lined up for the 38-yard field goal. As time expired, the kick went up, and split the goalposts right down the middle! The Eagles had held on to beat their rival Giants, 23-20, and moved on to face the Saints in the Divisional Round.
January 21, 2023
For the first time in 14 years, these two teams are facing off in the playoffs. The Eagles are legit title contenders and the Giants are a nice story hoping for the big upset. I think the Eagles are the superior team but in the playoffs, you cannot take anybody lightly. I expect the game to be close, but hopefully, it does become as stressful as this one did. The stage is set for yet another chapter in this historic rivalry.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum