The Philadelphia Eagles have to overtake the New York Giants to win the NFC East - and a few other championships. To that end, Eagles fans like myself were encouraged that the Giants struggled in their first two games and came close to starting 0-2. The New York team that came together to win last year's Super Bowl hadn't really been seen yet this year - until it reappeared with a vengeance on Sept. 20.
Despite losing several offensive stars, having a short week of rest and coming off a brutal shootout, the Giants still looked even more dominant against the Carolina Panthers than they did in last year's playoffs. The 36-7 victory was certainly an improvement from their last Thursday night game two weeks ago, when the Dallas Cowboys made the Giants look overmatched and flukey.
Back on Sept. 6, the Cowboys were the banged up road underdog that looked all too vulnerable, yet they overwhelmed the Giants anyway. Two weeks later, New York was injury-riddled and vulnerable going into a Thursday night road test, but this time the Giants came up huge and sent an even more decisive message.
The Giants shouldn't have been able to rack up 36 more points, given that they lost leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw and deadly receiver Hakeem Nicks. But last year's champions got a huge boost when Victor Cruz emerged after starters got injured. In this case, Andre Brown came from nowhere to run for 113 yards and a touchdown in Bradshaw's place, while Ramses Barden and Martellus Bennett more than filled in for Nicks with a combined 15 catches for 211 yards.
As for the defense, although it couldn't get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers off the field on Sept. 16, it had it way with the dangerous Cam Newton all night. While the Giants overcame three Eli Manning interceptions to beat the Buccaneers, the Panthers didn't come close to doing the same when Newton threw three picks and only had six rushing yards.
Manning was wildly inaccurate before he caught fire against the Buccaneers, but he had no such problems with the Panthers. He only had 288 yards instead of over 500, yet he made up for it by going 27-for-35 with no interceptions. It was a pretty perfect 60 minute performance, which he and New York hadn't had so far in this young season.
The Giants had stumbled through the first six quarters or so of the year, but their last six dominant quarters have helped balanced that out. Perhaps now they have settled into their role as defending Super Bowl champions, which would be bad news for the Eagles and the rest of the NFC.
It is certainly bad news for the Eagles right off the bat, as they are the Giants' next opponent on Sept. 30. New York may come to Philadelphia with all the momentum in the world - but since it excelled on short rest, maybe a 10-day rest will make it rustier. After what the Giants did to the Panthers, the Eagles certainly need to hope that's the case.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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