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Giants ambush Eagles for rare win over reeling NFC East rival to close frustrating year

Beating the Eagles always feels good. Now Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll know what it feels like.

The Giants surprisingly smoked Nick Sirianni’s reeling birds, 27-10, Sunday at MetLife Stadium to close out their 2023 regular season with a record of 6-11.

“One year’s so different from the next. I’m just gonna enjoy this one here,” Daboll said of the game’s meaning. “I’m proud of the way the guys competed and fought… Certainly would like to be playing still.”

The Giants will pick No. 6 overall in April’s NFL Draft due to the win. They improved to 1-4 against the Eagles the past two seasons, and they were led by four men who might not be on the team next season.

Safety Xavier McKinney had two interceptions. Running back Saquon Barkley rushed for two touchdowns. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 297 yards by hitting several impressive downfield completions. And coordinator Wink Martindale’s defense dominated from start to finish, forcing four turnovers and helping to open up a 24-0 halftime lead.

If this was their final game as Giants, they went out on an impressive high.

“It speaks to Wink,” said middle linebacker Bobby Okereke, who was flying around all game. “He’s a legendary coach. He held us accountable. If special teams weren’t playing well, if the offense wasn’t playing well, if we weren’t playing well, we always had that back-against-the-wall mentality.”

Philadelphia (11-6), which lost for the fifth time in six games, had a chance to win the NFC East on Sunday with a victory over the Giants and a Cowboys loss to the Commanders.

But the Eagles didn’t even have a chance to scoreboard-watch and gauge their chances in the first half. The Giants ambushed them and ran them off the field, much to the chagrin of a large number of Philly fans who made the trip up I-95.

Co-owner John Mara relished the rare win over his rivals. Sunday snapped a five-game Giants losing streak to the Eagles dating back to Nov. 28, 2021. They had lost 17 of the last 20 to Philadelphia entering Week 18.

“Any win’s a good win, especially this win,” Mara told reporters.

The players were in high spirits afterwards, too, despite the franchise missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years and the 10th time in 12 years.

“It means we’re still together as a unit,” said edge rusher Jihad Ward, who earned a $250,000 bonus with his fifth sack of the season. “The one thing about this team is we fight when adversity hits.”

Martindale’s blitzes overwhelmed Philly quarterback Jalen Hurts. Okereke was everywhere. McKinney ball-hawked, picking off both Hurts and Eagles backup quarterback Marcus Mariota. Corner Nick McCloud forced an A.J. Brown fumble recovered by linebacker Micah McFadden in the first quarter, and Ward strip-sacked Mariota for an Azeez Ojulari fumble recovery in the fourth.

Okereke and McKinney both completed the season playing 100% of the snaps on the Giants’ defense. They are the only NFL defensive players to do that this 2023 season.

Taylor connected with second-year receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (five catches, 85 yards), Barkley, Darren Waller and Darius Slayton for some long early completions to help pace the Giants attack.

Then Okereke helped bust the game open with a fourth down pass breakup on Hurts in the early second quarter and the Giants up, 3-0.

That turnover on downs led to the first of Barkley’s two touchdowns. And because the Eagles refused to run the ball, the Giants defense kept getting the ball back quickly and the offense kept scoring.

Martindale’s defense forced two straight three-and-outs and back-to-back McKinney interceptions to close out the half, setting up Barkley’s second touchdown and a 19-yard Taylor touchdown pass to Slayton.

The offensive line, with guard Ben Bredeson sliding to center in place of injured rookie John Michael Schmitz (shin), finished strong and allowed only two sacks. Tommy DeVito briefly spelled Taylor in the first half when he injured his thumb.

“Anytime you can go out on a high note, especially when a season doesn’t go your way, it’s a good thing,” said Slayton, who earned $200,000 in incentives by crossing 750 yards and 50 catches on the season. “It’s positivity. It feels like you have something to build off of.”

The feel-good day was punctuated by career Giant Sterling Shepard catching three passes to move into fifth all-time in Giants receptions (372) in Shepard’s final game with the team and possibly in the NFL.

He passed Jeremy Shockey’s 371 career receptions and received an ovation from the crowd and his teammates. Shepard, 30, was asked how he wants to be remembered as a Giant.

“Whether I was hurt or out there on the field, I always gave it my all,” Shepard said. “I always tried to be a selfless guy, be a team guy. That’s the legacy I want to leave.”

The Giants now must face hard truths about their franchise as they turn to Black Monday, though, with expected turnover on their coaching staff and questions about their direction entering the third year of Schoen’s and Daboll’s reign.

Daboll predicted “a lot of meetings.”

McKinney, a pending free agent, was asked what he would think if the Giants franchise tagged him this offseason.

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“No comment,” he said.

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Barkley, meanwhile, said of beating the Eagles: “Hopefully it can catapult this team in the right direction into a brighter side in our division.”

There’s no telling whether he’ll be here, though, and who else is on the way out. The answers may come soon.