As Lawrence Tynes trotted onto the field to kick off with 3:32 remaining, it appeared an evacuation order had been issued for Lincoln Financial Field, so empty were the stands. Eli Manning's fourth touchdown pass of the game had all but clinched the Giants' 29-16 victory and drained the life from both the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans.
With good reason. The Giants had set aside their numerous injuries, their six-game losing streak to the Eagles and the hype that had made their opponents so popular to the football public and earned a complete and rewarding victory on the road.
"You've got to be able to work your way through all these things," Coach Tom Coughlin said after the Giants' first victory over the Eagles in almost three years. "It's early in the season, we're 2-1, that certainly means a lot to us. We've stuck by the idea of just speaking to the next guy to come along and other players have to step up when you have injuries of the nature that we've had. And a lot of guys did play very, very well and are going to have to continue to."
"It's always great to beat the Eagles on their home field, because they have great players," Manning said. "We felt coming in that we could beat these guys because we should have last year. We knew we had to win the fourth quarter. This year, unlike last year, we won the last eight minutes of the game. It was a big win for us."
It was easy to look anywhere in the Giants locker room and see a player who made a key contribution in the game.
Manning's 145.7 passer rating was his highest ever in a full game. Victor Cruz stepped in for the inactive Mario Manningham and scored his first two NFL touchdowns on receptions of 74 and 28 yards (he had three catches for 110 yards). Ahmad Bradshaw had team-high totals of 86 rushing yards and five catches, one the 18-yard touchdown that sent the fans scurrying from their seats. Brandon Jacobs had a 40-yard touchdown catch.
Aaron Ross rebounded from last week's benching to intercept two passes and Kenny Phillips had a third pick. Phillips, Jason Pierre-Paul and rookie Jacquian Williams had nine tackles apiece (all of Williams' stops were solo). Pierre-Paul had two sacks. Michael Boley made a huge tackle to stop an Eagles bid on fourth down. Safety Deon Grant, who played most of the game in place of middle linebacker Greg Jones, had seven tackles (six solo).
"This is a very satisfying win," said guard Chris Snee, who played in his 17th Giants-Eagles game. "To beat a team that talented in their environment, it shows we can potentially be a very good football team."
"I think this is a big win," Jacobs said. "We had not beaten Philly here in a while and this was a big game. We beat a good team with good talent and a great quarterback (Michael Vick, who broke his right hand in the game). We showed that we can win games against good teams."
The game was a three-act play. Acts 1 and 3 belonged to the Giants, who outscored the Eagles 14-0 in the first quarter and 15-0 in the fourth to win when trailing after three quarters for the first time since last Nov. 28 vs. Jacksonville. The second act was controlled by Philadelphia, which shut out the Giants, 16-0, in the second and third quarters. LeSean McCoy ran for Philly's only touchdown and rookie Alex Henery kicked three field goals.
A takeaway and two Manning touchdown passes helped give the Giants their early lead.
The Eagles advanced to the Giants' 19-yard line on their first offensive possession. But the march ended when Vick's second down pass for Steve Smith was intercepted by Ross, his first pick in almost three years. Ross returned the ball to the 27-yard line. Vick was pressured by Williams on the play.
Two Bradshaw runs totaling 19 yards and two Manning completions advanced the ball to the Philadelphia 40-yard line. On second-and-five, Jacobs ran out of the backfield and up the left side, seemingly unnoticed by any Eagles defender. Manning threw a pass that Jacobs caught at the 20 before he sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 6:04 remaining in the quarter. It was the fourth receiving touchdown of Jacobs' career and first since Dec. 6, 2009.
After a Philadelphia punt, the Giants took possession at their own 18-yard line. Two Jacobs' runs left them with a third-and-two at the 26. Manning then threw a pass to the left side for Victor Cruz, who caught the ball at the 34 and soon sidestepped an attempted tackle by safety Kurt Coleman – who then collided with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, causing both defenders to fall to the ground. Cruz then took off down the deserted left sideline and scored his first professional touchdown to give the Giants a 14-point lead.
"He knew that this was his opportunity," Coughlin said. "We did say it to him in so many words. And he responded very, very well."
"(Cruz) made catches in this game that were great," Manning said.
The Eagles stole the show in the second act, scoring 16 unanswered points, to take a 16-14 lead.
Henery scored Philadelphia's first points on a 21-yard field goal with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter. Before the kick, the Eagles traveled 77 yards in 14 plays and 8:02. The longest play on the drive was the first, Vick's 17-yard pass to DeSean Jackson. Philadelphia then moved methodically down the field and had a first-and-goal at the three. The Giants almost got away without allowing a point, but Phillips could not hold on to Vick's third-and-goal pass (that was tipped by Pierre-Paul) to the end zone for Steve Smith. Henery came on to kick the field goal.
Coughlin tried to keep momentum with the Giants when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-three from the Eagles' 31-yard line. But they came up a yard short when Travis Beckum slipped and fell while catching Manning's pass to the left side.
Philadelphia immediately capitalized, driving 71 yards in seven plays, including Vick passes of 17 yards to tight end Clay Harbor and 13 yards to Jeremy Maclin, as well as McCoy's 11-yard touchdown run with 1:54 remaining in the first half. On second-and-10, immediately after the two-minute warning, McCoy took a handoff and stepped forward. Finding nowhere to run, McCoy moved left and turned upfield. He sidestepped Antrel Rolle at the eight on his way to the end zone.
The Eagles next took possession at the Giants' 46 after a 27-yard punt out of bounds by Steve Weatherford. They advanced to the 20, where Vick fumbled and recovered the ball for no gain with the seconds ticking off the clock and Philadelphia out of timeouts. The field goal team rushed onto the field and Henery connected on a 38-yarder as time expired to slice the Giants' halftime lead to 14-13.
For the second time in the game, the Eagles had a first down on the doorstep of the goal line, this time at the two. The Giants defense again stepped up, turning back Vick and Owen Schmitt on runs into the line. Henerey was forced to kick another 21-yard field goal, which gave Philadelphia its only lead at 16-14.
That was the Eagles' last hurrah, as the final quarter belonged the Giants. The visitors began to regain control early in the quarter when, on fourth-and-one from the Giants' 43, Boley shot up field and dropped McCoy for a three-yard loss.
"For us it was time to step up and put an end to the drive," Boley said. "I saw it was a run and ran up and got him before he could turn the corner."
Suitably inspired, the offense drove 54 yards in only seven plays, including the 28-yard touchdown pass to Cruz, who leaped and somehow caught the ball between Jarrad Page and Asomugha.
"He really, really played well," Coughlin said of Cruz. "He understood exactly what had to happen and he made it happen. The second touchdown, he goes up in the air over the top of two people and makes a play. It's not like just catching it and running with it. The ball was in the air and all three people were stopped and about to elevate and he goes up and makes a play like that. That was a heck of a play."
Coughlin went for two and the first attempt, a pass to Brandon Stokley, failed. But Page was offside and on the second try from the one, Jacobs bulled his way over the goal line for a 22-16 lead.
The surge continued on the Eagles' next offensive play, when Ross intercepted a pass thrown by backup quarterback Mike Kafka.
"You just have to keep the pressure on," said Ross, who was temporarily removed from last week's victory over St. Louis by the coaches. "It's huge for us to come down here and get a win."
"I was very, very happy for him," Coughlin said. "He played very well. He put himself in position. He did a good job of understanding what they were trying to do, of recognizing the formations that they threw at us, and putting himself in position to make plays."
Four minutes after the pick, Lawrence Tynes was set to try a field goal that would have increased the Giants' lead to nine points. But Jason Babin was penalized five yards for encroachment, giving the Giants a first down at the 17. Three plays later, Manning flipped a short pass to Bradshaw, who zipped through the defense for the touchdown that commenced a Giants celebration and sent the Eagles fans home early and unhappy.