EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – To Giants fans watching the game against Philadelphia on Sunday, their team's 11-point halftime lead was either a cause for optimism or cruel irony.
A double-digit advantage against the NFC East leader was another indication the Giants are moving in the right direction. But it was just 24 days earlier that the Giants owned a fourth-quarter lead of – what else? – 11 points against the Eagles, only to see it dissolve in the final five minutes into a one-point loss. And that defeat was the Giants' eighth straight to their ancient rivals.
Those standing on the pessimistic side of the line surely felt a sense of foreboding when the Eagles took the second half kickoff and covered 84 yards in only five plays, the last a 56-yard touchdown run by Boston Scott – the same player who victimized them for three touchdowns in last season's finale and the game-winning score with 40 seconds remaining on Oct. 22. When Philly tacked on a two-point conversion, the Giants' lead had been trimmed to just three points and thoughts of another Philly nightmare were hard to ignore.
But this time, the Giants responded perfectly. On the ensuing possession, Daniel Jones completed consecutive passes of 27 yards to Sterling Shepard and 38 yards to Golden Tate. The long gains put the Eagles back on their heels and set up Wayne Gallman's second touchdown, on a one-yard run just 2:42 after Scott's score. The Giants had righted the ship and despite another Philly touchdown, went on to defeat the Eagles, 27-17.
But the game might not have ended so favorably had the Giants not quickly countered Philly's touchdown with one of their own.
"I think it's important to execute like that going down the field and have some big plays back to back to get us in position to finish the drive off," coach Joe Judge said. "With this team, we knew they were going to score points continuously, and we had to be able to answer drives. Look, we came out in the second half, I don't think we started out as fast as we wanted to, they did a good job on their part, but we responded the right way. As a team, we responded the right way. I'm proud of the way the players played it on through."
"We were confident in what we were doing all day," Jones said. "From an offensive standpoint, we felt like we were moving the ball and executing. The Eagles came out fast and scored. Being able to answer there was big for us."
The Giants' second straight victory improved their record to 3-7 entering their bye week. They have the same victory total as the division-leading 3-5-1 Eagles. But don't try to convince Judge to peak at the standings.
"It's irrelevant," he said. "The only thing that matters is we keep improving as a team and go 1-0 every week. The overall standings, we're not going to look at those, we're not going to focus on those; that's not an emphasis in our organization. We've got to keep improving as a team to give ourselves a chance to be the best program we can be."
Judge will find plenty to like about this game when he reviews the tape. Like a rushing attack that produced 151 yards and three touchdowns – a 34-yarder by Jones on the game's first possession and Gallman's scores of two and one yards. No offensive turnovers for the second straight week. Jones being both efficient and clutch while completing 21 of 28 passes for 244 yards for a season-high 100.9 passer rating.
"We're going to play aggressive with Daniel, and he's done a heck of a job making plays when we need it and making better decisions throughout the season," Judge said. "This guy is a young player who is developing, he's learning a lot every week. You can see his improvement week to week."
The Giants' lead was just 24-17 when they took possession at their own 36 with 4:52 remaining. A short and scoreless series would have given the Eagles a chance to tie or win the game. But after Gallman was stopped for no gain, Jones connected with Darius Slayton for a game-long 40-yard completion. That set up Graham Gano's second fourth-quarter field goal, a 44-yarder that was his 20th consecutive successful attempt and gave the Giants the cushion they needed to cruise to the finish line.
"That was a great a call by coach (Jason) Garrett there in that situation," Jones said. "Obviously, they were expecting the run. Expecting us to try to keep the ball on the ground and drain out the clock. Just a matchup there where we had Darius down the field. (We) just tried to give him a chance and you saw the play he made was a incredible one. Great call by coach Garrett in that situation and great job executing and heck of a catch from Darius there."
The defense also stepped up. Philadelphia did not have a third-down conversion, the first time the Giants defense pitched such a shutout since Oct. 25, 2010, in Dallas. Carson Wentz matched Jones with 21 completions but was hit 13 times and sacked thrice, and threw more than twice as many passes that hit the ground (16) as his Giants counterpart.
Most importantly, the defense that gave up two late touchdowns in the one-point loss in Lincoln Financial Field shutout the Eagles in the fourth quarter.
Fittingly, it was safety Jabrill Peppers who dealt the final blow to Philly's hopes, tackling Scott short of a first down on a late fourth-and-16 completion. Peppers was victimized for Scott's winning touchdown in the first meeting.
"He had a highlight touchdown on me to win the game," Peppers said. "I was just thinking about making an open field tackle and getting off the field. I wasn't really thinking about it like, 'Oh, I gave up this. Let me get this back.' That was my mindset going into the game. I have to make impact plays and just to wash the bad taste out of my mouth."
That's something the entire team was able to do after finally enjoying a victory against the Eagles.
View photos from the Week 10 matchup between the Giants and Eagles at MetLife Stadium.