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Notebook: Giants know challenge ahead in Philadelphia


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Their recent results suggest the Philadelphia Eagles are in the throes of a mini-slump. But the Giants, in keeping with the spirit of the season and the teams' upcoming meeting on Christmas Day, respond with a resounding bah humbug.

"They're 10-4," Giants coach Brian Daboll said. "They're pretty good."

The Eagles are also the defending NFC champions and though tied with Dallas atop the NFC East, they control their destiny to win the division title. If they win their final three games, including two against the Giants, they will finish in first place.

But Philadelphia has lost three consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 2-4 of the 2021 season. That the defeats were to San Francisco and Dallas - two teams already assured of postseason berths – and Seattle, a playoff contender, does not mollify the Philly faithful.

The Eagles did not score more than 19 points in any of those games and lost to the 49ers and Cowboys by a combined 43 points. A late Seahawks touchdown and two fourth quarter interceptions doomed the Eagles in a 20-17 defeat Monday night in Seattle. But it did nothing to shake the Giants' conviction that Philadelphia remains an NFL power.

"They are still real good," Daboll said. "Really good skill players, good quarterback, good offensive line, good running back, got a lot of talent on their team."

"First thing I'm going to say is: what's their record?" defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "Alright, we know what their record is, so I'm not buying any of that."

The collection of talent includes quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose 14 rushing touchdowns tied the record for quarterbacks set by Carolina's Cam Newton in 2011; receivers A.J. Brown (95 catches, 1,314 yards and seven touchdowns) and DeVonta Smith (74-957-six) and running back D'Andre Swift (896 yards and four scores).

"You are going against an offense that you play 11-on-11 football and you have to defend every blade of grass, the same way you do against San Francisco, the same way you do against the Dolphins," Martindale said. "It's going to be a tough challenge for us.

"Their skill that they have at receiver, getting Swift at running back, he's a difference maker. So, he has all kinds of weapons, Jalen does offensively, and that guy is a winner. They've played some closer games this year. That happens, that's this league. So, it's going to be a tough challenge."

Several of Hurts' touchdowns and many other key Eagles gains have resulted from the now famous (or infamous) Tush Push, in which Hurts keeps the ball on a quarterback sneak and is aided by the players behind him pushing him forward. The Eagles are third in the NFL in third down conversions (48.4%) and first when going for it on fourth down (72.7%) and the push is a major factor in that success.

"What is it, a 96 percent success rate on that rugby (play)?" Martindale said. "But we are going to give it our best shot, so we'll see what happens.

"Obviously, they are really good at it because they know – it's just like a rugby scrum and if you see a rugby scrum, in the sport of rugby, it goes this way, it goes this way, it goes this way, it goes this way, (pointing fingers in different directions). Well, if it moves at all a little bit forward, they are going to give them the forward progress. It doesn't matter how you play it. And I think every defensive coordinator, every coach in this league, has looked at different ways to try to stop it and it's just a tough play to stop."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 16 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have had issues defensively. In the three games before the loss in Seattle – an overtime victory against Buffalo and the losses to San Francisco and Dallas - the Eagles allowed 34, 42 and 33 points. That prompted coach Nick Sirianni to take defensive play-calling duties away from coordinator Sean Desai and give them to senior defensive assistant Matt Patricia, who made the calls on Monday.

Daboll and Patricia were on the same New England Patriots coaching staff for seven seasons.

"I have a lot of respect for Matt, for Sean, for Nick, all those guys," Daboll said. "He has his own touch to things. How he called it against Seattle, I wouldn't say it's drastically different but there's certain elements that are maybe a little bit different, so he's a heck of a coach."

The Giants players expect to see the same stout Eagles defense that has often given them fits in recent years.

"We're not getting caught up in that they have lost the last three or however many games," Saquon Barkley said. "That's still (defensive tackle) Fletcher Cox over, that's still (defensive tackle) Jalen Carter over there. They've got studs all around, especially on the defensive side. I'm fortunate enough that I don't play both sides, so I don't have to go against the offense, but on that side, they have a lot of playmakers, too.

"No matter what happened in the last three games, they are still a great team, they are one of the best teams in the NFL. You know the environment is going to be – it's going to be a tough game and I said if we want to come out with a win, we've got to play our best ball."

No one can say bah humbug to that.

*While the Eagles ballhandlers get most of the attention, Martindale was effusive in his praise of five-time first-team All-Pro center Jason Kelce, who has started all 201 regular-season and postseason games in his 13-year career.

"One of the greatest challenges of playing Philly is going against Jason Kelce," Martindale said. "This guy to me is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He embodies Philly. Just like the fans, mean but smart. It's like playing (former Colts and Broncos quarterback) Peyton Manning and it's not sexy, so he doesn't get that Peyton Manning type credit, but he'll see something, whether it's a stance, whether it's a guy putting his mouthpiece in different, he'll see something and completely flip a protection. So, that chess match is always tough. … I think Jason Kelce, he doesn't get enough credit. Like I said, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer."

*The Giants placed kicker Randy Bullock on injured reserve because of the hamstring injury he suffered Sunday in New Orleans. His roster spot was taken by defensive lineman Timmy Horne, who was signed off the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad.

Horne played in 20 games with three starts in two seasons with the Falcons, including all 17 games and each of his starts as an undrafted rookie from Kansas State in 2022. His career totals include 31 tackles (13 solo), one quarterback hit, and two passes defensed.

*Even with Horne, the Giants were a bit thin on the defensive line in practice today. Dexter Lawrence (hamstring) and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (knee) did not participate. A'Shawn Robinson (back) was limited.

After missing the victory against New England, Lawrence played just 59 of 130 snaps (45.4%) vs. Green Bay and New Orleans. Asked if his availability for Philadelphia is in jeopardy, Daboll said, "What's today? Thursday? We got some time. … If they tell me that he's ready to go, then he'll play. Whether he practices today, whether he practices Saturday. If they say he's ready to play, he will play."

*The other players who didn't practice were safety Xavier McKinney (illness), tight end Lawrence Cager (groin), and tackle Evan Neal (ankle). Those who were limited included running back Matt Breida (hamstring), linebacker Carter Coughlin (neck), and punter Jamie Gillan (left groin).

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