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Eagles Versus Giants And Other Football Concerns

American football player Chuck Bednarik (#60) of the Philadelphia Eagles eyes his opponants as Charlie Conerly (#42), quarterback for the New York Giants prepares to take the ball during a game, late 1950s or early 1960s.
Robert Riger/Getty Images|

Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik (he’d tell you) plays against the New York Giants in a game Getty says is the late 1950s or 1960s.

Bert Bell and Bud Wray founded the Eagles in 1933, and they promptly got stomped by the Giants 56-0 in their very first game. “They proved no match for the sturdy yeomen who foregathered in the shadows of Coogan’s Bluff at the Polo Grounds,” The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, seven pages after a section titled “Daily Social Record And Other Feminine Concerns.”

The Eagles even bungled their best chance at avoiding a shutout that game. “Swede Hanson stood out in bold relief for the Eagles,” the Inquirer continued. “Once he got away for a 35-yard dash, stumbling when he had a clear field ahead for a touchdown.” Hanson, who’d scored five touchdowns and four extra points in 110-0 victory for Temple over Blue Ridge in 1927, would still score the Eagles’ first-ever touchdown two weeks later. The Eagles would first beat the Giants in their final game of the year next season, a 6-0 thriller. “The second largest crowd in two years, 12,781 persons, watched the Wraymen gain their initial triumph over the Eastern champions—and they saw one of the finest exhibitions of wide open football of the year,” Stan Baumgartner wrote in the Inquirer. “Piston-like drives at the line were interspersed with cutting slices at the tackles and wide sweeps around end. Forward passes were thrown without fear and forward laterals—even forward double laterals—were tried with varying success.” Tell me you don’t want to see this game now, at least to figure out what the hell Stan’s talking about.

The drives against the Giants were usually not piston-like. Against, anyone, really: The team did not have a winning record in its first decade of play. The Giants went 17-3 against Philly. It took a one-season merger with the Steelers in 1943 for the team to have a winner; the Steagles went 5-4-1. The Eagles then got good; Coach Greasy Neale would lead them to consecutive championships in 1948 and 1949. In that first title year the Eagles beat the Giants 45-0. “The dynamite long dormant in the Philadelphia Eagles exploded yesterday with a detonations that all but blew the New York Giants into the laps of the 23,595 seated in Shibe Park,” Frank O’Gara wrote in the Inquirer. (Baumgartner was in Cleveland for the World Series.)

The Eagles never chipped away much at that early deficit to the Giants for a long time. After the 1963 season the Eagles were 21-40-1 against New York. Fortunes started to turn, though. The Eagles beat the Giants 12 straight from 1975 to 1981, and they were just 44-49-2 all time. But New York still controlled the series, and the Eagles were 59-72-2 against the Giants from 1933 to 1999. This century, though, the Giants have been the ones stumbling. The Eagles are 35-16 against the Giants since 2000. Including playoffs, the Eagles are now 94-88-2 against them. And Monday was another win. It has been a remarkable turnaround.

The Eagles used to be cursed against the Giants. “Abisha Pritchard, who understandably prefers to be called Bosh—a slim, suave speedster who professes to be a crooner but ought to be a dancing master—today taught the unwilling New York Giants the latest steps,” the Inquirer’s O’Gara wrote in 1947 after the Eagles’ first-ever season sweep of New York. “At the conclusion of his demonstration, the hapless 1948 Eastern champs had absorbed so little instruction that they had absorbed a 41-24 defeat, Bashful Bosh had a personal total of three touchdowns, and the Philadelphia Eagles had broken a jinx acquired along with their National Football League franchise.”

The stories after Monday's game were not so positive. It was another ho-hum win for the Philadelphia Eagles, the worst good team in the history of football. They ended a three-game skid with a 33-25 win over the Giants, are now 10-4, and will win the NFC East if they win their last two. But everyone hates them. On Monday a 20-3 halftime lead was 20-18 entering the fourth. Fans amused themselves by chanting “run the ball”, something that the crowd at the Baker Bowl must’ve yelled after the Eagles screwed up a double forward lateral play in 1934.

Jalen Hurts threw for 301 yards and a score; his tush-push TD in the first set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns for a QB. Hurts, in his fourth season, is fourth in all time rushing TDs for the Eagles. His YPC of 4.8 is better than the three guys ahead of him (Steve Van Buren, Wilbert Montgomery, LeSean McCoy). He’s pissed. “I don’t think win, lose, or draw, there’s a circumstance where we compromise the standard of what we want and how we want to be,” Hurts said. "It’s just a matter of being together and committing ourselves to that excellence and chasing that.” He’s a pretty chill guy. This is pissed for him.

Direct anger came from DeVonta Smith. “We’re not playing good football right now,” he said. “As an offense, we’re not where we want to be. I’m not satisfied. Yeah, we got 11 wins. I’m not happy.” The Eagles have not been that way all season. A source told the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane the Eagles were “the most miserable 10-1 team.” A month later and the dynamite long dormant in the Philadelphia Eagles exploded.

The three-game losing streak was a change of pace, at least. Monday was more of the same: The Eagles beat a hated rival. They moved into first in the division. Beat Arizona and the Giants again and they’ll at least get a home playoff game. Yet the game was awful to watch. The Eagles had a TD overturned on replay and ended up kicking a FG. Dallas Goedert slipped on Hurts’s pick six. It wasn’t his fault. He had two great third-and-long passes. But Hurts is the franchise QB, and again he didn’t look like he did last year. He also made at least one bonehead play: He stayed in bounds in the final seconds of the first half when the Eagles had no timeouts. Only a delay of game penalty by Bobby Okereke gave the Eagles a clock stoppage. They kicked a field goal. (There is no stat yet for Boneheaded Plays; I will have to watch game film to see if there were any other.)

Earlier on that last first-half drive, Nick Sirianni wasted about 20 seconds when he waited to call a timeout. The defense played well, then let up a 70-yard touchdown in the fourth that kept the Giants’ longshot victory hopes alive. The Eagles’ special teams have been great this season for the first time since 1948, I think. Then Olamide Zaccheus ran over Boston Scott on the second half kickoff, the Giants recovered the fumble, and scored their first TD of the game three plays later. Down a score, the Giants drove to the ball to the Eagles 26 before Kelee Ringo picked off Tyrod Taylor on the game’s final play. This was the seventh time this season the opposing team has had the ball down a score late with a chance to beat or tie the Eagles; it was the fifth time an opponent has driven into Eagles territory with a chance to win the game late. Was this somehow the worst of those? It was a home game against the Giants, who are bad this year and benched their third-string QB for their fourth-string QB at halftime. And the Eagles gave them a chance, no matter how small.

The Eagles play Jonathan Gannon and the woeful Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, their second-to-last game of the season. I can't wait to see how they win by three scores and still drive every Eagles fan who watches totally nuts.

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