PHILADELPHIA — From Chuck Bednarik’s vicious hit on Frank Gifford at Yankee Stadium to Herman Edwards and DeSean Jackson making two Miracles at the Meadowlands, the Philadelphia Eagles have enjoyed some of their greatest moments on the road against the New York Giants.
Welcome to the rivalry, Chip Kelly.
The Eagles coach certainly doesn’t need a refresher course before Sunday’s game between the two struggling teams. He knows Philadelphia (1-3) and New York (0-4) go back a long way.
“There’s a lot of history,” Kelly said. “Obviously, when you play in games like this, it’s the closest opponent. They are right up the road, so you’re very aware of it and the battles that have gone on in this division. You understand it, especially recently with the Giants’ success and the Eagles had so much success in the 2000s.
“We are very aware of what the battle between New York and Philadelphia is like.”
There’s plenty more riding on this matchup than simply bragging rights. Both teams are desperate to turn their season around. Another loss for the Giants could signal the beginning of the end of an era for Tom Coughlin’s team, which has won the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2011 since he took over in 2004.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are trying to accelerate their rebuilding process under Kelly, and hope to take advantage of a weak division. The first-place Dallas Cowboys are only 2-2, so there’s no runaway team in the NFC East.
“It’s a division game and it’s a must-win game for both teams,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “They have a ton of really good players over there. The 0-4 record isn’t really what I see on tape. When you look at their offense, they’re explosive also. We both have the mindset that we need to win.”
The Eagles had their way recently against the Giants, winning 10 of the past 12 meetings while Andy Reid was the coach. But New York’s 42-7 victory in last year’s season finale was Reid’s last game.
He was fired a day later, and Kelly took over, bringing with him his fast-paced offense.
Following an impressive win at Washington in Kelly’s debut, the Eagles have lost three in a row to AFC West opponents. But a win over the Giants coupled with Dallas losing to Denver would put Philadelphia atop the standings after five weeks.
Not a big deal for Kelly.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in first place in the first week of October. What matters is, are you in first place after December 29?” Kelly said. “Now this game could have huge ramifications as you get down the road where us and the Giants are tied and we won a game against them and that’s where it really becomes a big deal.”
Michael Vick realizes games against the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins mean a little more than others, especially non-conference ones. That’s why one victory can change things around quickly.
“You have to keep in mind that the division is probably the most important aspect right now for us,” Vick said. “When you have division games, you want to stay on top. That’s the pride we have right now. They’re the most important.”
The Eagles have played the Giants 162 times since 1933, going 76-84-2. But some of the most memorable games went Philadelphia’s way.
There was Bednarik knocking Gifford unconscious and ending his career with a devastating hit to secure a 17-10 win during the 1960 season, the last year the Eagles won an NFL title.
In 1978, Edwards picked up a fumble and ran it in for the winning touchdown in the final minute after Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik botched a handoff instead of kneeling to run out the clock.
Ten years later, the Eagles won a game after the Giants blocked a field goal in overtime only to see Eagles lineman Clyde Simmons pick it up behind the line of scrimmage and run into the end zone.
Three years ago, Vick led the Eagles back from a 21-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to set up Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a score in the final minute.
“You can ask any fan on the street. They don’t talk about a lot of other games other than the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins, and the Giants are definitely one of their favorites,” safety Kurt Coleman said. “It’s one of the top rivalries in the league and it’s going to be a physical game.”
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