The Eagles (1-4-1) have won seven straight in the series. Injured Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and several teammates’ houses might as well have Giants doormats to greet guests. Ertz played and scored a touchdown in six of those seven wins (he missed last year’s season finale with an injury) and has been on Eagles teams that have won 11 of the past 12 against New York (1-5).
But the Eagles aren’t the only NFC East rival to dominate the Giants in recent years. The Dallas Cowboys have also won seven straight, including two weeks ago when backup quarterback Andy Dalton led a game-winning drive.
That’s 14 straight Giants losses to the Cowboys and Eagles dating to 2016, a skid matched only in the 1970s when the Giants had losing streaks of 12 games to Dallas and Philadelphia.
“It doesn’t sit well,” former Giants offensive lineman Chris Snee told ESPN of the current skid. “But it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t sit well with me. It has got to irk those players in the locker room.”
It would have been enough to make Snee’s former teammates Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul sick. Tuck wasn’t shy about the “hate” he had for the Cowboys. Pierre-Paul once ended a news conference by saying he still hates the Eagles, after trying throughout the 10-minute session to not say anything of the sort.
It’s not the same for the current Giants, who don’t know what it’s like to win a meaningful division game. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is the only player on the roster to remember the last win against the Cowboys on Dec. 11, 2016, when Odell Beckham Jr.‘s 61-yard catch-and-run on a Sunday night proved to be the difference.
To these Giants, Thursday is just another game, albeit one in the division. Most don’t seem to know (or care) about the Giants’ struggles against their NFC East rivals. Maybe it’s the recent results or, more likely, the changing times with transient players.
“That was my first time hearing it,” veteran safety Logan Ryan, in his first season with the Giants, said of the 14 straight losses. “I know we lost 11 of the last 12 or whatever it may be [to the Eagles]. That has no significance to this [game]. Streaks all come to an end.
“I remember when I got to Tennessee, there was not one good streak ever. We lost this many to Indy and never beat [former Colts QB] Andrew Luck and never beat this [team], and then we’re in the AFC Championship. I really don’t care. It’s going to come down to me and [Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz and the Giants and the Eagles and everyone else out there who’s playing in the game. Salute to [former Eagles safety] Brian Dawkins, [former Giants pass-rusher Michael] Strahan and all these guys, but they’re not going to help us.”
Ryan grew up in South Jersey among Eagles fans and still downplays this game. Giants coach Joe Judge, born and raised an Eagles fan in the Philadelphia suburbs, has downplayed it as well — even though he starts most weeks with a dissertation to his players about the history of Giants football.
“I don’t really think about that at all, actually,” Judge said of needing to beat the Eagles or Cowboys. “Our goal right now is to prepare for this year’s Eagles team. This is a different team than it was in the past. We’re a more improved team than we were in Week 1 and we’re [a more] improved team than we were seven days ago.”
The Eagles and Giants have produced some of football’s most memorable moments. There has been the Miracle at the Meadowlands (Giants QB Joe Pisarcik’s fumble), the DeSean Jackson punt return (2010), the Chuck Bednarik-Frank Gifford hit (1960), the Jason Sehorn interception (2000 playoffs) and Osi Umenyiora’s record six sacks in a game (2007).
Bottom line, these were always special games that created memorable moments.
“The Eagles were kind of always the thorn in our side,” Snee said. “To me, those were the games that we got up for … The proximity. The history. There was legitimate dislike amongst the two teams. I don’t know if that still exists or not. It stinks, because it takes away from that rivalry.”
Whether it was the dislike of former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan and his tactics, or Strahan’s rivalry with Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan, there always seemed to be a storyline in a series Philadelphia leads 87-85-2.
The Cowboys had a different dynamic, dominating the series 69-46-2. But the same dislike was there, and the Giants had their moments before this recent skid.
The Giants were the ones who spoiled the opening of Jones’ house, AT&T Stadium, during the 2009 season.
“First win in new stadium,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning scribbled on the wall afterward. It still wasn’t the Giants’ most memorable victory in the Manning era against the Cowboys.
“I don’t think [the opening of AT&T Stadium] trumps the ’07 playoffs,” Snee said. “It was the playoffs. The arrogance. There was a lot of arrogance with that [top-seeded] Cowboys team.”
This wasn’t anything new. As legendary Giants linebacker Harry Carson explained, the Cowboys had that big gaudy star on their helmet. They came to the opening of Giants Stadium in 1976 and “looked at us as the team they played at homecoming.”
The Giants, at that time, didn’t have the full respect of the Cowboys. It would take years before it was earned. It’s similar to where the Giants are now, with the NFL’s worst record since the start of the 2017 season (13-41).
It took until 1980, when Phil Simms became the quarterback, that the Giants were able to beat the Cowboys and end a 12-game skid from 1974 to 1980. It took until the ’81 season for New York to beat the Eagles after 12 straight losses.
When these Giants do reach that point (they hope with Daniel Jones at quarterback), it will be a significant step. Getting back to being a serious contender begins with winning your own division.
“It was special,” Carson said of beating the Eagles and Cowboys in the early ’80s. “Back then, everyone wanted to play the Giants. … In college, you want to play against that team that is a doormat.
“That is what the Giants were at that time. They were sort of like a doormat of the division. … And [rivals] sort of chalked it up as an automatic win. When we got to the point where you couldn’t just chalk it up … you develop more respect for one another. But also you saw those teams play with a deeper respect for you.”
Starting a streak of their own
Winning four straight and 11 of 15 against Washington is all that has kept the Giants from total NFC East incompetence. That respect Carson mentioned is what Judge and the Giants are trying to earn.
Thursday night is an opportunity to start a streak of their own. On Sunday the Giants won their first game under Judge, and the Eagles are decimated by injuries. Ertz is among the starters who will miss the game, and Philadelphia’s offensive line is hobbled. But Wentz has beaten the Giants playing with a makeshift supporting cast before. Look no further than Week 17 last season with the playoffs at stake and no Ertz.
Stephania Bell expects Darius Slayton to be limited in practice and questionable for the Giants’ game against the Eagles on Thursday.
Can he do it again? It might be up to the Giants (many who endured those two December losses to the Eagles last season) to decide they have had enough of being third-class citizens in the NFC East.
“You come to a point when you get your face smashed in. Someone puts an orange in your face and rubs it all over your face. At some point, you get tired of that,” Carson said. “You want to rub that orange or lemon back in their face. So when you come to a point where you feel there is a change in the attitude and the locker room and you’re playing against the Cowboys [or Eagles], you really want to shove that s— back in their face.
“But, again, it’s those guys that are fortunate enough to be around for years and be able to experience what they’ve gone through and then a year or two later be able to play well and redeem themselves.”
Jones is one of the guys the organization expects to have around for years. He missed the first matchup last year but played in the season finale, so he experienced his first taste of losing to Philadelphia.
Maybe that was enough for him and the rest of this core group of Giants? At some point, this Big Blue nightmare has to end.
“When they’ve had enough, they’ll decide,” Snee said. “So it’s up to them. New guys, old guys in the locker room, it doesn’t matter. When you’re tired of being a punching bag, you’ll step up and do something about it.”