EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBS/AP) — Wearing green “The East Is Not Enough” T-shirts and division champion baseball caps, the Philadelphia Eagles showed off their dance moves in the visiting locker room. A group of backups, reserves and former practice squad players helped the team secure a playoff berth.
The NFL playoffs begin next weekend, and the Eagles will be there. In a win-and-they’re-in scenario, the Eagles (9-7) beat the New York Giants, 34-17, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening to clinch the NFC East title.
Five weeks ago, the Eagles left Miami with a loss that felt like the knockout punch. Instead, the Birds rang off four straight wins to win the division. They’re headed to the postseason riding a wave of momentum, even if it was not always pretty along the way.
Carson Wentz, one week after proving he’s capable of winning a big game, followed up with another strong performance. Wentz finished 23 of 40 for 289 yards and one touchdown.
Wentz became the first quarterback in Eagles history to surpass 4,000 passing yards in a season, setting a franchise record with 4,039 yards. He’s also the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards without a single 500-yard wide receiver.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 30, 2019
Carson Wentz led the Eagles to four straight must-wins and the team finished an elimination game without seven starters on offense.
“We’re still hungry,” Wentz said. “We’re not done yet.”
The Eagles host the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) in a wild-card game at 4:40 p.m. next Sunday. The Eagles lost, 17-9, to Seattle in Week 12.
“I don’t care who it is,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “They have to come to our house and we have to protect it.”
Already missing three starting wide receivers for the fourth straight game, the Eagles also began the game without Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson. Then they lost running back Miles Sanders and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks in the first half.
But Boston Scott, Josh Perkins, Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis combined for 16 catches on 25 targets, 225 yards receiving, 54 yards rushing and four TDs. The five players were cut a combined eight times by four teams since Aug. 31.
“You never want injuries but for these guys coming from the practice squad, the journeys they’ve been on, it makes it that much sweeter,” Wentz said.
The Eagles are in the playoffs for the third straight season but Wentz will make his first postseason start. He was sidelined after knee surgery in 2017 when Nick Foles led Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl title. He was injured again last year when Foles took the Eagles to the divisional round.
After the Eagles took a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter, the turning point came on the Giants’ first play on the ensuing drive. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins stripped Giants QB Daniel Jones after a bad snap, which resulted in Fletcher Cox recovering inside the Giants’ 5-yard line.
Scott punched it in for his second TD as the Eagles went up, 27-17, after scoring 10 points in less than a minute.
The Birds didn’t look back.
— Lesley Van Arsdall (@LesleyCBS3) December 30, 2019
Scott, a sixth-round pick initially signed off the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad in 2018, led the way with a monster effort with Sanders out.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 30, 2019
The 24-year-old finished with 138 total yards and three second-half TDs. He was a threat both on the ground and in the passing game with 84 yards coming in the air.
“I just waited for my opportunity and made sure I was ready,” Scott said.
Perkins caught four balls for 50 yards and a 24-yard TD. Burnett caught two balls for 48 yards. Ward Jr. had six catches for 43 yards.
In fact, the Birds’ offense featured four players who were practice-squad call-ups combining for 279 total yards and four touchdowns.
While the Eagles seek another Super Bowl title, the Giants (4-12) face more uncertainty. Coach Pat Shurmur’s job status is in question after going 9-23 in two seasons.
“We’re not a good enough team yet to win those close games but someday we will be,” Shurmur said.
Scott turned a screen pass into a 39-yard gain, spinning and twisting his way to the 2 to set up his last touchdown that made it 34-17.
The Giants stayed close into the fourth quarter. Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard TD run tied it at 17-17 in the third quarter.
But Burnett, signed by the Eagles on Dec. 10 after he was cut by the Niners and Jets, made a sliding 41-yard catch to set up Jake Elliott’s 50-yard field goal that gave the Eagles a 20-17 lead in the fourth.
Scott’s first TD run gave Philadelphia a 17-10 lead. The Eagles started that drive at their 38 after Cre’Von LeBlanc batted down a pass on fourth down.
Jones tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to tie it 10-10 on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Scott made a one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab on a screen pass and turned it into a 29-year gain earlier on Philadelphia’s first TD drive. Wentz kept it going with a successful sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Giants 26 one play before his TD toss to Perkins.
The Eagles overcame adversity the past two seasons, losing Wentz. They’ve never faced injuries like this, however.
Defensive end Brandon Graham credits coach Doug Pederson for keeping the team together.
“That’s Doug and his attitude,” Graham said. “Never get too high, never get too low. Control what you can control. We bought into it and now we’re wearing a hat and T-shirt and we’re in the dance.”
Sanders became the first Eagles player since Don Johnson in 1953 to lead all rookies in scrimmage yards, finishing with 1,327. He surpassed Oakland’s Josh Jacobs before getting injured.
Eagles: Sanders injured his ankle. Brooks was carted off the field after suffering a shoulder injury on the first extra point. CB Avonte Maddox left with an undisclosed injury. CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills already were out of the lineup.
Giants: RB Eli Penny left with a back injury in the first half.
Eagles: Host a playoff game.
Giants: Season over.
(©Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)