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Jalen Hurts powers Eagles to NFC Championship Game


PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles are headed to the NFC Championship Game after cruising to a 38-7 win over the New York Giants on Saturday in the divisional playoff round.

The Eagles will face the winner of Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers.

Philadelphia Eagles

Despite a lingering shoulder injury, quarterback Jalen Hurts returned to MVP form — just in time for what Philly hopes is a long postseason run.

Hurts has been dealing with a sternoclavicular (SC) joint sprain in his throwing shoulder since suffering the injury on Dec. 18 at the Chicago Bears. According to the Fox broadcast, Hurts said before Saturday’s contest he is “nowhere near 100 percent,” adding that he also came down with an illness late in the week. But Hurts did not show any adverse effects, finishing 16-for-24 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns and also running for another TD to lead the rout.

The Eagles largely avoided designed runs in Hurts’ first game back from injury during a close win over these Giants in the regular-season finale. Saturday’s outing was a different story. He had six designed rushes in the first half alone, per ESPN Stats & Information, tied for the second-most designed rushes in a first half in his career. He took a couple of shots to the shoulder throughout the game, but Hurts didn’t let on if it hurt him.

Right tackle Lane Johnson, meanwhile, played with a torn adductor and appeared to hold up well.

With two of their biggest injury concerns alleviated — at least for the night — the Eagles enter next weekend’s NFC Championship Game with reason to believe they could be Super Bowl-bound.

Promising trend: Edge rusher Haason Reddick‘s disruptive ways carried over to the postseason. Reddick, who was tied for second in the NFL with 16 sacks during the regular season, made life difficult for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones early and often, leading all players with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits. The three-year, $45 million contract the Eagles gave Reddick in free agency this offseason looks more and more like a steal every week.

Pivotal play: Speaking of a good signing, Philly struck gold by inking cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year, $10 million deal. He got sweet revenge against his former team, jumping a route to intercept Jones late in the first quarter. With that, any thought of New York making it a competitive game all but left the building. — Tim McManus

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Saquon hands it off to Breida for the Giants’ first TD of the game

Matt Breida takes the handoff from Saquon Barkley and turns the corner into the end zone.

New York Giants

The Giants found out with a blowout loss at Lincoln Financial Field that they’re not quite ready to compete for a Super Bowl.

The Eagles represented a major step up in competition from a Minnesota Vikings team that New York faced in the wild-card round. No. 1 NFC seed Philadelphia did whatever it wanted in the first half while building a 28-0 lead, before ending the sixth-seeded Giants’ season in commanding fashion.

It wasn’t ever close. But it still doesn’t ruin what was an overall promising first season for coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen’s Giants.

Silver lining: The Giants’ campaign was a success. Sure, this loss hurts. There is no way around it. It was to a rival, and the Eagles just own them. The Giants still haven’t won in Philadelphia since 2013, making it 10 straight losses.

It still can’t be lost on anyone that this Giants team, under Daboll’s leadership, wasn’t supposed to do much this season. New York’s roster, as was evident Saturday night, is flawed.

Remember, the Giants took their medicine over the offseason to clear the salary cap. They cut players such as cornerback James Bradberry (which came back to bite them when he intercepted a pass against his former team in Saturday’s contest) clearly with the future in mind, even if it was a detriment to the 2022 team. They also got rid of a talented player at the trade deadline in wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

Making the playoffs and showing the growth they did while watching their quarterback, Daniel Jones, flourish has to be viewed as a success. Don’t let emotions of the divisional round loss alter this reality.

Troubling trend: More than 200 rushing yards allowed. The Eagles ran for 253 yards in the first meeting between the teams this season. They had 268 on Saturday night.

It’s something the Giants have to assess this offseason. They were 27th in the NFL in rushing defense (144.2 yards per game) during the regular season.

They need to improve drastically. A big part of that is fine-tuning the personnel at inside linebacker, whether it be in free agency or the draft. Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis were exposed badly by the Eagles.

The Giants are expected to have more than $50 million in cap space this offseason. Schoen & Co. will undoubtedly add a linebacker and defensive line depth.

QB breakdown: Jones finished 15-of-27 passing for 135 yards with one interception. This was the game Jones and the Giants’ offense had avoided for most of the season. They just weren’t able to get anything going, in part because their quarterback had no time, as he was sacked five times.

Jones was pressured on 64% of his first-half dropbacks, per ESPN Stats & Information. Only Russell Wilson in 2015 and 2016 faced a higher pressure rate in a playoff game since ESPN began tracking pressures in 2009.

Jones also threw an interception to his former teammate, Bradberry, in the first half. It was just the second interception he had thrown in his final seven games of the campaign, including the playoffs.

Under-the-radar stat that matters: Eagles running back Boston Scott‘s 11 career touchdowns versus the Giants. New York defensive coordinator Wink Martindale tried to deny it during the week. “Just because he scored, I don’t think he’s a Giant-killer,” Martindale said of what he saw of Scott from the first two meetings.

Scott scored again on Saturday against the Giants — this time on a three-yard run in the second quarter.

The numbers are ridiculous. Scott has 11 touchdowns in nine career games against the Giants. He has eight in 56 career games against the rest of the NFL. It almost doesn’t even make sense at this point. — Jordan Raanan

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