Sunday, December 28, 2014

Birds take out Giants to end season on up note

East Rutherford, NJ -- Mark Sanchez may not be around much longer.

If not, he made sure to depart this city on an up note. He threw two touchdown passes and a key play from the Eagles' special teams enabled Philadelphia to end a disappointing December on a high note with a 34-26 win over the New York Giants.

Trey Burton's 27-yard run back of a punt blocked by James Casey early in the third quarter helped the Eagles (10-6) halt a costly three-game skid that eliminated the club from playoff contention, while Sanchez put up 292 yards with an interception on a solid 23-of-36 completion rate in the former Jet's return to MetLife Stadium.

Jordan Matthews aided Philadelphia's cause as well by coming up with 105 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, with LeSean McCoy contributing 99 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Birds, though eliminated from the playoffs, nonetheless finished with their 10th double-digit win season since 2000.

New York (6-10) had a three-game win streak stopped despite 429 passing yards from Eli Manning and career days from Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle. The Giants ended up with their first 10-loss season since Manning's rookie year of 2004.

Beckham finished out a sensational rookie campaign by amassing 185 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions, while Randle finished with a personal-best 158 yards on six grabs.

Manning hit on 28-of-53 throws with one touchdown and an interception.

The Eagles led 17-16 at the conclusion of an action-packed first half following Cody Parkey's 32-yard field goal as time expired, then extended the margin early in the third quarter behind their special teams unit.

Casey rushed up the middle to get a hand on Steve Weatherford's punt deep in New York territory, and Burton scooped up the free ball at the 27-yard line before racing up the sideline and diving into the end zone.

Josh Brown's fourth field goal of the day, a 53-yarder with 4:24 left in the third quarter, brought the Giants within 24-19. However, Randle had a 34-yard touchdown catch on the drive called back on a holding penalty by left tackle Will Beatty.

After New York managed just one first down on its next possession, the Eagles created some more distance by marching 65 yards in eight plays.

McCoy ripped off a 21-yard run and came up with a 15-yard catch to bring Philadelphia in scoring range, with Matthews adding a pair of receptions that set up Chris Polk's 1-yard touchdown plunge for a 31-19 Philadelphia lead less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Giants quickly responded on Beckham's 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown, but Sanchez went 4-for-5 on the ensuing series to set Parkey up for a 39-yard field goal that put the Eagles up 34-26 with 7:56 left.

New York's defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with 3:45 remaining, but Nate Allen ended any comeback hopes by intercepting Manning and returning the pick 40 yards to the Giants' 18.

Both teams were able to easily move down the field on their opening drives, with the Giants churning out 80 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 edge on Andre Williams' 1-yard touchdown that Randle helped create with a leaping 43-yard catch in double coverage.

Philadelphia needed just three plays and 71 seconds to answer, as Sanchez hit Matthews on the move and the rookie receiver shook a tackle at the Giants' 30 before sprinting in for a 44-yard score.

Sanchez was intercepted by Stevie Brown on the Eagles' next series, but the turnover was negated by a 41-yard pass interference call on Chykie Brown that put the ball on the New York 6-yard line. Philadelphia capitalized when Sanchez found Brent Celek for a 1-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal for a 14-7 lead with 6:12 to go in the first quarter.

The Eagles failed to reach the end zone again over the remainder of the half, however, as New York went ahead on three Josh Brown field goals.

Two catches by Beckham, including a 22-yarder on 3rd-and-5, led to the first of those makes, a 38-yarder late in the initial quarter. The Giants later went 47 yards in 10 plays following Mike Harris' interception of Sanchez to position Josh Brown for a 20-yard field goal that brought New York within 14-13 midway through the second.

The Giants briefly went ahead on a 36-yard kick just prior to the two-minute warning that Randle helped get in range with grabs of 36 and 25 yards, though his offensive pass interference penalty near the goal line eventually caused the drive to stall.

Sanchez then made good on 5-of-6 throws in engineering a two-minute drive that led to Parkey's field goal that concluded the first half.

Notes: Beckham posted his ninth straight game with at least 90 receiving yards, tying Hall of Famer Michael Irvin's NFL record set in 1995 ... Weatherford had punted 672 times over a nine-year NFL career without having one blocked ... Parkey finished the season with 150 points, breaking an NFL rookie record previously held by Chicago's Kevin Butler in 1985. The total is also six more than David Akers' franchise record in 2008 ... The Eagles, who shut out the Giants in Philadelphia by a 27-0 score in Week 6, completed their first season sweep of New York since 2010 ... The Giants had 278 total yards over the first two quarters, their highest total in a half since the 2012 season finale against Philadelphia ... Stevie Brown injured his left ankle on his overturned interception and did not return.

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