Giants rush defense reverts to bad habits at worst time in Divisional Round loss to Eagles

PHILADELPHIA — Throughout most of the regular season, the Giants rush defense was an issue.

It appeared the team had turned a corner after defeating the Vikings 31-24 in the wild-card round. However, the Giants reverted back to their old habits in the 38-7 blowout loss to the Eagles.

Big Blue allowed 268 yards on the ground as Philadelphia averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Also, two of the Eagles’ four first-half touchdowns were on the ground.

“They just straight up beat us,” Giants wide receiver Richie James said. “We didn’t make enough plays.

“And they made too many plays. And we couldn’t stop the bleeding. That’s how they won it.

“They just was running that motherf—– and we couldn’t stop that motherf—-. And we didn’t make enough plays on offense to give the defense rest. It’s as simple as that.”

In the end, Kenneth Gainwell was Philly’s leading rusher with 112 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. Miles Sanders also chipped in with 90 yards on 17 carries as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

Boston Scott, who has owned the Giants, recorded his 11th career touchdown against them and 19th overall on a three-yard second-quarter score. Philadelphia also found the end zone on Jalen Hurts’ five-yard scamper right before halftime.

“Great team, great execution,” Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux said. “They made the plays.”

Against the Vikings last weekend, the Giants held them and running back Dalvin Cook to 61 yards rushing. But Big Blue’s defense was gassed in the first half as Miles Sanders ran for 75 yards, with 42 of those yards coming on a single drive.

Safety Xavier McKinney said he had a message for his team on the sideline after allowing 28 points in the first half.

“Just that we needed to have more urgency,” McKinney said. “Me personally, I didn’t really feel like we were playing with enough urgency.

“We just seemed real slow. The energy wasn’t high enough. It wasn’t to our standard today, and I think we all know that. We just didn’t play our best ball.”

During the regular season, the Giants finished 26th in rushing yards as they allowed 144.2 yards. New York went into the game against Philadelphia understanding that they needed to contain the rushing defense to win this game.

In the first game against the Eagles on Dec. 11, the Giants allowed 253 rushing yards and 8.2 yards per carry in a 48-22 loss.

The Giants rushing defense was much better in the third quarter as they kept the Eagles off the scoreboard and held them to just 12 yards rushing. However, in the fourth quarter, the Eagles went back to their rushing ways as they ran over 200 yards against the Giants for the second time in three meetings.

Philadelphia has always been a smash-mouth team and the Giants knew that coming into the matchup. Unlike the Vikings, who liked to throw the ball and attack with deep passes, the Eagles knew the Giants couldn’t stop their rushing defense and that’s why they exploited them.

“They’re a good team,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “They have good schemes, they have good players and they did a better job of executing their stuff.

“They had it rolling tonight. Give them credit.”