EAST RUTHERFORD - If the Philadelphia Eagles wind up making the playoffs this season, they can point to Sunday's game as the one that served as the turning point.
They desperately needed a victory after three consecutive losses that included an embarrassing defeat at Denver last week. They came through at MetLife Stadium, using a solid performance by backup quarterback Nick Foles and a fourth-quarter surge by the defense to beat the winless New York Giants 36-21.
"This is a big win for us," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "It was an important game against a big division rival and we were willing to do whatever we needed to do to get it."
The Eagles improved to 2-3 overall and 2-0 against NFC East opponents. They are now tied for first place in the division with Dallas (2-3), which lost to Denver on Sunday.
The Giants dropped to 0-5 for the first time in a non-strike season since 1979.
During the fourth quarter, when the Eagles scored two touchdowns and Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw three interceptions, the 80,738 fans at MetLife Stadium stopped booing the Eagles and directed their anger and frustration toward the home team.
"The disappointment is very obvious, and it's very frustrating," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We didn't expect to be in this situation. We dug our own hole and here we are."
Foles played a pivotal role in the Eagles' victory. Starter Michael Vick limped to the sidelines late in the second quarter with a strained left hamstring. Foles, who lost a duel with Vick for the starting job in the preseason, came off the bench to complete 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and touchdowns to tight end Brent Celek and Jackson. He was not intercepted.
Despite Foles' impressive performance, however, Eagles coach Chip Kelly was quick to announce that Vick will be the starter next week at Tampa Bay if he is healthy enough to play.
"In this league, you have to have two quarterbacks ready to play no matter what," Kelly said. "I'm fortunate to have two quarterbacks I have confidence in with Michael and Nick. But the (starting) job is not up for grabs."
Foles was at his best in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles outscored the Giants 14-0 to turn a tight, tense game into a comfortable victory.
Foles followed linebacker Mychal Kendricks' first career interception by firing a 25-yard strike to Celek, who made a diving catch in the end zone to make up for having dropped an easy pass at Denver.
After cornerback Brandon Boykin grabbed another interception, Foles hit Jackson for a 6-yard TD that sent the fans streaming out of the stadium with 8 minutes, 32 seconds remaining.
"My job is to go out there when Michael is hurt and get a win," Foles said. "So I have to be ready to go when I'm called upon. But this is a team win. Everybody contributed out there today."
Alex Henery did his part by booting five field goals, one shy of the team record Tom Dempsey set against the Houston Oilers in 1972.
But it was the defense that played perhaps the biggest part in the Eagles' first win since a 33-27 victory at Washington in the season opener on Sept. 9.
The unit forced four total turnovers, including fourth-quarter interceptions by Kendricks, Boykin and cornerback Cary Williams. It was the first time the Eagles have had three interceptions in the fourth quarter of a game since Al Harris, William Frizzell and Eric Allen did so against the Phoenix Cardinals quarterback Tom Tupa on Oct. 15, 1989.
"This game was huge for us," defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. "When you get beat the way we did last week, you need to find a way to come back and we did. This was really a shot in the arm for us."
The key for the Eagles is to sustain that momentum over the next few weeks.
They are entering a favorable stretch of their schedule. Their three losses were to teams that entered the weekend with a combined record of 10-2. The Giants' game started a streak that features games against four foes - including the Giants again - with a 3-12 mark entering the weekend.
Tampa Bay (0-4) is up next.
"As I've said before, every week is a season," Kelly said. "We're just five games into a 16-game season."
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