EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Philadelphia Eagles can only wonder what might have been this season. They led the NFC East with four games to go and blew it.
The New York Giants head into the off-season simply wondering what’s going to happen after missing the playoffs for the third straight year.
Mark Sanchez threw two touchdowns and the Eagles’ special teams scored their seventh TD of the season in a 34-26 victory over the Giants on Dec. 28, in what could have been Tom Coughlin’s final game as New York’s coach.
The Eagles (10-6) snapped a three-game losing streak that knocked them out of playoff contention last week.
The 10 wins matched their total last season when they won the NFC East, and they had a one-game lead in the division before losses to Seattle, Dallas and Washington made the finale meaningless.
“It’s a bittersweet thing because we’re not in the playoffs,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “It wasn’t like we had a terrible season: 10-6 is pretty good in the NFL. That’s not the standard we’re trying to hold ourselves to as a playoff team, a Super Bowl team.”
Philly broke the game open in the third quarter when backup tight end Trey Burton returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a score and a 24-16 lead. The Giants (6-10) got close a couple of times but Nate Allen iced the game with an interception with 2:51 to play.
“It’s just a shame we’re still not playing,” coach Chip Kelly said.
Odell Beckham Jr. capped a phenomenal rookie season with 12 catches for a career-best 185 yards, including a 63-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that got the Giants within 31-26. New York (6-10) had won three straight.
Now the question is what happens to Coughlin, who’s led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles in his 11 seasons. If he stays, which players and coaches go?
“We’re going to evaluate our team, just like we always do,” Coughlin said. “We’ll present our information of the pro personnel to the owners and if there’s anything else, it’ll be initiated by ownership. I’m going to go about my business until I’m told otherwise.”
Coughlin refused to say whether he intends to make changes if he returns after a season that he described as disappointing.
“How else do you want me to say it?” the 68-year-old coach said. “Not enough wins, too many losses.”
Sanchez was 23 of 36 for 292 yards, including touchdowns of 44 yards to rookie Jordan Matthews and 1 yard to tight end Brent Celek on the Eagles’ first two possessions.
Cody Parkey made two field goals, with the last giving the Eagles an eight-point lead after Beckham’s latest dazzling play got New York within five. Chris Polk also scored on a 1-yard run.
Allen then sealed the game with his interception and return deep into Giants territory.
Eli Manning finished 28-of-53 for 429 yards, with Rueben Randle also having a big day, catching six passes for 158 yards.
Rookie Andre Williams scored on a 1-yard run on New York’s first possession, but the Giants struggled in the red zone after that, settling for four field goals by Josh Brown, the longest from 53 yards.
The big play for the Eagles was the blocked punt by James Casey, who broke free up the middle. Burton picked up the ball and returned it down the sideline. The Eagles have scored TDs on three returns of blocked punts, two kickoff returns and two punt returns.
(TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer)