EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Mychal Kendricks dropped back into coverage and kept his eyes on Eli Manning.
“I knew he wanted to pass to [Brandon] Jacobs,” Kendricks said. “Someone stopped him from passing the first time, and then the second time they came through, someone tipped the ball, and by that time I had already broken and it fell into my hands.”
The “someones” he was referring to were Brandon Boykin and Trent Cole. Boykin came on a blitz from the right edge, and Cole rushed from the same side. Both got pressure on Manning as the ball popped up in the air before it landed into Kendricks’ hands.
The interception came with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles clinging to a 22-21 lead. It also was the first of three straight takeaways that proved to be the difference in the Eagles’ 36-21 win.
“I came off the edge,” Boykin said. “Eli didn’t even see that I was gonna blitz. We did a good job of holding our disguise. Then he stepped up in the pocket, and I actually slipped. But just tried to wrap my arm around and hit his elbow and disrupt the timing. And I think me and Trent Cole were actually right there hitting his elbow, hitting his arm, which allowed him to hesitate.”
Replays showed that Cole actually made contact with Manning’s helmet, but the flags stayed in the officials’ pockets.
“I don’t know what happened,” Cole said, offering a look that confirmed he knew exactly what happened. “I just know it was an off-play. It was time to head to the bench. That was it.
“You’ll never get that out of me. We’ll take what we can get around here.”
After Kendricks made the pick, his 4.47 speed didn’t exactly show up as Jacobs brought him down at the Giants’ 25 after an 18-yard return.
“Yes, I did,” Kendricks said when asked if he thought he could score on the play. “I’m very disappointed in myself. And I’m hearing enough crap about it from my teammates, coaches and probably my father and my mother too. So let’s not talk about it.”
The Eagles needed just one play to capitalize on the takeaway as Nick Foles found Brent Celek for a 25-yard touchdown.
Boykin made his presence felt on the next series once again. After a couple Manning incompletions, he found himself matched up one-on-one with Victor Cruz. Manning dealt with pressure from Fletcher Cox and targeted Cruz over the middle, but Boykin wrestled the ball out of his hands for his second interception of the season.
“I just tried to get my hands up,” Boykin said. “I knew I would probably be able to pick it up. I had a firm grip. My gloves stuck to the ball.”
Added defensive coordinator Billy Davis: “It was a great play. There were a lot of different times that we were giving help to Victor Cruz cause he’s such a high target for them. But on that play, Brandon had him on his own and it was a phenomenal interception. I didn’t know who came up with it. First I thought Victor had it. But then Boykin just took it away. That was a great play.”
For Boykin, the pick came on the heels of a pair of questionable penalties – one for fair catch interference and another on a 32-yard pass interference penalty against Cruz.
Overall, Cruz had five catches for 48 yards on 12 targets. One of the premiere slot receivers in the game, he entered Sunday averaging 106.3 yards per contest and a catch rate (receptions per targets) of 60.5 percent.
“I looked forward to it the entire week,” Boykin said. “Everybody was asking me questions about how do you stop Victor Cruz. And I’m like, ‘He’s just another receiver.’ I guarded Wes Welker last week. And I said it’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do as a defense and holding on to our techniques.”
The Eagles’ final interception came courtesy of Cary Williams. It looked like Manning and Hakeem Nicks had a miscommunication, and Williams capitalized for his second INT of the year.
Overall, Manning went 24-for-52 (46.2 percent) for 334 yards (6.4 YPA). He threw two touchdowns and was picked three times for a passer rating of 56.1.
The Eagles’ defense was far from perfect, but it capitalized on mistakes against an error-prone Giants team when it had to. New York had two punts and three turnovers on its final five possessions. After three straight losses, the defense was satisfied to have done its part in the Eagles’ second victory of the season.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t [scheme],” Davis said. “It was players stepped up in the fourth and made the plays to win the game. It wasn’t any calls.”
Added Kendricks: “It’s big. It’s good for our confidence. It’s good for our record of course. And it’s good for the team. I feel like this was much needed, what better time to come through in the fourth and come through strong.”