The game started with players on both sides of Lincoln Financial Field locked arm in arm. It ended with the Eagles in a joyous embrace after rookie kicker Jake Elliott hit a 61-yard field goal as time expired to give Philadelphia the 27-24 win over New York.
The Eagles held a 7-0 lead at halftime, but injuries to several key players decimated the defense, and the Giants scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, taking a 24-21 lead with just over three minutes to play. But Philly managed to get the ball twice in the final minutes, hitting two field goals including the game-winner, which is the longest in team history.
Sunday was about more than just the Eagles home-opener — dramatic as the game was — because President Donald Trump said Friday that any NFL player who chooses to protest the national anthem should be removed from the field and fired.
Despite immense backlash from the NFL community, Trump continued his barrage on professional athletes Sunday, reiterating his directive that NFL owners “fire or suspend” their protesting players.
Needless to say, no NFL owner opted to fire their players for protesting during the anthem. Despite several of the 32 owners openly supporting Trump during and after his election — owners like Bob Kraft in New England, Shad Khan in Jacksonville and Bob McNair in Houston all donated millions to Trump’s campaign or inauguration — teams across the league issued statements of support for their players and their right to protest.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has, in the past, been understated in his support for players who choose to protest during the national anthem. Actually, understated is putting it nicely. Lurie hasn’t been great, saying before the season, “Anyone who doesn’t have respect for the servicemen that support the country loses me. So it’s very important to show respect for the flag, for the anthem, but it can be misinterpreted that certain people are not showing respect.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of what are they trying to accomplish,” Lurie continued, “and are they being proactive in the community, and what are they doing? I think you’ve got to take a holistic view of it.”
But in light of Trump’s comments, saying any player that protests is a “son of a bitch,” Lurie stood strong with players like Malcolm Jenkins Sunday. Literally.
Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman stood alongside the Eagles team during the national anthem just before 1 p.m., shown on the Fox telecast’s national game of the week. As players locked arms with coaches, staff, and police and military personnel, Lurie, wearing sunglasses, stood in front of the team captains, locking his arms with Brandon Graham at mid-field. Jenkins was among the Eagles players who raised a fist during the song, just behind the team owner.
Before the game, the Eagles released a statement from Lurie, that read, in part: “Having spoken with our players, I can attest to the great respect they have for the national anthem and all it represents,” suggesting football serve as “a great unifier.”
“It was an organizational decision along with the players,” Coach Doug Pederson said of the decision to lock arms. “It was a collaborative effort to stand united. I thought it was a great, great idea. Everybody was on board with it and just showed a great sign of unity and respect for our police officers of our city, first responders, fire, everybody in public service that we get a chance to show a sign a unity. And it was great to see.”
While Trump attempted to move the goalposts after teams across the NFL chose similar acts of unity by tweeting “Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable,” before adding “Bad ratings!” at the end of his tweet, the president failed to acknowledge that many players still chose to protest, by either kneeling, raising a fist or not showing up at all.
The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to not come out onto the field for the anthem in Chicago, opting to stay in the tunnel instead of making players choose between protesting in public or not. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said “we’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone” and “we’re not going to play politics,” even if by not going onto the field for the anthem, the team was surely playing politics, even in absentia.
Before the game, Jenkins and Chris Long took to Twitter to share thoughts on what the president had to say about the outspoken nature of NFL players with regard to racial inequality in America.
While Jenkins gave a message of unity, sharing the Eagles’ plan for the game. Long went in another direction.
Things did get a bit heated between protesters and Birds fans out on Broad Street just outside the Linc. A Standing 4 Kaepernick protest was called for outside the stadium, in support of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started this NFL protest conversation last year by sitting during the national anthem. Kaepernick was released by the Niners after last season and has been unable to get a job in the NFL this year, despite being markedly better than dozens of employed quarterbacks.
The protesters were not very numerous, but that didn’t stop some Eagles fans from making their opinions heard outside the gates of the Linc parking lot.
While tensions were high inside and outside the stadium to start the game, there was nothing but joy throughout the Linc after Elliott’s kick.
“Quite honestly, I had so much confidence, standing there. Calmness,” Pederson said after the game of letting Elliott try the kick. “It was pretty awesome. It sounded like a cannon off his foot.”
The whole day was just kind of weird, especially leading up to the improbable winner. The Eagles only got the ball back with 13 seconds to play after the Giants horribly mismanaged the clock in a push for overtime. Instead, Carson Wentz had just enough Alshon Jeffery along the sideline with one second to play, leading to a chance field goal.
Philadelphia rushed for 193 yards on the day, with Wentz passing for just 176 and one touchdown. Darren Sproles got hurt, but rookie Corey Clement stepped in with his first career touchdown. LeGarrette Blount didn’t carry the ball at all last week but had 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while Wendell Smallwood had 71 yards on 12 carries. The Eagles defense looked in total control with the team up 14-0, but injuries to Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks proved too much, coupled with the secondary that came into the game decimated by injuries.
And still, despite the challenges of the day, the Eagles came together and persevered in the face of a brooding, menacing yet ultimately beatable opponent from New York. Let’s hope the ratings were good.