- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The Philadelphia Eagles concluded a disappointing season with a victory by adding an element that had been missing most of the year.

Having fun.

Walter Thurmond scored on an 83-yard fumble return in the third quarter against his old team as the Eagles beat the New York Giants 35-30 on Sunday.

“The reality is that we were all out there just doing our jobs, and they had fun doing it,” interim Eagles coach Pat Shurmur said. “Because they played a whale of game, they get to experience that feeling you get when you win a football game one last time.”

It was a matchup of two teams out of the playoff picture, both facing coaching upheaval.

The Eagles (7-9) didn’t wait for the end of the season to start changing things. Chip Kelly was fired on Tuesday after Philadelphia missed the playoffs for the second straight season, a year many expected it to challenge for the Super Bowl.

Kelly was given control of personnel moves this season and he made a lot of bad ones, releasing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, trading two-time All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy and signing running back DeMarco Murray.

Sam Bradford, who Kelly acquired from the Rams, threw two short touchdown passes to Jordan Matthews, the last one a 3-yard with 9:19 to play to give the Eagles a 35-27 lead.

“It was tough but it would have been even tougher if we had to go into the offseason with a loss,” said Bradford, who was 30 of 38 for 320 yards. “They fought tremendously hard. I thought the guys up front did a great job protecting me.”

The Eagles offense ran smoother, eliminating most of the false start and illegal formations that plagued the team all season under Kelly’s fast-paced style.

Bradford was given more freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

“There really wasn’t much different to our plan than when coach Kelly was here,” Shurmur said. “We just utilized some of our plays in a little bit different way. I thought the guys were focused.”

It was the third straight loss for the Giants (6-10) and they finished a third straight losing season and a fourth straight year out of the playoffs. Those failures have put Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s job in jeopardy.

After meeting with Shurmur at midfield, Coughlin walked off the field, waving to the crowd just before walking into the tunnel.

Josh Brown added his third field goal for the Giants with 4:30 to go to cut the gap to five points, and New York’s defense got the ball back for Eli Manning and the offense with 1:43 to play. However, the Giants turned the ball over on downs at their own 42 with 28 seconds left.

Rashad Jennings rushed for a season-high 170 yards and scored a touchdown for the Giants. Manning threw touchdown passes of 9 yards to Will Tye and 45 to Rueben Randle, with both scores set up by turnovers forced by the Giants’ leaky defense.

The biggest play in the game came late in the third quarter with the Giants looking to expand a 27-21 lead. They had a first down at the Eagles 15 after a holding call and Manning went back to pass. He was hit by Connor Barwin and the ball fluttered into the flat. Thurmond grabbed the ball, fought off a tackle attempt by Shane Vereen and ran untouched for the touchdown. The play was originally called an interception but was later changed to a fumble recovery.

Philadelphia scored touchdowns on drive of 80, 85, 80 and 91 yards. Murray capped the first with a season-long yard run. Sproles scored after a 60-yard catch and run by tight end Zach Ertz and Bradford and Matthews connected on a 4-yard TD pass.

“This season wasn’t what anyone wished for or thought of,” Murray said. “Obviously, we have to reflect on it, and it makes us a lot hungrier.”

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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