In the context of great Eagles games, well, this was one of the very best. Not because it was perfectly-played piece of art, but because the combination of tension, the stakes, the drama ... it added up to a 27-17 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night at frenzied Lincoln Financial Field, one that puts the Eagles into first place in the NFC East with a 7-3 record.
"Heck of a ball game," said head coach Andy Reid, opening his post-game press conference.
The Eagles owned the game in the first half, but made just enough mistakes to keep New York in the game, and then a fantastic Giants defensive effort and Eli Manning's resilience had the Giants in front, 17-16, in the fourth quarter.
And that's when the game went haywire. Oh, what fun it was. A 90-yard drive ended on a 50-yard LeSean McCoy run to convert a fourth-and-1 situation, and the play itself was as on the edge as everyone's nerves in the tense affair. Vick bobbled the snap and pitched left to McCoy just ahead of blitz pressure from defensive end Osi Umenyiora. McCoy followed great blocks by Jason Peters and Todd Herremans to get in the clear and head to paydirt.
The score put the Eagles ahead 22-17. A completion from Vick to Jason Avant completed the two-point play to give the Eagles a 24-17 advantage.
New York wasn't finished, of course. The Giants are never finished. But it took an interception by Asante Samuel -- his second of the game -- and then a fumble on his return, recovered by the Giants, that kept New York alive. However, on a fourth-and-6 play by the Giants, Manning scrambled for 16 yards, only to dive forward and fumble the football. Darryl Tapp recovered at the Philadelphia 40-yard line with 2 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the game.
Two plays later, McCoy (140 total yards and a touchdown on 19 touches) went 40 yards through the New York defense to the Giants 20-yard line to set up David Akers for a field goal that iced things and catapulted the Eagles into the top spot, all alone, in the NFC East.
"A great game, all the way around," said Vick, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 258 yards and gained 34 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. "We have to win these tough division games to reach the playoffs. That is what this was for it. It was a tough game. Physical. The Giants played us tough as we expected.
"It's all about fighting, pulling out the tough ones and winning when you need to. We hung in there and fought."
The Eagles scored first, driving 68 yards in 13 plays, a hard-fought drive that featured Vick throwing 8 times and completing 6 for 59 yards. He then finished off the drive with a 4-yard scamper to the right edge of the end zone. The offense, a highlight reel of big plays against the Redskins the Monday before, took bites out of the Giants defense to gain the advantage in the first quarter.
New York blitzed frequently, bottled up the running game and forced Vick to run to his right to make plays. New York came with "zero" blitzes, leaving the middle of the field open. But the pressure clearly threw the Eagles out of rhythm and the lack of fluidity hurt the team
So the Eagles battled through it. They had only one touchdown in 5 trips to the red zone. Jason Avant dropped a pass that he catches 99 straight times in his sleep. DeSean Jackson had an opportunity in the end zone.
So it wasn't perfect. Not by any means.
But the defense rose up and stomped the Giants, limited the running game to 61 yards on 19 carries. Manning passed for just 147 yards. The Eagles had the five takeaways.
It was an awesome performance from Sean McDermott and his defensive players.
"We knew how good they are, how much they can be explosive and how balanced they are," said linebacker Stewart Bradley. "We came in aggressive and we took some things away from them and won big in the fourth quarter.
"It's a huge win. It means a lot. At the same time, we have another big game in Chicago, so we have to put this game behind us and focus on a very good team in Chicago. For right now, though, it was a sweet win."
* NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT*
Once again, Colt Anderson was a demon on special teams. He gets off the line of scrimmage well as a gunner and he is completely fearless. As far as mid-season pickups go and coming in and finding a role, Anderson is a huge plus.
- Look for teams to try to mimic what the Giants did: Pound the football at the edges of this Eagles defense. New York played keep-away from Vick and the Eagles offense.
- Excellent job by Nate Allen in coverage in the end zone against tight end Kevin Boss in the second quarter to deny a completion from Eli Manning and a touchdown. The Giants went 74 yards on 14 plays, eating up 8:06 of the clock, and came away with just a field goal.
- Juqua Parker was limited with a hip injury, so rookie Brandon Graham played a lot of snaps and played well at left defensive end. He stayed disciplined against the run and he forced an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble that led to David Akers' 11th consecutive field goal.
- Samuel had a textbook move on his second-quarter interception, breaking perfectly on a Manning throw intended for Hakeem Nicks, who ran a comeback route. Samuel read the route, broke on the ball ridiculously quickly and intercepted his sixth pass of the season. Textbook. He had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He is on the way to his third straight Pro Bowl as an Eagle.
- Despite the up-and-down nature of the offense in the first half, Marty Mornhinweg called a brilliant game. The Eagles just weren't sharp. DeSean Jackson couldn't come up with a throw that he normally would have caught in the end zone and then Jason Avant, wide open, dropped a pass in the back of the end zone. Thus, the Eagles had two failed attempts on red-zone opportunities.
- Best of luck to Ellis Hobbs as he recovers from the vicious helmet-to-helmet hit he took on the opening kickoff of the second half. It was a scary 10 minutes while Hobbs was down on the field, motionless. He showed movement in both arms by the time the doctors wheeled him off the field and he had full use of his extremities in the locker room.
- I don't like the talking too many receivers were doing with Giants players. Clearly, the Giants were trying to get in Jackson and Maclin's head, and it seemed to work ... to a degree.
- Maclin needs some love by the national media. He was huge in this game with 9 catches and 120 yards.
- The Giants used safety Antrel Rolle like a linebacker. He blitzed a ton, and was extremely effective. Rolle was impressive. The Eagles need to figure out a way to take him out of the game when the teams meet on December 19 at the new Meadowlands.
- Excellent performance from SAM linebacker Moise Fokou, who played the run well, was physical, blitzed with good timing and disrupted New York's running game.
- Winston Justice handled Justin Tuck one on one for the most part. There is nothing spectacular about Justice and nobody talks about him, but he is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Tuck had the sack and forced fumble early in the fourth quarter on Vick, but that play was a coverage sack. Vick has to get rid of the football. Tuck finished with 3 sacks, but I just felt Justice had a good game.
- I did not agree with the helmet-to-helmet call against Samuel. It was a clean hit when he decked wide receiver Derek Hagan. And the refs missed the helmet-to-helmet call when Hobbs was knocked out. And I guess I would say I was very surprised the Eagles did not have the favorable call on the apparent Ahmad Bradshaw fumble in the fourth quarter. I was very, very surprised the call was overturned in the Giants' favor.
- Why so many penalties (10)? They nearly cost the Eagles this game.
- Yo, Asante: You trying to give the world of Eagles fans a heart attack? I admit, though, that I was yelling for him to score on the fourth-quarter interception and then ... he ... fumbled.
- Dimitri Patterson was physical against the run and he covered the screens the Giants threw at him very, very well. He is your starting right cornerback. Period. He has earned it.
- The Eagles need some answers in their return game. They averaged 11 yards on 3 kickoffs and Jackson had 9 yards on his lone punt return. On the other hand, the coverage teams were shut-down great. Really good game from Sav Rocca and the cover teams won the battle in the kicking game.
- New York, one of the best offenses in the league, had just 208 total net yards. Great job by the defense.
- Former Eagle Shawn Andrews started at left tackle after missing three days of practice during the week and battled Trent Cole. Cole faced double teams, of course, and he drew two holding calls on Andrews. Could have been more, as seen from this perspective.