That sound you hear is an Eagles season with a heartbeat growing stronger by the minute. Sunday's impressive win over the Giants was the start of a Great Eagles Day, followed by an Atlanta loss to the Saints, a Dallas loss in Pittsburgh and the Washington meltdown in Baltimore. Suddenly, the Eagles are right there with three games to go, in the thick of the playoff hunt, a team that is percolating and one that now should have, or absolutely does have, the swagger we've been waiting to see.
For right here and right now, the feeling is a pure excitement. The Eagles are 7-5-1, having won the last two games in convincing fashion to ressurect a season that was on the brink, that was teetering on the way to nowhere. By sticking together, by keeping it positive in the locker room and with the coaches, the Eagles have warded off some of the toughest times they have encountered in the Andy Reid era. They have turned it around in the last two weeks. They are in the race with some momentum on their side.
The win over the Giants was just great.The Eagles played a superb 29 minutes and 53 seconds of the first half, and then lost some ground when the Giants blocked a David Akers field goal and returned it for a touchdown. At that point, with Giants Stadium rocking and with the Giants one win away from clinching the NFC East, there were questions about the Eagles. Would they be "mentally tough" as Andy Reid insisted they were. Would they lose steam in the second half against a team that has specialized all season in owning the third and, especially, the fourth quarter of games? Would they be able to continue to play such physical football against a Giants team that mauls at the line of scrimmage?
The Eagles answered every question thrown at them on Sunday and exited with a 20-14 win in a game that wasn't as close as the final score. The Eagles won going away, really. They took it to the Giants in the fourth quarter, which was something great to see. A team that had trouble inserting the dagger did just that on Sunday, winding down the clock with a bruising, efficient running game and making just enough plays in the passing game to keep the Giants honest.
It was a beautiful display of Eagles football, and it set up a chain of events that helped the team's playoff cause greatly. Moments after beating the Giants, the Eagles glanced at the television outside of their Giants Stadium locker room and saw New Orleans run out the clock in its win over the Falcons. Atlanta now has five losses, with games against Tampa Bay, at Minnesota and against St. Louis remaining. That is not an easy schedule.
After that it was the Dallas game in Pittsburgh, one that certainly looked to be going the Cowboys' way late in the fourth quarter. I watched from the press box at Giants Stadium as the Dallas defense overwhelmed Pittsburgh. The Cowboys had a seven-point lead and the ball and time was winding down and then ...
And then the Cowboys imploded. And quarterback Tony Romo finished an awful performance with an interception that went the other way for a game-leading touchdown for the Steelers and then Romo failed on the last-minute offense and the Cowboys trudged off the field, wide receiver Terrell Owens screaming at a coach. It was a great sight, frankly. Dallas has five losses now, with tough home games against the Giants and Baltimore before coming to Lincoln Financial Field on December 28.
I listened to the first quarter of the Washington-Baltimore game as the Ravens jumped out early on the punchless Redskins. A Washington team that started the season so well largely because it made so few mistakes is now making all kinds of errors. They have gone from 6-2 to 7-6 in the blink of an eye, with a road game at the Bengals this week before they host the Eagles in two weeks and then finish at feisty San Francisco. The Redskins need to sweep their final three games to have a playoff chance, it seems.
Sunday was a perfect Eagles day, not only for what this team did but for how the teams around them played. And the feeling now, the quiet aftermath of a crazy day, is exhilarating. It is December football. It is a playoff race. It is an Eagles team that is playing the kind of football that everyone here knew it could play.
Moving on ...
CLEANING OUT THE GIANTS NOTEBOOK
- Lost in the shuffle of the blocked field goal at the end of the first half was the way Donovan McNabb and the offense expertly managed the clock. The Eagles had 62 seconds and no timeouts when they took control of the ball at their 42-yard line. They were able to get off eight snaps and took advantage of a couple of New York penalties to get into field-goal range. Throwing the ball to Greg Lewis on the sideline with the clock at 11 seconds was risky, but right. Lewis was able to get out of bounds and give David Akers a shot at a field goal. In case you haven't noticed, the Eagles have improved a lot handling the clock. I had no problem at the time with the way the Eagles used their early timeouts. In games like this, you have to be smart and think out of the box and the Eagles did that all game on Sunday.
- Time of possession in the third quarter: Eagles 11:42, Giants 3:18. So much for the momentum the Giants had going into halftime.
- Dan Klecko probably deserved a bit more praise after Sunday's game. He did an excellent job leading Brian Westbrook into the hole and Klecko also had a good day in pass protection.
- Trent Cole blocked a Giants field goal and the Eagles coverage teams held Dominik Hixon to minus-6 yards on two punt returns and limited the Giants to a 21.5-yard average on kickoff returns. The focus in some circles is on the faulty blocking on field goals -- something that definitely must be improved -- but the special teams also deserve kudos for playing great in coverage. Sean Considine is stepping up on teams, along with Akeem Jordan and Tracy White.
- The Giants were 3 of 11 on third down and 0 of 3 on fourth down. This Eagles defense -- we have seen it all year -- is really close to being great, great, great. Here are some of the lineup changes we have seen the last few weeks: Victor Abiamiri is playing more up front, Jordan is starting at WILL, Joselio Hanson is the nickel cornerback and Quintin Demps is seeing time as an extra safety.
- From what I saw, the blocked field goal -- I'm not even sure the second field goal that was officially blocked really was tipped, but film review will give the coaches a better view -- wasn't a result of a low Akers kick. It was the result of Winston Justice not anchoring at the line of scrimmage. Justin Tuck penetrated and made the block. Justice has to be better than that.
- Brian Westbrook is pretty amazing, isn't he? He touched the ball 39 times on Sunday. I'm sure he is hurting right now, but the Eagles have that extra day before they play Cleveland on Monday night. Correll Buckhalter has a chance to play against the Browns, I think. It would be nice to give Westbrook a rest here and there.
- Trent Cole is going to have a difficult time making the Pro Bowl -- make sure you vote for the Pro Bowl on NFL.com, by the way -- but I would argue that Cole is having just as fine a season now as he had a year ago. He is playing the run well, he is giving great effort and he is commanding double- and triple-teams.
- New York had 96 yards in the first half. Incredible turnaround from one month earlier.