EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It wasn't as sexy as stopping Dallas twice on fourth-and-1 in 1995, but the Eagles' two fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter of Sunday's NFC Divisional playoff game at the Meadowlands will go down in franchise lore.
Philadelphia used those two stops to punctuate another strong defensive effort in a 23-11 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
The Eagles will fly to Arizona next Sunday to play the Cardinals for the NFC Championship. While the win over the Giants was gratifying, free safety Brian Dawkins is far from satisfied.
"I won't say satisfying," Dawkins said. "Satisfying is for when it is all said and done, and it's not. We have more work to do."
On fourth-and-inches from their own 45-yard line with 12:30 remaining in the game, the Eagles and Giants faced another defining moment in their storied rivalry.
On the Eagles' previous drive, quarterback Donovan McNabb found tight end Brent Celek for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 20-11 lead. Photo Gallery : PHI vs. NYG 1-11-09
New York got the ball back and, despite trailing by two scores, decided to attack the Eagles via the ground. Running back Brandon Jacobs, who led the Giants with 92 yards on 19 carries, gained 18 yards total on three consecutive carries before giving way to Derrick Ward. Ward gained 2 yards on third down, leaving New York with fourth-and-inches.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin decided to go for it and when he did, the Eagles defensive huddle was practically silent.
"We honestly don't have to say a lot to one another," Dawkins said. "Those things are kind of behind us. You know the situation. You know what we have to do. Everybody do your job, dominate your guy and get off the field. We really don't have to say that much. It's kind of implied in the situation."
With defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley leading the charge, the Eagles defense stuffed New York quarterback Eli Manning on a quarterback sneak.
"I just think everybody fought real hard on that down," Patterson said. "Everybody had a controlled gap and guys came up free and (we) got a good push going back."
After the Eagles went three-and-out on their next possession, the Giants mounted another drive. On third-and-two from their own 47-yard line, Ward, who gained 46 yards on 12 carries Sunday, was stopped or no gain, setting up another fourth down.
This time the Giants tried to slam leading rusher Brandon Jacobs between the tackles but Bunkley and linebacker Stewart Bradley combined to stop Jacobs short of the first-down marker.
The Eagles got the ball back and marched down to the Giants' 2-yard line before settling for a David Akers' field goal that provided the game's final margin.
"I think (Patterson and Bunkley) got a good push, anticipated the snap count well," Bradley said. "It was a whole team effort. The ends got penetration, the safeties were up in there, the linebackers were up in there and if you can bottle it up and get penetration, it's hard to run a quarterback sneak or any sort of run. It gave us a boost. They were big plays."