Jim Johnson watched Sunday's win over the New York Giants from a place he hadn't been in a dozen years.
Perhaps taking a cue from fellow veteran coach, Penn State legend Joe Paterno, Johnson, who's nursing a sore back, decided at the last minute to call the game from the coach's box high above the frozen playing surface at Giants Stadium.
The 83-year-old Paterno, who's famous for leading the Nittany Lions out of the team tunnel prior to kickoff, was relegated to the coach's box for the last seven games of the regular season and the Rose Bowl following hip surgery.
|Jim Johnson's crew put the clamps down on Brandon Jacobs and the Giants offense|
While not as sad, it was still strange not to see Johnson roaming the Eagles sideline at the Meadowlands. But for Johnson, being mentioned alongside JoePa means he's in some rarified air.
"If I'm to be honored in that company, that would be a real pleasure," Johnson said. "It was different. (It's) been a long time since I've been up there, maybe about 12 years. But it was different. It was one of those things we decided at the last moment. Just a little concerned that my back kind of went out. It kind of affected my leg here, so I have a hard time standing very long so I didn't want to be worried about getting out of the way. It was a little but different but it worked out OK."
The Eagles held the Giants to just three points in the second half, an early third-quarter field goal, in a 23-11 win that catapulted the team into their fifth NFC Championship game in eight years.
The Giants converted just 3-of-13 third down chances, but perhaps more importantly, the Eagles stopped the Giants on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter when they went for it on fourth-and short.
"Well, I think we've come up with big plays," Johnson said. "Just like (Sunday). Those fourth down plays were big plays. In the last six or seven weeks, we've come up with some big third-down stops. That's part of the thing. They got some running yards today, but by most standards, we did a pretty good job against the run. That's been the difference. Getting them in third down-and-long, fourth (down) situations and come up with stops. That's the difference in this team. Plus the fact they're making plays."
The Giants ran for 138 yards, 92 of which came from leading rusher Brandon Jacobs. That was in stark contrast to the first meeting of the season when New York gashed Philadelphia's defense for 219 yards on the ground.
Andy Reid, who has always held Johnson in the highest regard, almost sounded like he felt sorry for him in his postgame press conference. He also couldn't help but notice the similarity to Paterno.
"People say every once in a while that I like to throw the ball around, and coach on the offensive side," Reid said. "I know that you win games on defense and mashing the football. If you don't play good defense, you're going to struggle. I'm partial, but I've got the best defensive coordinator in the National Football League. The guys believe in him and the things he does.
"He's kept it fresh for them. For being almost 100 years old, he's kept it fresh. If you noticed (Sunday), he's up in the box. The poor guy's up in the box. He's got the back aching a little bit, so he called it from up there. Coach Paterno, it's a good example."
After the game cornerback Sheldon Brown joked that he preferred not to have Johnson down on the sideline. If that's the case, there's a chance he'll get his wish when the Eagles play the Cardinals for the NFC Championship and the right to play in Super Bowl XLIII.
"A lot of people feel that way," Johnson quipped back. "It depends. We'll see how I feel. I'd say, right now, there's a pretty good chance I'll be up there for the next one."