Somewhere between stunning and jaw-dropping would be a proper description for Saturday's playoff action. Stunning at the No. 1-ranked Titans played such a clunker in a 13-10 loss to Baltimiore, turning the ball over, giving up points, making the kind of mistakes that lose games to good teams. Jaw-dropping the way the Cardinals marched into Carolina and thumped the Panthers to clinch a spot in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday.
You learn from watching these games. You see that when teams commit penalties, make mental mistakes and turn the ball over, they lose. Simple as that. And as much as we want to break down the particular matchups and the various ratios and the battles within the battles, the bottom line is that the Eagles must protect the football and make minimal mistakes to beat the No. 1-seeded Giants.
It's a game of blocking and tackling and catching the football and executing the plays and playing smart football.
It is the formula to win in the post-season.
The Eagles know it well, of course. They have been down this road before, and they have conquered. There are absolutely no surprises about Eagles-Giants. Maybe there is going to be a wrinkle or two, and of course the coaches have the intent to show something different at the right time. Those are subtle things, though, and the teams know that the big story involves the fundamentals of the game of football.
I think the Eagles are going to beat the Giants because I think the Eagles are the better team and I think they are going to play an outstanding game at Giants Stadium. This defense understands that to defeat New York, the Giants' three-headed running game must be contained. And quarterback Eli Manning must be pressured. And to do all of that the Eagles defense has to win the battle against a tough, talented and very experienced offensive line.
On offense, the Eagles have a challenge. New York's front seven is as good as any in football, led by All-Pro end Justin Tuck. The scheme is outstanding, and aggressive, and designed to make third-and-long snaps into third-and-nightmare moments for quarterbacks.
On special teams, the Eagles have to battle the elements and win the battle of field position.
It is a great hurdle, playing the defending Super Bowl champions who have had two weeks off and who are healthy and eager to go.
Can't wait. This should be a game worth the price of admission, and the Eagles know that to win they have to play an "A" game to win. The euphoria from last week's win in Minnesota melted into anxiety thinking about the Giants and now has morphed into an incredible amount of excitement.
The game is nearly here. A win and the Eagles go to Arizona for next Sunday's NFC Championship Game. The Eagles have enjoyed a great week of preparation.
And the formula is very much out in the open. The team that makes the fewest mistakes and that takes the most advantage of its opportunities is going to win. I want to see the Eagles start quickly and then keep New York off-balance. Crowd the box on defense and stop the run first. Play downhill football. On offense, give Donovan McNabb time to work and pick the Giants apart.
Take it to the Giants. Play with confidence.
It is right there for the Eagles, right in front of them. Sunday is the Eagles' day to show the football world how good they are. It is the right time and the right place to make a statement and take another step ahead.