This is the ultimate compliment: David Akers is again being taken for granted. He kicked four field goals on Sunday, kicked off well and was a huge reason the Eagles turned away the Vikings, 26-14, in the Wild Card playoff game. Akers was one of several facets of the victory in need of some kudos for a job well done.
The entire special teams, in fact, played great in the win. DeSean Jackson had punt returns of 62 yards and 30 yards. Punter Sav Rocca averaged 44.3 yards on his four punts with a net of 44.0 yards and all four kicks inside the 20-yard line. Rocca was terrific and the coverage group was outstanding, as it has been all season. You know who is lights-out on special teams this season, somebody who is under the radar but shouldn't be? How about Sean Considine, the former starting strong safety who has done nothing but help this football team in every game this season. Considine was named the Special Teams MVP by the players, and is a playoff captain. He isn't playing all that much as a safety, and hasn't played much in the last six or seven games, but he sure is making a difference on special teams.
Everyone is. The special teams are a huge part of the Eagles' late-season success, and everyone from Considine to Quintin Demps to Akeem Jordan to Omar Gaither to Tracy White and the list keeps going has been terrific in coverage and, as we have seen with Jackson in the punt game and Demps in the kickoff game, in the return phase.
Akers, though, has been amazing. Mr. Automatic, almost. Even when he has missed this season -- other than the three blocked attempts, Akers has missed one field goal since October 5 against Washington -- Akers has had plenty of leg and has just been a hair off. Akers missed a kick against the Cowboys, so he's 28 of 29 since the Redskins game in October, and that includes the perfect 4-of-4 performance on Sunday.
Those problems Akers had from 40 yards and out are a thing of the past. He has been on cue since October. That's a good thing to know in the post-season.
Hey, there were heroes all around against the Vikings. Yeah, Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook and Asante Samuel deserve a lot of love, and they've gotten it, but the contributors came from every level of the roster. The offensive line did a fine job in the face of a relentless pressure-based scheme from the Vikings, who are very good and very fast up front. Tight end Brent Celek had 6 receptions for 56 yards, and Jason Avant had 5 catches, 4 for first downs. Eight players caught passes in all.
Give Correll Buckhalter, who was under-used with only a couple of carries for 27 yards, a hug for lining up and playing fullback for much of the second half while Dan Klecko was out with a shoulder injury. And make sure the receivers, who we all watch for the way they run routes and catch passes, are appreciated because of the way they blocked all over the field. Great job.
The defense was stout on the edges as the Vikings tested them with pitch plays to running back Adrian Peterson. Super job by Chris Gocong and the linebackers. The line of scrimmage was stout. Chris Clemons continues to make progress as a pass rusher. Trent Cole never stops. Juqua Parker was there to make a big play or three.
You get the sense from the secondary that they can cover anybody, anywhere. That's what it was like on Sunday in the Metrodome. There were a couple of missed tackles and a missed interception or two, but the coverage has been excellent since November. Tight ends? Whatever adjustment Jim Johnson made has worked.
It was a great game all around, and the feeling today at the NovaCare Complex is nothing but upbeat. There is life and incredible energy as the Eagles look ahead to the defending Super Bowl champs. The Giants are going to be a tremendous challenge. They are rested. They are an outstanding team. They know how to win in the playoffs.
And yet the Eagles know this team very well, so from a preparation side the chess match is going to be vital. In the end, though, it will come down to execution, and the Eagles will need everyone on the roster to step forward.
That's what happened against the Vikings. Every player who stepped on the field helped in the win. The coaches did a complete job preparing the Eagles for the environment and the opponent.
Step one of the playoff journey is complete, with a huge one Sunday waiting.