That is really what yesterday Eagles Giants game was all about. Defense. And the best defense won. I don't know if I have made myself clear on this little piece of virtual parchment, so I will say it here...
I hate the Giants. Everything about them. Eagles fans are supposed to hate the Cowboys. I don't. They're supposed to despise the Redskins. I don't. The Giants are a team that nobody really likes, being that they are a division rival, but real hatred is saved for the aforementioned.
Normally I would get all amp'd up about this game. Playoffs, win and move on, against the Giants, etc...
But as I settled in to watch yesterday's contest, I did so with realistic expectations. The Eagles haven't actually lit it up this year, nevermind the last three weeks. The offense has been conspicuously absent. The Giants had a week off, and have played well all season long. They were playing in NY (or NJ, rather), but home nonetheless.
I liked our chances, but there were so many intangibles going in, that I really didn't have any expectations, other than watching a football game. Who could make any predicitions? They split the season. Both wins were by 6 points. Experts had tried to discount the second win as meaning nonthing for the Giants, and an absolute must win for the Eagles. That held no water in my book because the Cincinatti game AND the Redskins game, both late in the season were must win games for the Eagles, and they played them both like highschoolers. Turned out that they weren't must win games, but at the time, it was pretty urgent for the Eagles to get a W.
I stated on other blogs that after the MN win, I figured we were free rolling, and anything else was gravy. I expected NY to show up and just dessimate the Birds with a running attack that would be most likely, having its way.
But that didn't happen. 138 yds rushing isn't shabby. But when it fails to produce points, it's meaningless. During the first quarter, it looked as if the Giants were going to have their way. Eli mmade one mistake that turned into 7 points for the Eagles. It was an offensive touchdown on the books, but really more of a defensive score. At the end of the first quater, the Eagles had managed 10 total yards of offense. I really thought at that point that it was only a matter of time before the Giants got their act together and just started owning.
Amazingly so, that never happened. Anytime they got some momentum, the Eagles D stepped up and stopped them in their tracks. It was quite uncanny.
The biggest play of the whole game came in the third quarter. Fred Robbins had just intercepted McNabb on the second play of the quarter. Giving the Giants awesome field position and a reason for Eagles fans to shiver. The defense once again stopped them, but it lead to a Carney field goal which put the Giants ahead 11-10.
The next series, Mcnabb threw two incompletions, and Todd Herremans was called for a holding penalty. This put the Eagles at 3rd and 20 from their own 15 yard line. Now let's look at that. It's immediately after half time. The eagles give up an interception, leading to 3 points and a Giant lead. They are now faced with 3rd and 20 from their own 15 yard line. The eagles have been inept at offense the whole game. Westbrook has been neutralized. McNabb has nothing going. What happens?
The Giants are in man coverage and bringing the heat. Justin Tuck gets a hand on McNabb, but he steps up in the pocket to get away from him. Mathias Kiwanuka gets two hands on McNabb, grabs the right side of his jersey, and it looks for about half a second as if McNabb is getting sacked aroud the 7 yard line. But that doesn't happen. He steps up and throws a rocket into the wind directly to Jason Avant who broke off of his route, curling in making him wide open at the 28 yard line. He was still short of the first by some 5 yards. He pivoted left, running and diving to the 36 yardline as Corey Webster brought him down.
The drive continued ending up in an Akers field goal from the Giants 17 regaining the lead that would never be relinquished. Justin Tuck was quoted after the game saying that was the play that broke their back.
The Eagles D stopped the Giants on TWO 4th down conversion tries. A one yard and a two yard conversion, both stopped. It was reminiscent of the Dallas game back in the 90's. A game referred to as the ground hog game, only because the announcer had stated that after the Cowboys were given consectutive tries to make a 4th and 1 after penalites had negated the first stop. Emmit Smith was given the ball both times.
I made four observations at the end of the game.
1) Brian Dawkins is a sicko. This guy flies around the field just killing people. I whole heartedly believe that he tries to end peoples lives when he hits them. At least that's the way it used to be. He is a 13 year veteran. The last two seasons have seen him taper off a bit in the intensity department. But last week against MN, he sort of had a rebirth. He is a leader. He emulates what a football player should be. Then he interviewed with Sal Paulontonio at the end of the game. And he couldn't answer a simple question casue he started crying. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Fucking CRY???? Cry after you win the superbowl. Totally disappointed. Yeah, I get it. But reserve that emotion for your boys in the locker room. Not after a game that gets you to the NFC championship.
2) McNabb was asked during his press conference what he thought was the best play in football. Was it the 90 yard bomb, an interception that gets run back for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown? He answered very quickly, as if he didn't even need to think about it. His answer was the kneel down at the end of a game. At first I thought, "WTF??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????". The he explained... His point was that it was the best play knowing that the game was over, and that they had won. And, that they had won convincingly enough to be able to just sit on the ball, head into the locker room, celebrate, and get ready for the next contest. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. Still mulling it over.
3) The stat was put up there that the Eagles have been to the NFC Championship game 5 times in the last 8 years. But we only have had one Superbowl appearance out of 4 of those, and one yet to be played. Doesn't that make the Eagles the Buffalo Bills of Conference Championships?
Don't get me wrong. I love this team. It's a winning team. They have their ups and downs, and that stat alone is ridiculous. But until they win a Superbowl, it's really nothing more than a tease. It's like saying we shot down 98 of the 99 nuclear missiles that were headed for Washington. Good stat. Some could see it as a success. But there's still that one that is going to cost lives, and destroy property.
4) Brandon Jacobs. Who doesn't want this guy on their team? Just a pure stud really. He does everything he can to help his team win. He is destructive, and plenty talented. He poses many threats to a defensive and creates a ton of problems in preparing for them. If Eli had his A game everyday, the Giants would be tough to defend against. I just don't believe that Eli is really what he is touted to be. If he was, they would pose a lot more problems to any defense. Jacobs also pointed out in an interview after the game that he believes that the Eagles are playing the best football in the league right now. And that he is on their bandwagon. He wants to see them win the whole thing. Thats a stand up comment right there from a guy who just last week said that he didn't worry about the birds, rather they should be worried about the Giants. He certainly is a gamer, and I dig the respect.
One last thing... This game wasn't about mistakes. It wasn't about who played worse. It was about the best team winning. Eli was put on ice by a dominant Eagles D. Westbrook and Buckhalter couldn't run to save their families. The Giants D did their job as well But Reid did something out of character. He stayed with the run. Running 28 times during the game. For Reid, thats a million.
Arizona is next week. I can't wait really. I'll post about that game in the upcoming days. As I said before, I have felt like the Eagles have been free rolling. Not anymore. I believe they have beaten their toughest physical competitor yesterday. Next week will pose a whole different set of problems.