I was sure the Eagles were going to lose.
When they had to settle for a field goal with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter. When the Giants kick returner brought out the ensuing kickoff for yet another long gain. When, on 4th and 1, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was charged with pass interference. When, on the following 3rd and 10, Nnamdi Asomugha drew a second pass interference call. Even when the Giants' Ramses Barden mauled Asomugha for the same call going the other way, there was little hope Lawrence Tynes would miss the 54-yard field goal attempt.
And then he did! ... Only Andy Reid, in all his glory, punched his gift horse in the mouth by calling a timeout. Surely, on the second attempt, Tynes would put it in. But then, in one of the most improbable events in an improbable season, he missed again, and the Eagles won.
I think I'm still in shock.
Let's get to a few notes on the game, and from the locker room after:
Isn't it amazing how much better Michael Vick looks when you establish a run game for him? In the second half, when the Eagles fed LeSean McCoy 17 times, Vick went 8 of 11 for 109 yards, plus he scrambled 3 times for another 30. The Giants, bowed by McCoy's dazzling cutbacks, weren't able to get the same pressure on Vick, and he could sit in the pocket more comfortably.
One of the most amazing things about the Eagles approach to the run game yesterday was how they stuck with it despite poor returns early. In the first half McCoy and Bryce Brown had a combined 8 carries for 1 yard. Add in Damaris Johnson's one carry that lost a yard and you get a big zero in the rushing column. Nine times out of ten, Reid and Marty Mornhinweg would have used that as an excuse to abandon the run. Not last night, and it paid off.
The margin of victory was so close that one turnover certainly would have doomed the Eagles, but they finally kept the ball under wraps. That was huge.
DRC was funny in the locker room. He talked about the 4th and 1 play in which he let Victor Cruz get by him for a 30 yard gain: "He gave me the Ooh-Op-Ooh." When the laughs subsided and he was asked to elaborate, he said, "I go one way, he went the other." All in good fun, especially when DRC picked off Eli Manning in the end zone on the next play. He told me that in film study they saw that Eli often stares down Cruz, and if he's covered, will immediately go to his second option, typically the tight end. DRC's job on the play was to spy on Manning, and it worked beautifully.
I also talked to Jason Babin for a bit, because I'm somewhat fascinated by the Eagles stand-up blitz look. One would think that the defense has shown enough film that offenses would be able to shut it down. Babin described the "infinite possibilities" out of that look, and how the offense really can't anticipate where he or his fellow blitzers will end up.
What's going on in the kickoff coverage? Might be as simple as Akeem Jordan and Colt Anderson, the team's two best special teamers, being inactive. But Bobby April has to do a better job regardless.
Post game, Reid said it doesn't feel so good to try to freeze the kicker and then be "surrounded by 66,000 people who want to rip your throat out." If Tynes makes that second field goal attempt, I think there might have been a riot on Broad Street. But nice to finally be on the right end of some field goal luck.
Continuing a trend, the Eagles defense only allowed 17 points despite poor field position. Still, there are serious holes in this defense. Especially down at the red zone, the coordinated coverage between Brandon Boykin in the slot and the linebackers needs work. Receivers running slants and underneath crossing routes seem to be the real problem. Additionally, the combination of Nnamdi Asomugha's lack of speed and Kurt Coleman's quick bite on play action is deadly. At the end if the day, Nnamdi's not getting any younger, so Coleman has to have better awareness.
On a related note, Rodgers-Cromartie (still) doesn't seem too pleased with zone coverage. He talked about how he likes lining up in man coverage, facing the offense head-on. DRC suggested that a lot of the coverage problems they have come from switching out of that base defense: "Things can get a little confusing."
One final thing. When talking with Cullen Jenkins, Babin stopped by to tell his line-buddy that he did "3 Mike P's" in the game. When pressed for the meaning of that expression, Babin called it an inside joke and would only say it meant "everything and nothing." Derek Landri wouldn't elaborate beyond "throwing everything at them." When asked if a "Mike P" could possibly be named after anyone in particular, both players slyly demurred.
Photo from Getty.