I got up at 01:30 Monday morning to "prepare" for the Eagles-Giants tilt today/yesterday. That may seem absurd until you realize it is just 90 minutes before game time here in Japan. Hey, I need time to make some friggin' coffee and wake the hell up, ya know.
Well I am very happy to report that unlike the past few early Monday morning, the Eagles did not play like I feel getting up in the middle ass-crack of the night. They played with a calm, methodical "let's get it done" attitude with a surprisingly patient, and ultimately effective balanced offensive attacks that managed to squeeze out 20 points in a wind-blown Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. By contrast, the defense played agitated and pissed off, a stark turn around from the relatively meek front that allowed the Giants 400+yards and 36 points just a month ago.
Heck, it is wasn't for a garbage time drive and late TD that made the final 20-14 score seem a lot closer contest that it really was, the Eagles D would've pitched a shut-out. Heck they did for the first 59:45 of the game -- the lone Giants score prior to the last second TD was a blocked FG returned for TD.
And as the game rolled along, I saw some things I haven't seen in a long time: The Eagles give another team a dose of its own medicine - balance offense and stingy D. The Offense was really the key. They actually played an effective, ball control game against one of the better defenses in the league. Case in point: The Giants' blocked FG at the very end of the first half gave them a huge momentum boost going into the locker-room. But the Eagles had played it smart, and would be getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter. The kicker (pun intended): The Birds would have to go against the wind in the 3rd qtr and play with the wind in the 4th...So the Eagles needed to keep the ball away from Eli Manning and the Giants O in quarter number three to prevent NY from capitalizing on its blocked FG and using the good wind to engineer a drive and seize control of the game.
So I, nay we, finally got to see what I am sure many of us wished for countless times this season - The Eagles showing they have to ability to DRIVE the ball when they really need to. The situation didn't call for McNabb to come out slingin' it against the wind, and I was preparing myself mentally for the big let-down and watching 5 throw a flutterball or watching the Eagles simply unable to get that all important first down. And boy, was I happy to be disappointed!!! The Eagles came out and controlled the clock, ramming the ball down the Giants collective throats...YES the initial drive ended in another failed FG attempt against the wind, but it chewed over 7 minutes off the clock and served notice that the Eagles weren't about to let the Giants keep the wind in their sails.
The Giants got the ball at 7:57 (there's that time again) and held onto it for a whopping 3:18 over the course of 6 plays before a punt. Whoop-de-doo. The Eagles took the ball back and kept in the 13-minute mark of the 4th qtr, because that was when Westbrook put a big "fuck you" stamp on the game for the Giants with a back-breaking 40 yards TD reception on a 3rd and 11 play.
The Giants would have one more chance, and it came on their next possession. They drove the ball a little , held onto to for little bit going against the wind in the 4th, but blundered to their 3rd failed 4th down conversion attempt to hand the ball back to the Eagles 4 minutes later. And what happened then. Eagles leading by 10, 17-7, with 9 minutes left in a critical ball game? Well, the way this season has generally gone, I think most of us wouldn't have been surprised to see the Eagles try 3 straight passes and then punt the ball back with something like 7:30 left on the clock and Eli readying the troops for another run at the Eagles D.
But lo' and behold, something miraculous happened. The Eagles RAN THE BALL, actually it was a nice balanced mix, but the Eagles ground out the clock, churning 7 of the final 9 minutes off the clock with the sort of punishing ground game most of us would normally credit the Giants with having and scoff when mentioning the Eagles offense. The drive ended with another Akers FG, giving the Birds a 20-7 cushion.
The Eagles then gave the Giants 70 garbage time yards playing prevent D...yeah it skewed the yardages stats (but heck even with the final 70 the Giants only amassed 211 yards *only 8 more than Brian Westbrook had all by himself!), but it was sacrifice the Eagles were willing to make because they played a yards for time game with the Giants O. The Eagles gave up the middle of the field because it ragged the clock down and refused to allow the quick score. By the time the Giants O managed its first points of the game there were just :15 ticks left on the clock. So while I HATE the prevent D. It did the job today.
So now the Eagles stand at 7-5-1, and you know the strangest thing of all, they are back in the NFC hunt. Sure the Giants won the division by virtue of the Cowboys woeful come-from-ahead loss to the Steelers later in the afternoon, but the Eagles are by no means as out of it as they looked just two weeks ago. Losses by the Falcons (8-5), Cowboys (8-5), Redskins (7-6 and now a half game back of Philly) have created a veritable log-jam. Toss in the 7-6 Bears and 7-6 Saints, and the loser the Carolina-Bucs game on Monday night, and there will be at least 7 teams vying for two spots down the stretch. Whew...holy crap, and the Eagles play two teams they'll have to beat out...plus the NFC will be playing each other...so we'll see who can stand the heat as the weather gets colder.