If I were to tell you that the Eagles would not only beat the Giants today but absolutely dominate the best team in football, you would laugh in my face and call me a homer. Well with a week of my faith and pessimism battling it out, I came to a conclusion that if the Eagles were able to establish a run game and shut down New York's dangerous tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, they could possibly win.
They did just that as the Eagles controlled the game, beating the Giants 20-14 in a game that did not reflect the score. The Giants beat teams all year with clock management, a methodical offense that could beat you on the ground or in the air, and with a defense that would make your punter see the field almost as much as the offense. Well, that's exactly how the Eagles played today. They absolutely dominated the Giants in every aspect of the game except for field goal blocking.
The Eagles also did something I have not seen them do in a very very long time; they ran more times than they passed with a ratio of 41:31. They also held the ball for 35 minutes and only punted 3 times. They beat one of the best run defenses in the league by running the ball.
The game breakdown after the jump
Offense: This was an unbelievable showing by Donovan McNabb and the rest of the unit. Brian Westbrook did what he needed to do and that was to repeat last week's performance. They ran and ran and ran. The offensive line made blocks and when it didn't Westbrook kept his legs moving to pick up first downs. He rushed 33 times for 131 yards and a TD and also caught 6 passes for 72 yards and a TD.
At times the offense was sustaining good drives but not finishing. Two big examples were the 4 times they attempted field goals. Clock management at the end of the first half was a bit iffy as Reid decided to run with 21 seconds left on 1st down forcing McNabb to spike the ball and setting up 3rd and 5. He was able to complete a pass to Greg Lewis to get them in very close range. If Andy Reid elected to pass at those times, time would have been saved and a TD would have been more likely and possible that blocked FG that was returned for 6 would not have happened.
The air game was even better. McNabb used his legs more, rushing for a couple first downs and even used his mobility on his touchdown pass to Westbrook in the 4th. McNabb completed 19/30 passes for 191 yards and a TD.
Matching Westbrook's team high in catches was LJ Smith who turned into a nice target all game. Smith even had 2 straight plays where he took a short dump off by McNabb and avoided tacklers to get back to back first downs. DeSean Jackson was not a factor at all in this game after he was injured and Kevin Curtis left with a concussion.
Defense: This unit deserves the most praise. Brian Dawkins was hitting hard and breaking up plays. The defensive line failed to sack Eli Manning but created pressure and forced him to make bad throws. Yes, his receivers dropping the ball helped too, especially when Domenik Hixon dropped a deep ball when he clearly toasted Sheldon Brown.
Manning was just 7/21 going into that last drive where he led the Giants down field for that late score. What irked me on that last drive was the Eagles playing prevent defense. Don't let them drive down. Do what you did all game because it's what worked. Force Manning to make mistakes. I mean he almost coughed up Dawkins' team record-setting interception if Asante Samuel didn't try to make a spectacular grab.
If it wasn't for that drive and the blocked field goal, the defense would have shut out New York. Another big stat was New York going for it on 4th down 3 times and being stuffed all 3 times. The first was on the opening drive when New York was marching down the field and Manning's pass fell short of Hixon. Then, Steve Smith got drilled as he was bobbling the pass on the 2nd attempt and Trent Cole forced a bad throw on the third attempt in the 4th.
Trent Cole had 2 tackles for a loss, leading the NFL, and Stewart Bradley led the team with 9 tackles. Though no sacks, interceptions, and fumbles were recorded, the defense's play making ability was there. The only real problem was penalties. The Eagles recorded 9 penalties for 73 yards, a very sloppy number.
Special Teams: You know I was in such a good mood when I was typing this up until I got this section of my analysis. David Akers had 2 field goals blocked with one of them being returned for a TD. Jackson didn't break anything special but he did get off a good 15 yarder in the second half. Despite the blocks, David Akers technically went 2/2, nailing a huge 51 yarder to put the Eagles on the board first. He also made a 34 yarder in the 4th.
One smart call by Reid was that with 4 seconds left in the first, he spent a time out so Akers could kick his 51 yarder with the wind to his back. Akers made it and the teams switched sides with an Eagles lead. Reid also obviously said something in the locker rooms during half time because the team was able to recover from keeping the Giants in the game with that blocked kick.
Also, the Eagles blocked a field goal of their own.
Eagles Best Play: Brian Westbrook got behind center Jamaal Jackson and broke into the wide open for his 2nd quarter TD run.
Eagles Worst Play: Justin Tuck went flying over the Eagles field goal unit and batted down Akers' attempt. Ken Dockery then scooped it up and ran 71 yards for the TD.
Eagles Best Number: 203 - number of yards by Westbrook from the line of scrimmage
Eagles Worst Number: 2 - number of field goals they had blocked
Turning Point: The Eagles stayed composed
This was a huge win to keep the 7-5-1 Eagles mathematically alive in the playoff hunt. They need to win out the rest of the season and have some teams lose to give them help. They were really only fully out played twice all year and this team has the ability to be much better than their record shows. If they sneak into the playoffs and make a run, they would have stolen some magic from the Giants today.
The next game is going to be on Monday Night Football at 8:30. The game is home versus the Cleveland Browns.