They all mean the same thing, these NFL games. It says so in the standings every day. A win is a win, a loss is a loss, a tie is a tie, and all had better be forgotten in time for the next weekend. It is the way of their world.
But that is in the accounting sense. In the cosmic sense, some of these games do mean more than others. Count this one among them: Eagles 26, Colts 24.
What the Eagles have done is identify themselves as a contender with this win. With a 5-3 record now, two of the Eagles’ wins are against the handful of teams in the two conference’s higher echelons (Indianapolis and Atlanta). And coming as this one did, after a game at Tennessee that they absolutely gave away, marks this Eagles teams as both pretty good now and also as pretty resilient. Those are two good things to be.
Playing in his first game back from what he now has described to CBS as three broken ribs, Michael Vick was dynamic again, with 218 yards passing and 75 yards rushing. On the first play of the game, Shady McCoy had a 62-yard run on the first play of the game that announced to the world that this day might be different. And wide receiver DeSean Jackson showed no signs of the concussion he suffered 3 weeks ago, with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Still, it was the Eagles’ defense that will walk away from this game with the greatest psychic benefits. First, they pressured and bottled up Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who had tortured the Eagles in three previous career games. Even more important, in some ways, they played a calm, buttoned-up, non-panicky game after their collapse against Tennessee -- even when presented with all manner of obstacles, including a couple of key penalties with which they angrily disagreed.
The end was messy, to say the least. The Colts scored with 1:50 remaining to bring them to within 26-24 -- on a drive that continued only because Trent Cole was called for an inadvertent love tap to the back of Manning’s helmet as he was in the process of stripping him of the ball.
After the Colts kicked off, an 11-yard end around to Jackson got the Eagles a first down. Then another end around to Jackson got them 6 more yards. And with the Colts calling their timeouts, and the Eagles needing one more first down to ice the game, a false start penalty on guard Nick Cole on third-and-2 pushed them back 5 yards, and a Vick scramble came up short -- officially, it was a sack for zero yards -- and the Eagles were forced to punt.
Which left Manning on his 26-yard line, with 40 seconds to play, no timeouts, and needing a field goal to win. But he didn’t get it, instead forcing a throw over the middle that was intercepted by Asante Samuel with 6 seconds remaining.
In all, there was nothing particularly attractive about it, filled with penalties and mistakes on both sides -- blown coverages, blown opportunities, you know. Along the way, there was a frightening (but, thankfully, not catastrophic) injury to Colts receiver Austin Collie that highlighted both the fragility of players in a brutal sport and the difficulty with which defenders and officials are attempting to deal with the new realities concerning concussion prevention.
But in the end, it was a W. And for the Eagles, maybe, a little bit more.