Here are my 10 observations from the Eagles' 23-11 win over the Giants:
1. The text came in from my buddy Jordan at 4:30 p.m.: Is this happening? What planet are we on?
I think that's how we all feel right now. I'm not sure it's hit me quite yet. The Eagles are two wins away from their first Super Bowl ever. The city of Philadelphia is two wins away from winning championships in baseball and football after not getting a title of any kind in 25 years. And of all seasons, for this to be the one. The season that included a tie to the Bengals. The season that included Donovan McNabb getting benched. The season that saw several people calling for Andy Reid to be fired. I know there's still a lot of football to be played. And we shouldn't look past the Cardinals. And whoever comes out of the AFC is going to be tough. But how exactly did we get here? That's a question I plan on exploring in an entirely separate post Tuesday.
2. Huge drive at the end of the first half by McNabb and the offense. The Birds took over at their own 25 with 1:33 left. A 14-yard crossing route to DeSean Jackson. A short 5-yarder to Jason Avant. Brian Westbrook across the middle for 7. Avant again for 15. Jackson again for 9. Westbrook again for 4. A scramble by McNabb. A penalty on the Giants. And a 25-yard field goal by David Akers. In all, 68 yards on 12 plays. The field goal gave them a 10-8 lead and momentum heading into halftime. Fox ran a graphic that said the Eagles had scored 50 points in the final two minutes of the first half, the second-most in the league. What? How is this possible? Is this the same Eagles team that has been victimized by blocked field goals, interceptions and poor clock management at the end of the first half all year? That stat really blew my mind. And if you think I wasn't yelling for McNabb to avoid the sack and get rid of the ball when the Eagles decided to take a shot at the end zone with 10 seconds left, you're crazy.
3. Before the game if I would have told you that the Eagles would get outgained on the ground, 138-59; that Westbrook would have 46 total yards and average two yards per carry; that McNabb would throw two interceptions; that the Eagles would have eight penalties; that the Eagles would have zero sacks; and that they'd give up a 65-yard kickoff return, what would you have told me? That they'd still beat the defending Super Bowl champs by double digits? Yeah, right.
4. Amazing job by the defensive line, and specifically the tackles. On consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, the Giants went for it on fourth-and-short and came up empty, thanks in large part to Broderick Bunkley. Down 20-11 in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Eli Manning was stuffed on fourth-and-one from the Giants' 44. After a three-and-out by the Eagles' offense, the Giants got the ball back and faced a fourth-and-two from their own 47. Big Brandon Jacobs. Not so fast. Stuffed again. Was there a household in the Delaware Valley that was NOT screaming "They stop him again! They stop him again!" And note on the second stuff, Juqua Parker made a huge play on third down to stop Derrick Ward.
5. The other offensive drive that I thought was huge was the Eagles' second possession of the second half. On their first drive, the Birds got great field position, courtesy of a Quintin Demps kickoff return, but McNabb was intercepted. The Giants got a field goal and took an 11-10 lead. The Eagles' offense then faced a third-and-20 from their own 15-yard line, and things appeared to be heading in the wrong direction. But McNabb found Avant for a 21-yard gain. Later in the drive, the Eagles faced a third-and-10, and McNabb scrambled before finding Correll Buckhalter for a 19-yard pickup. Overall the Eagles went 7-for-14 on third down. If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know that's the stat I point to when evaluating how this offense is playing.
6. The optimist says...
Another step closer. I told you they could do it. An efficient offense and a dominant defense in a league where there are no elite teams. Now the Eagles are in the NFC championship for the fifth time in 10 years against a team they beat on Thanksgiving night 48-20. Could things have worked out any better? If your excitement is tempered, let me make something clear. The Eagles can still play a lot better. Jon Runyan said as much after the game. They settled for too many field goals. McNabb was picked off twice. Westbrook is not playing like himself. They had no sacks on defense. And guess what? They beat the defending champs in their house by double digits. Get past the Cardinals on Sunday and give this coaching staff two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl. It's looking like it'll be Steelers-Ravens in the AFC championship. Those teams are going to be so banged up after that game that it won't matter which one reaches the Super Bowl. The Eagles will have a clear edge.
7. The optimist says...
Alright, I'll admit it. Even I don't have that much to complain about this time. I will say that the Eagles are lucky that there are a lot of bad teams out there this season. And Reid and McNabb still will choke when the stakes are at their highest. In 20 years when you look back, are you really going to be proud of five NFC championships in 10 years? Or are you going to be disappointed that these teams never produced a Super Bowl win? That's what I thought.
8. With about 3:30 left in the game, in the middle of a Giants' possession, all of a sudden there was John Bolaris on my screen. And from our live chat, I know this happened to some of you. I was at my folks' house watching the game with my Dad and had no clue what to do. I picked up the remote, but as my Dad pointed out, what was I going to do? Change the channel? We were on the right channel. In as much as TV-watching can produce a helpless feeling, this was it. I'm just glad the Eagles had a comfortable lead at the time. Fox went back to the action after about 10 seconds. But later it happened again, and this time it was a Progressive insurance commercial. Who else did this happen to? What was the deal?
9 and 10. Alright, I still have quite a bit to say so the following can count as 9 and 10, as we do on here from time to time:
- Speaking of commercials, as someone in the chat who goes by the name of "Lettuce" pointed out, was it really wise for Miller Lite to show that commercial during the 1 o'clock game Sunday? You know the one I'm talking about. They say "How do you spend nine hours watching football this weekend? Skip the Sunday afternoon game." Yet they were showing this commercial DURING the Sunday afternoon game. Please explain this to me.
- What the heck was going on with McNabb's helmet in the first half? First he switched helmets. Then he switched chinstraps. Then he tripped over the center's foot on a handoff. Bad sequence of events there.
- I'm not really sure what was going on with McNabb picking up the phone on the Giants' sideline, but I thought Troy Aikman was a little harsh. "You know, sometimes I don't know what runs through that guy's head," Aikman said.
- Can you imagine the Eagles playing the Ravens in the Super Bowl? I don't know if I'd be able to take all the "benching" questions. But it would certainly be one of the strangest ironies in this franchise's history.