Eagles closing strong in 4th quarter

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LeSean McCoy is averaging a league-leading 6.3 yards per carry in the fourth quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

In Week 7 against the Titans, the Eagles entered the fourth quarter with a 16-10 lead.

One Kenny Britt explosion later, they left Nashville with a 37-19 loss after getting outscored 27-3 in the final 15 minutes.

But since that game, the fourth quarter has been a bright spot for this team. That's especially been the case in the past month.

In their last four games, the Eagles are outscoring their opponents, 51-14, in the fourth quarter. In the past three games, that margin has been 40-7. And in the last two games, the Eagles trailed entering the fourth quarter, only to come back and earn victories on both occasions.

The numbers speak to the team's talent, but also to its resiliency.

Let's start with the defense. The Eagles have allowed points on just two of 13 fourth-quarter drives in the last four weeks. They've forced five punts and created three turnovers. There were also a couple kneel-downs and one turnover on downs thrown in there. The Eagles have shut out their opponent in the fourth quarter in two of the last three games.

We know this is not an elite defense. But if Sean McDermott's unit can continue to create turnovers (they're currently tied for second in the league with 30 takeaways and first with 22 interceptions) and raise its level of play in crunch time, the offense is probably good enough to make the Birds a legitimate threat.

As for this week's matchup, the D goes up againts a Giants offense that is getting it done on the ground in the fourth quarter. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are averaging 5.9 and 5.4 yards per carry, respectively, in the fourth.

The Giants' passing game hasn't been great in the fourth, though. Eli Manning has a 75.9 QB rating in the fourth, having through five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Offensively for the Eagles, the numbers are impressive. In the past four games, the Birds have had 16 fourth-quarter drives. They've scored points on 10 of them and have either run the clock out or kneeled it twice.

The offense has only punted three times in the fourth quarter of the last four games, and it's turned the ball over once.

On the season, Michael Vick has a 109.4 QB rating in the fourth quarter, which is third-best in the league behind Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard. Vick is completing more than 63 percent of his passes in the fourth and has yet to throw an interception in the final 15 minutes.

The run game has been great, too. LeSean McCoy is averaging an absurd 6.3 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, tops in the league. That number might even be more clutch than it sounds. In the fourth quarter, when it's a one-possession game, McCoy is averaging 8.6 yards per carry and 9.6 yards per reception. Think that offseason work on his lower body has paid off?

If the Eagles end this season on a favorable note and make a playoff run, I think we might look back at that fourth-quarter drive against the Cowboys as an important point. The offense took over at its own 10-yard line, and Dallas had all of its timeouts remaining, down three. The Eagles went 63 yards, with McCoy carrying four times for 50. And I can't emphasize enough how physical the offensive line looked.

This weekend, McCoy goes up against a Giants defense that is allowing 95.2 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry.

In the first meeting between the teams, New York bottled McCoy up through three quarters. Going into the fourth, McCoy had carried just six times for 10 yards. But in the final 15 minutes, he led the Eagles to victory with a 50-yard touchdown run and another 40-yard run. Overall, in the fourth quarter against the Giants in Week 11, he carried eight times for 101 yards.

Just one more thing to keep in mind if this game is close (and I think it will be) on Sunday.


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