As Philadelphians switched on their televisions yesterday, every honest fan in town (and I know you're out there somewhere) thought the same thing: They had no idea at all what to expect at 1 p.m.
The Eagles have played well on occasion and horribly on others. Rarely have they offered just a routine effort.
So, a game at the Meadowlands, against a streaking Super Bowl champion, in a stiff wind and against a team that is 6-0 at home seemed beyond the Birds' grasp.
But they had had nine days to rest since their last game and, as the whole nation seems to know, the Giants were without their Eagles-killer, Plaxico "Jesse James" Burress.
So. Maybe. But nobody really knew for sure, and virtually nobody even had a clue.
GIANTS: The Eagles took the wind in the first quarter, giving the Giants the ball. After two quick first downs, the Giants went for it on fourth and 4, but Eli Manning's pass to Domenik Hixon was broken up.
Drive: 4 minutes and 28 seconds, 7 plays, 41 yards. Ball turned over on downs.
EAGLES: As with virtually every other opening drive this season, the Birds went three plays and out.
Drive: 1:20, 3 plays, 4 yards. Punt.
Drive: 1:30, 3 plays, 2 yards. Punt.
EAGLES: One first down, then out.
Drive: 3:11, 5 plays, 15 yards. Punt.
Drive: 2:13, 3 plays, 9 yards. Punt.
EAGLES: A 32-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis set up the game's first score, a tremendous 51-yard field goal by David Akers as the quarter ended.
Drive: 2:18, 6 plays, 29 yards. 51-yard field goal.
GIANTS: A 23-yard run by Brandon Jacobs keyed a drive that carried to the Eagles' 29, where John Carney's 47-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Trent Cole, the first of a day's worth of great plays by special teams on both sides.
Drive: 5:34, 10 plays, 56 yards. Blocked field goal.
EAGLES: The Eagles' offense responded to the defense's great effort in typical fashion. Three-and-out.
Drive: 2:06, 3 plays, 5 yards. Punt.
GIANTS: Both teams continued to read from the same script.
Drive: 1:07, 3 plays, 5 yards. Punt.
EAGLES: In the half's waning minutes, the Eagles mounted the first sustained drive of the game by either team.
McNabb hit Curtis for 10 yards, then fans were treated to the rare spectacle of L.J. Smith's making two consecutive receptions for first downs (10 and 12 yards), and fighting for yards after each catch.
On first down at the Giants' 30, Brian Westbrook took the ball, bounced off a blocker's rear end, and popped through the hole at right tackle. Thirty yards later, the Birds led by 10-0.
Drive: 4:21, 10 plays, 77 yards. 30-yard touchdown run.
GIANTS: Knowing the Eagles were out of time-outs with fewer than two minutes left, the Giants went for it on fourth down, and Manning's pass was dropped by Steve Smith with 1:02 to go in the half. (Think coach Tom Coughlin was cursing Burress right about then?)
Drive: 0:50, 5 plays, 22 yards. Ball turned over on downs.
EAGLES: Despite the waning clock and the lack of time-outs, the Birds again worked their way downfield, with Westbrook making clutch runs and catches to set up Akers' 32-yard field-goal attempt.
But the Giants' Justin Tuck punched through the blocking wall, and Kevin Dockery scooped up the bouncing ball at New York's 29. He stepped out of one tackle, got some help from his blockers, and scooted 71 yards for an incredible touchdown.
Drive: 1:02, 8 plays, 44 yards. Blocked field goal and 71-yard Giants touchdown.
HALFTIME MUSINGS: Talk about a mixed bag. The Eagles' play-calling and clock management were as hilarious as ever. Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid had burned three time-outs just 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Oh, here's a bonus - the Birds had five penalties by the middle of the second quarter. The Giants had gotten three first downs at that point exclusively on penalties.
But as the half wore on, the Giants looked more and more like, well, the Eagles. New York had not been shut out in a first half in more than four years, since Dec. 5, 2004, against the Redskins. But the stalwart Eagles defense befuddled the Giants in their own stadium, pushing the Super Bowl champions into dropped passes, shaky play-calling, poor clock management, and just plain lousy football.
EAGLES: Needing a good opening drive to wipe out the bitter taste of the first half's final play, the Eagles did the job.
The Birds had been 7 for 14 in converting third-down run plays, but McNabb sneaked for a yard on third and 1, setting up a 34-yard field-goal attempt by Akers.
Then, lightning struck twice. Terrell Thomas broke through to get a hand on the ball.
So, in the end, the Eagles had taken seven minutes off the clock and gotten no points for it.
Drive: 7:03, 15 plays, 54 yards. Blocked field goal.
GIANTS: One first down and a punt.
Drive: 3:18, 6 plays, 21 yards. Punt.
EAGLES: The Birds mounted another successful drive, holding the ball for the rest of the quarter.
The Giants had the ball for just seven plays in the third period as the game changed completely in the Birds' favor.
EAGLES: On the quarter's third play, on third and 11, McNabb hit Westbrook cutting from left to right in the middle of the field, and the great back took it to the house.
Drive: 6:01, 11 plays, 86 yards. 40-yard touchdown pass.
GIANTS: Again, the Giants went for it on fourth and 1. Again, Manning's pass fell incomplete.
Drive: 4:12, 9 plays, 42 yards. Ball turned over on downs.
EAGLES: In one of the most astonishing series in the Eagles' recent history, Westbrook was called on to run the ball 11 times in 13 plays. Only two pass plays were called - a completion to Smith and a breakdown that resulted in a 7-yard McNabb scramble for a first down.
With 2:09 left, Akers kicked a field goal.
Drive: 7:17, 14 plays, 46 yards. 34-yard field goal.
GIANTS: The Super Bowl champs had one last gasp in the waning seconds, with Manning hitting five straight passes to jump-start the drive. A pass-interference penalty on Joselio Hanson set up a 1-yard pass to tight end Darcy Johnson as the Giants kept breathing. Barely.
Drive: 1:54, 6 plays, 70 yards. 1-yard touchdown pass.
EAGLES: Carney made the obligatory onside kick, but Sheldon Brown covered it and McNabb knelt to end the game.
Drive: 0:15, 1 play, minus-1 yard. End of game.
FINALLY: Two things became obvious at the bleak, windswept Meadowlands.
First, the Eagles are a totally different team with a healthy Westbrook. It's hard to imagine a player in all of football who is more important to his team.
Second, the bitter tie in Cincinnati on Nov. 16 is almost certainly going to keep the Birds out of the playoffs.
Post a question or comment