Giant Meltdown: Eagles pull off another ‘Miracle at the Meadowlands’

By JEFFREY WARNER
Staff Writer — jwarner@highhopesblog.com
_______

Desean Jackson, Michael Vick and the Eagles shocked the nation Sunday with a comeback for the ages. (Getty)

What a slobber-knocker between the Eagles and Giants Sunday afternoon. The oldest rivalry in the NFC East did battle Sunday, but no game before this meant so much to either team. The winner of this game would take a commanding lead in the division and the inside track on attaining a first round bye in the NFC Playoff picture. Emotions were running high.

The Eagles, behind by 21 points in the fourth quarter came back to score 28 unanswered points with 7:22 left and shocked the Giants and take first place in the NFC East. This one will be remembered for a long time as an instant classic. This could have been the most electrifying game of the NFL this season!

There is an old saying, it is not how you start, but how you finish. And that was good news for the Eagles certainly at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Early on, New York came into this game prepared and ready for a dog fight. The Eagles had no answer for anything the Giants threw their way.

Offensively, Michael Vick was getting knocked around in every way. They could not control the Giants pass rush and front seven as he was sacked three times and hit 11 times in the game. Vick was force to deliver his passes early and could not get in a rhythm because of the fear of the Giants blitz schemes and pressure that the Eagles couldn’t contain.

The Birds were struggling moving the football, unable to pick up first downs. Vick was held to under 100 total yards in the first half. WR Desean Jackson was held without a catch and the offense had two costly turnovers that set the Giants up with 10 points including one right before half time to go up 24-3.

Everything was going the Giants way as Eli Manning was picking apart the Eagles secondary finishing with a career high four touchdown passes. The return of Asante Samuel did not improve things as WR Mario Manningham finished the game with eight receptions for 113 yards and two scores. The defense could not get off the field. The Giants have been known this season to struggle on third down but early the Giants were forced into third and longs and somehow converted. They finished the game converting 8-17. For the Eagles defense they have to play better than that.

But coming out of the half, this team had a different mentality. They knew they were down but not out for the count. The Eagles completely came alive in all phases of the game. This team was ready to go to work and the physicality and adrenaline that was flowing, I don’t know what did it but it worked.

Michael Vick was avoiding the pressure a lot more and making big plays on the run. After a Giants blunder with Mario Manningham fumbling the football, the Eagles started with fabulous field position and were able to execute. Vick connected with Jeremy Maclin for an 8yd score to make it 24-10. And there was new light for the Eagles after the defense finally stepped up and shutdown the Giants offense. But that later changed.

The Eagles got the ball back and were hoping to drive down the field and make it a one possession game but the Eagles kicked themselves in the foot when Vick hit WR Desean Jackson and then had a “questionable” fumble that looked like Jackson was down by contact. It was recovered by the Giants and Coach Andy Reid did not get the word from the people upstairs to challenge it. Any other time Reid doesn’t care and is known to make stupid challenges but in this case the time he would have won it he decides not to. Typical Andy Reid to find a way to screw something up and it was a costly decision as the Giants punched it in with the short field to go up three scores and virtually seal a Giants W.

But the Eagles had other plans. The Eagles storm right back with the quick strike with a two play 75 yard drive that ended with a 65 yard touchdown reception by TE Brent Celek to make it 31-17. The Eagles still had some hope but it was the next play that shocked everyone. The Eagles on the ensuing kickoff the Eagles go for an onside kick which was recovered by Philly’s Riley Cooper. And Philadelphia had new light.

The Giants didn’t know what hit them. They had no answer for Michael Vick in the fourth quarter as “Mr. Clutch” stepped it up and showed what he could do in the air and on the ground finishing with a total 372 yards and four touchdowns that were all in the second half! Philly marched right down the field picking apart the Giants defense and again got in the end zone on a Vick 4 yd quarterback draw to make it a one possession game.

Increasingly, the Giants were getting worried, but knew the Eagles have had troubles stopping them all game. The second half was a different story.

Everyone was worried about the loss of Stewart Bradley and how will rookie Jamar Chaney perform and step up in his first start. Well, he played very well making some big plays and finished the game with a game-high 16 tackles. The Eagles held them in check for a total of 100 yards when the past two games they were averaging over 200 yards on the ground. They could only manage 3.2 yards a carry and the Giants knew the struggles so decided to go through the air.

With 5:28 left in the fourth quarter it’s a 31-24 Giants lead and the Eagles having all three timeouts. All New York had to do was get some first downs and they had the game in hand. That is exactly what they do, chipping away picking up first downs and keeping the clock running. With Philly running out of time they need a huge defensive stop. The Giants knowing the Eagles success against the run they choose to pass the football and what a mistake. The Philly pass rush stepped up their game getting to Eli all game long and came up big disrupting his rhythm and forcing him to get rid of the ball quickly. Eagles stepped it up and force the Giants to go three-and-out giving the ball back to Philadelphia only down a score.

Things were looking gloomy for the Eagles to make a miraculous comeback pinned inside their 20 yard line at the Giants 12. They needed to drive 88 yards down the field for a game tying score with a little over two minutes left. But this is a completely new football team than we have seen in the past. With “Starship 7” under center there is no doubt it can be done. The Eagles in games decided by seven points or more were 5-0 coming into this game and of late trailing in the fourth quarter Michael Vick has always found a way to get the job done. That is exactly what he did.

Vick just shows you that he is the most dynamic player in the game, putting the team on his shoulders and making one electrifying play after another. The Giants all day long had been bringing pressure and trying to make Vick beat them. For most of the afternoon it was effective, but not when the game was on the line.

On 3rd and 10, the Giants bring the house, leaving the field open allowing Vick to avoid the pressure and scramble up field picking up the first down keeping the Eagles live. They chip away picking first down after first down behind the ability of Michael Vick’s play. He puts the Eagles in excellent position to tie this game up driving all the way down field. The Eagles are in the red zone in a position that doomed them all year-long and struggled. But not this game as the Eagles converted 75% for touchdowns including Vick finding WR Jeremy Maclin in the flat and he runs in for his second touchdown of game. They are all knotted up at 31-31 with a bit over a minute left.

The place was stunned after what they just witnessed.

The Giants were in complete control and ready to take first place in the NFC East and was not the case anymore. The Eagles however still left plenty of time of the clock with the Giants having three timeouts remaining to get into field goal range for the game winner. Again the Eagles defense had the Giant’s number in the second half and this was big to force a Giant’s three and out after Eli is taken down for a sack by Trevor Laws. New York Coach Tom Coughlin decides to let the clock run out to 12 seconds and it looks like it’s going to overtime.

Wrong again.

For some reason, punter Matt Dodge makes the questionable decision not to kick it out-of-bounds and right to one of the most dangerous players in the NFL, WR Desean Jackson.

Jackson for the whole game was shut down by the Giants secondary. He was held in check for three catches 52 yards. But when given the chance Jackson came through in the clutch. What initially looked like it was going to end in disaster, when Jackson botched the punt, turned into a miracle, as Jackson eluded the Giants punt coverage getting the blocks he needed to break free for a 65 yard punt return touchdown with no time left on the clock to completely shock the world and Giant’s nation.

Immediately dubbed the ‘Miracle at the Meadowlands III’, football historians scrambled to put what just happened into some context. Many called it the greatest regular season comeback ever. The Eagles came from behind, scoring on five of their last six possessions to defeat the Giants 35-7 in the second half. New Meadowlands Stadium was in complete shock as the Eagles become the fifth team in NFL history to overcome a 21 point deficit in the 4th quarter.

Just an incredible game and what fight by this Philadelphia Eagles squad. They could have easily given up when they were down but they fought back and show you that they are the real deal. The second half adjustments by the Eagles on offense and defense were spectacular. In the first half, nothing was going their way. But in the second half, they were able to move the ball efficiency and establish drives to wear down the Giants defense. And the defense was able to get pressure on Eli forcing him to make mistakes and it cost them. The Eagles caused two turnovers in the game that lead to 10 points. The Giants who are known for pounding the football completely went away from their strength and left the door open right for the Eagles to make this comeback.

It’s an impressive come from behind win for the Eagles who sit at 10-4. They are up in the division and with a win over the Vikings next week can clinch the NFC East for the first time since 2006. But not only that they have the inside track on possibly a first round bye and a home playoff game if they can win the final two games and Chicago lose one. Anything can happen in the NFL and who would have thought the beginning of the year the Eagles would be where they are now? I can say truthfully I did not, but am glad things are working out.

 

Report Card

Offense: B

The offense struggled early on after a brilliant job by the Giants to contain the Eagles. But they never gave up and got the big plays they needed from Michael Vick and the players around him to make this miraculous comeback. They were able to score on their last four possessions. They racked up over 400 yards of offense and put up 38 points. They still need to work on establishing drives early as they were 4-11 on third down.

Defense: C+

This defense was getting exposed all game long. Eli was too comfortable in the pocket with all day to throw the football. They were able to force two costly Giant turnovers and they completely shutdown the Giants offense in the second half. The Giants’ strength to run the football was taken away with the inability to get any success from it. They did a nice job in the second half to get pressure on Eli Manning and forcing the Giants into three and outs. They still have to play better in the secondary and allowed too many third down conversions. But great job my Sean McDermott with second half adjustments to contain a dangerous Giants offensive attack.

Special Teams: A+

WR Desean Jackson’s game winning touchdown return was the play of the game and just automatically gives the special teams an A. David Akers and Sav Rocca performed very well for what they had to do. Coverage units have to be stronger and not give so much field position on returns. And Bobby April made a great call, surprising the Giants with an onside kick with over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: B-

If the Eagles don’t win this game, Reid looks like a fool and is crucified for not challenging the Desean Jackson fumble after any other time of making questionable challenges. But the coaching staff made up for it with the onside kick that completely jump started the Eagles comeback. The second half adjustments by this coaching staff just shows the fire they bring to the team.

Overall: B-

What a game by the Philadelphia Eagles! It was ugly in the beginning but ended in triumph for Philly. This season, no matter how much you want to count the Eagles out, they just find a way to prove you wrong. A great job fighting back and getting back in this football game and coming up with the much needed W as they try to make a run deep in the playoffs.

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