Defensive Punch, Offensive Clout
Eagles coach Andy Reid has compared NFC East games to a heavyweight bout. If he's right, then the New York Giants must have felt like they just had their ears bitten off when they left Lincoln Financial Field late yesterday afternoon.
Eagles coach Andy Reid has compared NFC East games to a heavyweight bout.
If he's right, then the New York Giants must have felt like they just had their ears bitten off when they left Lincoln Financial Field late yesterday afternoon.
It was difficult to tell exactly which Eagles punch was the most devastating because they threw so many lethal left hooks and right uppercuts that the defending division champions never had a chance.
The cumulative damage, on the other hand, was unmistakable: Eagles 40, Giants 17.
"I think we did send a statement," defensive end Trent Cole said. "Now we want to keep building upon that statement."
Cole helped provide the relentless pressure that forced Giants quarterback Eli Manning into an afternoon of inaccurate passes, including a pair of interceptions that led to Eagles touchdowns.
The victory allowed the Eagles (5-2) to move past the Giants (5-3) and into a first-place tie with the Dallas Cowboys, who will visit the Linc this Sunday night. New York lost its third straight game.
Two things that had been missing for the team in recent weeks were crucial to the Eagles' TKO of the Giants.
After completing just 52 percent of his passes for one touchdown in the previous two games, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb connected on 17 of 23 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
"Don, he was out there flying around, throwing the ball and all pumped up," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "That was a great situation to see him like that. It felt like he was back in his young days. As long as he keeps playing like that, he's unstoppable."
McNabb said last week that he wasn't happy with some of his throws in the last two games, but it was clear he used that as motivation for the Eagles' first-place showdown with the rival Giants.
"Everybody sort of ran with what I said," McNabb said. "You only want to be honest and everybody just kind of went to my inaccuracy. Well, I guess I was pretty accurate today."
Far more surprising than McNabb's latest resurgence was the return of an effective running game. The Eagles arrived at the Linc with the league's 18th-ranked rushing offense and without the services of Brian Westbrook, who sat out after suffering a concussion last Monday against Washington.
That didn't stop the Eagles from rushing for 180 yards, thanks in large part to two long touchdown runs by veteran fullback Leonard Weaver and rookie tailback LeSean McCoy.
Weaver broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run on the Eagles' first possession, and McCoy delivered the game's knockout punch with a 66-yard touchdown run on the second play of the final quarter. Weaver matched a career high with eight carries and established a career high with 75 yards.
"It was kind of a shock at first," Weaver said. "During the week, I really didn't run the ball. It felt good to know that Andy Reid and Marty [Mornhinweg] would trust me enough to give it to me a couple of times."
By the end of the day, five Eagles had scored touchdowns. Brent Celek, Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin all pulled in touchdown receptions from McNabb.
"I was thinking about that at the end of the game," Celek said. "There were so many of us that got to the end zone. We spread the ball around well. I guess you can attribute that to Marty, our offensive coordinator."
After an interception by cornerback Asante Samuel, Celek got between safeties Aaron Rouse and Michael Johnson to pull in a perfectly placed pass by McNabb for a 17-yard touchdown on the Eagles' second offensive possession.
Mornhinweg received a congratulatory high five from McNabb late in the first half when the Eagles put together a sequence of punches that sent the Giants into their locker room as a flattened football team.
One play after the Giants scored on an 18-yard pass from Eli Manning to Kevin Boss, the Eagles decided it was a good time to look for their big-play weapon. With the Giants in a Cover 2 defense designed to stop deep passes, Jackson ran past cornerback Corey Webster at the line of scrimmage, got safety C.C. Brown turned the wrong way, and found himself wide open for a 54-yard touchdown pass that gave the Eagles a 23-7 lead with 1 minute, 38 seconds left until halftime.
"That was a heck of a call," Reid said. "Donovan was fired up because [the Giants' defense] played it just like we hoped they would play it. Marty had a good feel on it. He and Donovan had talked about it and it was a great job on both their parts. And Jackson did a nice job of getting that safety to flip his hips and he was able to break back off that."
Manning's nightmarish first half continued two plays later when pressure from Juqua Parker forced an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Quintin Demps and returned to the New York 43-yard line.
McNabb hit Celek for a 20-yard completion to the New York 23, then found a well-covered Maclin for a touchdown that made it 30-7 at halftime.
"I think we went back throughout the week, and we made corrections," Maclin said. "I think this was something we were always capable of, and I think it's something we should be doing on a week-to-week basis."