EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants offense was moving the ball so well last night that a typically conservative Tom Coughlin had no qualms about going for it on fourth down from the Eagles' 1-yard line while trailing by 13 points.
It was a shoot-out and the Giants were more than willing to play along.
Just like the teams' first meeting of the season at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 1, the big-play Eagles scored with ease, mounting another 30-point first half. The difference, this time, was that Eli Manning and the Giants' offense could answer.
And answer. And answer.
It ultimately wasn't enough for New York in a 45-38 Philadelphia victory - mainly because the potent Eagles offense found a way to slow down the game with a 12-play, 91-yard drive in the fourth quarter. In the end, the wrong unit was on the field for the Giants in the game's most crucial minutes.
New York's adept running game set up the chance for Coughlin to expand the playbook and give Manning a chance to throw deep. It worked in the highest-scoring Eagles-Giants game ever.
The Eagles blitzed Manning with little success, a far cry from the first meeting between these two teams, a 40-17 Birds victory. Aided by some crucial missed tackles in the Eagles' secondary, the Giants matched big play after big play until the fourth quarter.
Manning was not sacked until late in the third quarter when the Eagles successfully blitzed on third down. Juqua Parker and Joselio Hanson brought Manning down and forced the first Giants punt of the second half. And he had more than enough time to rack up some long offensive plays - even if some were by accident.
With 5 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third quarter, Manning looked short left for Domenik Hixon on second and 12 from the Giants' 39-yard line. Sixty-one yards and one missed Sean Jones tackle later, the Giants had a 31-30 lead, their first of the game.
But two straight possessions in the third and fourth quarters resulted in Jeff Feagles punts, allowing the Eagles to hold onto the ball.
Up to that point, Manning took advantage of most of his opportunities. Besides his botched slide that caused a fumble inside the Eagles' 20-yard line midway through the third quarter, Manning played a poised game. He finished 27 of 38 for 391 yards, tying a season high. He did not throw an interception, limiting the mistakes that plagued him in Philadelphia earlier this season.
In that game, Manning was held to 20 of 39 passing for 222 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
This new, big-play Giants offense was the same unit that was held without a first-quarter touchdown for the eighth straight game. Despite trailing, 14-3, after 15 minutes last night, Manning made his first big play two minutes into the second quarter when he hit Hakeem Nicks for a 68-yard catch and run (complete with two missed tackles by Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell) for a TD.
Nicks quickly repented for dropping a sure touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter on a third and 11. Only a Mikell illegal-contact penalty allowed him the chance to make up for it four plays later.