Andy Reid said he's likely to "break out the mats" for a little refresher on tackling fundamentals when the Eagles resume practice tomorrow.

Quintin Mikell can deal with the mats, but he would prefer that everyone not break out into a panic over the Birds' defense, so pliant in that 45-38 victory over the Giants on Sunday night.

Strong safety Mikell has been one of the steadiest Eagles over the past several seasons - tough, smart, fundamentally solid. He was horrendous Sunday night, taking back-to-back illegal contact penalties (though the first one looked bogus on replay) and making an awkward grab at Hakeem Nicks' shoulders on a short catch that Nicks turned into a 68-yard touchdown.

"I was lunging, trying to make a big hit. . . I didn't expect him to see me so quickly," said Mikell, who said he should have eschewed the attempt at a big hit for a regular old wrapup.

In a way, that's Mikell's message, on behalf of his defensive teammates: Hey, you know me, you know that's not how I'm going to play every week. Chill.

"We had a bad game," Mikell said. "Everybody's thinking we're a big problem now. It's unfortunate that happened. I think we're still a good defense. We just had a bad game. . . We can tackle. We can make plays on the ball. The important thing is to nip it in the bud, not let it carry over to this week's game against San Francisco."

Reid certainly seemed to be in a bud-nipping sort of mood.

"What you do is you go back to fundamentals," Reid said. "If you have to break out the mats, then you break out the mats and you work on it. As you teach it you have to be very specific with that player - were your eyes down? Whatever the coaching point is, eyes down, wrapping up, running through the tackle, whatever the weakness is, identify it, teach, and move on. Maybe it's leverage. Maybe with a corner, that you're driving the inside shoulder instead of the outside shoulder. All of those little fundamental things that need to take place there."

Reid then allowed that we probably will see the mats tomorrow.

Mikell said that defensively, the difference between this encounter with the Giants and the 40-17 victory at the Linc on Nov. 1 might have been that the Birds worried too much about New York countering what the Birds had done that day, when Eli Manning netted only 215 passing yards, while under constant pressure.

"We might have focused a little too much on trying to disguise things instead of on trying to kick somebody's butt," Mikell said.

Developing storylines

** Boy, Eli Manning robbed Jason Babin of a sack and a safety late in the game. I was too busy writing to really take it in at the time, but watching the replay yesterday, Manning was a nanosecond from hitting the ground when he whipped the ball to Kevin Boss. Overall, though, until very late, the Eagles didn't get enough pressure, even after Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie went down and was replaced by rookie Will Beaty. Part of the problem here - and part of the reason, conversely, that the Birds' o-line looked so good protecting Donovan McNabb - was that offensive holding pretty much was decriminalized by ref John Parry's shaky crew.

** I thought Jason Avant was really a contortionist, making the catch and then stretching out to the goal line on that two-point conversion pass. Yesterday, Avant said I was giving him too much credit, that he realized too late he had more room by the sideline than he'd thought and probably could have just stepped into the end zone. Still a clutch play.

** The stat sheet says the Eagles scored three touchdowns in five red-zone trips, but the fifth trip was the kneeldown at the end of the game. They were really 3-for-4, which is impressive.

Who knew?

This week's "who knew" comes from reader Pat Frain, who e-mailed early yesterday morning to ask: "Who knew you could give up 512 total yards, 38 points, have no pass rush, not be able to tackle a soul, have a team go 8-for-15 on third and fourth down against you and still win a December divisional road game?"

Pat, if you like doing my job so much, where were you when I was struggling to write a game lead that made sense on deadline?

Extra point

I was second-guessing myself after Sunday night's game, when most reporters' postgame attention seemed so tightly focused on DeSean Jackson.

I was certainly aware of how elegantly Jackson had just danced across the national stage, but to me, just as important, maybe more important, was that last Eagles scoring drive, the 91-yarder that restored the 14-point lead and chewed 7 minutes and 24 seconds off the fourth-quarter clock.

Jackson figured in the drive, with a 20-yard catch on the second snap of the 12-play march, but more memorable were Leonard Weaver's clutch 16 yards on four carries, including the 1-yard TD run, and Reggie Brown's unexpected catch-and-ramble that took the Eagles from the Giants' 25 to their 6.

My point here isn't to detract from DJax, it's that the clinching drive was a team effort, in which the Eagles showed great balance: six runs and six passes.

It was their longest TD march of the season, and maybe the steadiest, in that the Birds never faced third down, in a hostile stadium.

A few months ago we wanted to see some continuity along with the flashy big plays. This offense clearly has shown it can provide both - the entrée and the dessert. As great a story as Jackson is, the picture is bigger than him.