THEY ADDED UP to a perfect 100. The bruising veteran fullback, the small, darty rookie running back. Twenty six carries between Leonard Weaver and LeSean McCoy, 100 yards of real estate, so much of it crucial.
"Thunder and lightning," Jeremiah Trotter said after the Eagles' 27-13, playoff-clinching victory over the San Francisco 49ers yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field.
If this sounds familiar, it should. In 2007, the New York Giants evolved into a Super Bowl champion alternating between a bruising, serviceable fullback type and a small, darty rookie running back.
Brandon Jacobs got the tough yards, beat on defenses with his big body, softened them up. Ahmad Bradshaw hit the holes quicker. The combination, especially when defenses tired late in games, sometimes provided a back-breaking bolt. Even when it didn't, the threat of that was established, and precipitated the kind of big plays that saved their oft-maligned coach's job and made their oft-maligned quarterback a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
On the second play of the fourth quarter last night, after the 49ers had intercepted Donovan McNabb a second time and pulled to within a touchdown, 20-13, the Eagles faced a third-and-2 from their own 19. In the past the Eagles might have broached such a task with an empty backfield, gone into the shotgun perhaps. Instead, both McCoy and Weaver lined up behind McNabb.
He faked them into the line, then lofted a 59-yard pass to Jackson, who was 4 yards clear of any defender. It was another ode to his talent, annother indication that McNabb finally has found his new T.O. But it came after that play-action did what it was supposed to do, came after former Eagle Michael Lewis rushed up to stop the run and finished the play chasing after Jackson downfield.
"As a defense, you've got to stay aware of who is in the game," Trotter said. "Because you play some guys different. And they do different things."
There are plenty of other parallels here to that 2007 Giants run. When Tiki Barber retired after the 2006 season and Derrick Ward was lost early to injury, New York seemed without a running game.
Certainly, that was the concern here, too, when Brian Westbrook suffered his two concussions.
The Giants had Plaxico Burress, of course, an emerging tight end in Kevin Boss and a full plate of complementary receivers.
Say hello to DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin and yes, even Reggie Brown.
Who knows, maybe the Eagles win the Super Bowl because Brown catches a ball with one hand pressing it against his helmet. Then again, David Tyree has that one copyrighted.
There are significant differences, too. Bradshaw was used sparingly in 2007, at least compared to McCoy, who yesterday broke Correll Buckhalter's record for most yards as a rookie. McCoy's 48 yards, which included a tough, 2-yard touchdown run, gave him 606 yards on the ground this season.
That run followed a 9-yard grind by Weaver, who seemed to seek bodies to hit on his way to the goal line.
"I may be quicker to the hole,'' McCoy said. "I'm trying to get in and out. Weaver's trying to rip their heads off. He likes headaches. He likes concussions."
"Hmmmm," said Weaver, smiling and sensing potential political incorrectness. "I'm just going to say that I'm a fullback."
After missing four games early with a knee injury in 2007, Jacobs was a horse, rushing for 1,009 yards on 202 carries. Bradshaw did not score his first touchdown until Dec. 23, a fourth-quarter, 88-yard run against Buffalo. But he drove the Packers nuts in that icy overtime NFC Championship victory (a 52-yard touchdown run was negated by a penalty). And his 42 yards in the Super Bowl upset was the most of any back that day. He even recovered an Eli Manning fumble.
Between them, Bradshaw and Jacobs had 1,199 yards.
With two games left, McCoy and Weaver have combined for 907 yards. Westbrook, who may or may not return before the season ends, has 225. All three have averaged more than 4 yards a carry this season. And what makes this offense possibly more lethal than that '07 New York team is that all three catch the ball, too.
After yesterday, though, this is irrefutable: The Eagles have evolved into a team at least as potent offensively as those Giants were in late December, maybe even graduated into an elite team, defense permitting. They can't win a Super Bowl playing the way they did against the Giants a week ago, but yesterday - a day of big Eagles plays and big Eagles mistakes - suggested a formula by which they can.
Twenty six carries. One hundred yards even. Thunder and lightning.
A way to keep the other guys honest.
And to restore order when chaos seems imminent.
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