At least for the rest of this season, every time a coach decides to either go for it on fourth down late in a close game or punt the ball and place the onus on his defense, there's going to be a comparison with Bill Belichick's infamous decision against the Colts last month.
Andy Reid had a similar moment yesterday.
The Eagles' coach chose to punt, however, and it was the right choice as the Birds rallied to upend the Broncos, 30-27, yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field.
While the situations were not identical, Reid placed his trust in his defensive unit while Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory in the Patriots' loss to Indianapolis.
"That was a tough one there," Reid said. "I thought field position was crucial, especially with three minutes left. It was a little bit over a yard to go. Midfield. I guess I wasn't feeling it."
The Eagles faced fourth and 1 at the Denver 49-yard line with 3 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. They had two time-outs, but the offense hadn't moved into Broncos territory for more than a quarter. This could have been its only shot. Reid believed he needed to see something different.
"At that point, I thought we needed to change field position," he said. "Our defense was playing good, so I wanted to back [Denver] up. Between our fans and our defense, we thought something good would happen."
If the 69,144 fans were anxious, the defense was not.
"We just said, 'Look, you know [if] we stop them, we win the game,' " safety Quintin Mikell said. "Not necessarily win the game, but if we stop them we give our offense the chance to win the game. It was on us, and that was what we wanted."
Of course, the Eagles did have help. After a first down on which former Eagle Correll Buckhalter gained only 1 yard, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton hooked up with Brandon Lloyd for a 15-yard reception. But Denver guard Chris Kuper was called for holding.
On the replayed second down, Orton threw underneath to Jabar Gaffney, but cornerback Joselio Hanson and linebacker Akeem Jordan stuffed the receiver after a 5-yard gain. And then on third down, Orton scrambled free but was stopped 2 yards shy of a first down by linebacker Tracy White, who has a knack for making big late-game plays.
The Eagles' defense, which had been placed in awful situations in a nearly disastrous second half, responded and forced a punt.
In a dizzying first half, the offense was explosive, but it nearly screeched to a halt after quarterback Donovan McNabb opened the second half with an interception. The Eagles did mount an 80-yard drive on their ensuing possession, padding their lead to 27-10. But that was it for the offense, in terms of points, until late in the fourth quarter.
It was up to the defense to procure a win, even though two turnovers - one an interception thrown by McNabb, the other a fumble by kickoff returner Macho Harris - placed it in precarious positions.
After the Broncos trimmed the lead to 27-24, and the Eagles' offense failed to gain another first down, defensive end Trent Cole made two huge plays. He sacked Orton - Cole has 121/2 on the season - and dropped Lloyd for a 2-yard loss on a screen. And then on third down, cornerback Sheldon Brown knocked down a long pass that was up in the air for either him or Brandon Marshall.
In light of the return of former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, Brown said some of the defensive players had wanted to show their mentor that they could still play.
"The thing that I thought about all day was Dawk would always say, 'The show must go on,' " Brown said. "I know deep down that when he's watching film of what we do it makes him proud."
The defense forced another three-and-out on the Denver's next possession, and even though it allowed the game-tying field goal later in the quarter, Reid trusted his D.
"It showed that he has a lot of trust in the defense," Hanson said of Reid's decision to punt. "We don't get a lot of credit here because our offense is so explosive."