It takes problems on both sides of the ball to dig a 21-point hole against a division rival in the biggest game of the year. And it takes big plays from both sides to roar back.

While Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have deservedly received much of the credit for the Eagles' rousing comeback over the Giants on Sunday, the defense also made several crucial plays in the second half to keep the rally going in a 38-31 win.

It came as a result of renewed aggressiveness, several defensive players said. Instead of using zone coverage schemes, the Eagles returned to the blitzing, man-on-man philosophy that they have used for much of the season.

"We got a little more aggressive, especially with our coverage on the back end. We really wanted to challenge Eli [Manning] to force it into tight coverage. And our D-line did a great job of getting pressure on blitzes," said safety Kurt Coleman. "We were able to get in his face on the third downs, we made the stops exactly when we needed them."

That was perhaps the biggest change from the first half, when the Giants created first downs while facing third and 11, third and 7, third and 8, and third and 12, and scored a touchdown on another third and 8.

"Our goal was to put them in third and long, but we weren't capitalizing," said middle linebacker Jamar Chaney.

After seeing the Giants use maximum protection in the team's first meeting, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott played his men back in the first half Sunday. Trying to make the Giants pay for keeping men in protection, McDermott sometimes deployed seven defensive backs and often rushed just four men.

On a third and 12 from the Eagles' 48, four men attacked Manning, while six defensive backs and Chaney dropped into coverage. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for 15 yards, and the Giants scored a touchdown on the next play.

In the second half, the Eagles used more blitzing and less zone coverage.

"The third and longs, they were all mental errors," said safety Quintin Mikell. In the second half, "the difference was we just went, put a man-on-man, and when we blitzed, we just played, man."

On a fourth quarter second and 5, seven men came after Manning, and one, Moise Fokou, knocked down the pass. A blitz on the next play chased Manning out of the pocket, forcing a throwaway and a punt.

McDermott "made some nice adjustments," coach Andy Reid said. "It looked like penetration increased as the game went on."

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, burned often in the first half as the Giants took advantage of his aggressiveness, did better in the second half.

"At the end of the day, you've got to play four quarters," Patterson said.

The biggest defensive plays came on the Giants' final two drives, when the Eagles needed to get the ball back to tie and then to force the game-ending punt.

Down seven with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game, the Eagles sent seven men after Manning on a third and 8. Coleman came free, forcing a throwaway, stopping the clock, and getting the ball back for Michael Vick.

The Eagles tied the score at 31, and the defense gave Vick and Co. one last chance by holding the Giants again. The Eagles sent six men after Manning on first down, and five on second and third. Manning threw two incomplete passes and was sacked by Trevor Laws on third down.

The Giants punted, and everyone knows what happened next.

Playoff Scenarios

The Eagles own a one-game lead in the NFC East over the Giants, with home games against the Vikings and the Cowboys remaining. The Giants visit the Packers and Redskins to close out their season.

The Birds can clinch the division title with one win or one Giants loss.

The Eagles are also in the running for the top seed in the NFC.EndText

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com.
Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JonathanTamari.