WHEN DID THE Eagles become a fourth-quarter team?
Early in the season, they were a team opponents came back on late - 15 points allowed to Detroit in the fourth, 14 to the 49ers, and most egregiously, 27 to the Tennessee Titans, back on Oct. 24, as the Birds headed into their bye with a crushing loss.
Since then, the only team to outscore the Eagles in the final quarter is Washington on Nov. 15, and that might have something to do with the fact that the Redskins trailed 59-21 after three. Since the bye, the Eagles have outscored the opposition 86-35 in the final 15 minutes. They have trailed in the fourth quarter of each of their last four victories.
That last part, obviously, is not optimal.
Andy Reid was asked yesterday if his team is more comfortable playing from behind. Not surprisingly, he said it wasn't.
"I don't think that's it. I put it in that category of figuring it out," Reid said. "We get in there, and again this is as coaches and players, we get it right and make sure, as coaches, we're putting the guys in the right positions to make plays, and then the guys are making them. And sometimes that takes a little bit of time, at least in the cases that you're mentioning; other games we've gone out and exploded out of the box."
Reid said the late success has something to do with figuring out on the fly how to counter the unusual things teams are coming up with to defend Michael Vick.
"I think we're making good adjustments as players and coaches; I like to do that sooner than later," Reid said. "We're getting some unique looks. Everybody has a certain way, [defensively] that they're playing Michael, and it's not your normal - it's hard to put on another tape and see teams do what they do to Michael, they just change things up and throw you a little bit of a curveball. So you have to make some adjustments. You have to be able to do that."
Sunday, the biggest adjustment seemed to be the offensive line finally sorting out the Giants' blitzes, giving Vick a little time and room to work with, especially when he decided to run.
"There were no guys just running free [into the backfield]," Reid said. "I thought they passed things off real well, kept a body on a body, and created a little space there, in case he needed to take off."
DEVELOPING STORY LINES
* Andy Reid said he should have thrown the challenge flag on what was ruled a DeSean Jackson fumble, the play that led to the Giants' final touchdown. Replays showed Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff touched Jackson's back as Jackson was going down. The ruling on the field was that he hadn't been touched, so when he hit the ground and lost the ball, it was a fumble. Reid said the Eagles didn't have good replay access, presumably in the coaches' booth.
"That was ridiculous. I should have cut that thing loose," he said. "We weren't getting the replays. I'll look into that, too. Some of those were bang-bang shots that were a little tough. Unless you see a replay, it was tough to figure out."
The Giants' first touchdown drive was kept alive by a catch that might not have been a catch, but New York hurried up to the line and ran a play before any replays were shown on TV. Fox showed plenty of angles of Jackson's fumble, even including a shot of Reid shoving his red challenge flag back in his pocket.
* Which Eagle has scored the most touchdowns this season? Jeremy Maclin, with 10. Kinda sneaks up on you, that guy.
* Asante Samuel hasn't intercepted a pass in a month and he still led the league, with seven, coming out of the weekend.
* The Eagles have scored 17 rushing touchdowns this season, with two games left. That's more rushing TDs than they've managed in any year since 2003, when the three-headed monster of Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook accounted for 20, and Donovan McNabb added three more.
* Michael Vick said yesterday in his weekly Virginia Beach radio appearance that the official count of passes knocked down by the Giants was five. Seemed like more.
The Eagles have given up more first downs passing (169) than they have achieved (168).
That you could give up an average of 24.2 points per game - more than the 4-10 Detroit Lions (23.5) - and still be 10-4, looking to wrap up the NFC East with one more win?
Watching the final 7 1/2 minutes of Sunday's game again, I was struck by one play that didn't make such a big impression at the time. With 3 minutes and 56 seconds left, the Giants faced second and 6 from the Eagles' 38. They were a first down away from attempting a field goal that would have made it 34-24, a two-score game again. But tackle David Diehl, perhaps thrown off by some motion in the backfield, took off before the snap. False start, second and 11. From there, Ahmad Bradshaw gained 3 yards, and then, on third and 8 from the 40, Eli Manning threw the ball away in the teeth of a blitz, Kurt Coleman in Manning's face as he threw. No field goal. Instead, Matt Dodge punted to the Eagles' 12, where they began the tying drive.
Some other notes I made, watching it all again:
* Wideout Duke Calhoun was the only Giant in the same area code as Riley Cooper on the onside-kick recovery. And Calhoun didn't seem to be moving with great alacrity.
* That was a strong block by Max Jean-Gilles to let Michael Vick score easily on the 4-yard off-tackle QB draw that made it 31-24.
* Giants linebacker Michael Boley and corner Aaron Ross blitzed, helping leave lots of room for Vick's 33-yard scramble on the game-tying drive.
* The game-tying score, a 13-yard pass from Vick to Maclin, was simplified considerably by Terrell Thomas' decision to line up about 10 yards off Maclin. Not sure what Thomas was so afraid of in the red zone; Maclin was unlikely to sprint past him, jump into the stands and wave for the ball. Also, Shady McCoy picked up Deon Grant blitzing, to give Vick time.