Kurt Coleman shot through the gap. He hit a startled Ahmad Bradshaw, who dropped like a stone 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

That forced the Giants to pass, which led to a fumble, which led to the Eagles' first touchdown.

None of which happens, perhaps, if the Eagles' seventh-round rookie safety didn't play with the confidence of the second-rounder he replaced.

Nate Allen's fine rookie season ended Sunday when he ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee. Allen underwent successful surgery Tuesday.

Coleman took over Allen's job yesterday - or, really, Sunday, after Allen left the game. No one noticed a big dropoff.

"It's not such a huge step for him because he's been out there," strong safety Quintin Mikell said. "Having him do spot duty is a lot better; a little taste, and a little taste, not everything all at once. It's not going to be such a huge step for him."

"I feel comfortable out there. Very comfortable," Coleman said.

He should.

Coleman replaced Allen against the Colts when Allen injured his neck, then started in place of Allen the next week at Washington, where he intercepted a pass from Donovan McNabb. Coleman has since been a part of the Eagles' occasional three-safety looks and remains a special-teams standout.

"He showed that he's a good player," coach Andy Reid said. "He's smart. He looks like he really enjoys playing the game. Plays fast and aggressive. Looks like the guys around him trust him and he did well when he had the chance."

Most significantly, always, Coleman has been included.

"That's the biggest thing. From going in cold, getting a few reps here and there, getting my start - I know the game plan. I know the defensive scheme," Coleman said. "It's about me executing the game plan, playing my game and having fun."

A tackle for loss for a safety? Football seldom gets more fun than that.

"Absolutely. It comes when you're relaxed and playing your game," Coleman said. "I was just reading my keys, what I had to do on that play. As soon as I saw run - boom. Go and make the play."

Allen's injury and placement on injured reserve paved the way for the call-up of practice squadder Jamar Wall, a college cornerback at Texas Tech and a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys, who cut him. He then spent September with the Texans, who also cut him. The Eagles then signed him to their practice squad and converted him to safety.

He prefers life in centerfield.

"It was a little tough at first but I actually feel more comfortable there. It's a little more challenging there, playbook-wise," Wall said. "Having the view of the field - I have good instincts. I think it fits me."