Andy Reid did what so many Eagles fans have longed for him to do.
He ran the ball.
With his quarterback only a week removed from a concussion, the pass-happy Reid came out and made like Chuck Noll yesterday in the Eagles' NFC East battle against the Giants. He used a ton of two-tight-end sets. He brought fullback Owen Schmitt out of deep freeze and handed him the ball four times.
The Eagles ran the ball 40 times, which was their most rushing attempts in nearly 3 years.
And they lost.
Most of the time, they ran it effectively. They rushed for 177 yards, 128 by LeSean McCoy. But those numbers turned out to be hollow.
When the Eagles most needed to run the ball, they couldn't. They came up small on two first-and-goal situations, and also failed to convert an important fourth-and-1 at the Giants' 43 early in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to the visitors and kick-started New York's 29-16, come-from-behind victory.
"We've got to toughen up, especially in the red zone," right guard Kyle DeVan said. "Things happen a lot faster down there. We should have been able to put the ball in the end zone no matter what plays [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] and Andy called. We should be able to punch it in there. That's on us.
"You run the ball all the way down there, well, shoot, that's what we're asking for. We're asking to run the ball. And then when we get inside the red zone, we're not saying, 'OK, coach, we got here, you can throw it now.' That's something that has to get better. You have to put it in when you get in the red zone. It is what it is."
DeVan is right. It is on them. A first-and-goal at the 3, another first-and-goal at the 2, the offensive line has to execute. But there also was some curious playcalling on the two goal-to-go situations by Mornhinweg and Reid.
On the first one, early in the second quarter, the Eagles ran the ball on eight of 10 plays as they drove from their own 20 to the Giants' 3, with McCoy converting a third-and-1 from the 7 with a 4-yard run.
But after another McCoy run out of a two-tight-end set only produced 1 yard, Reid reverted to form. Called a short dump pass in the middle to McCoy that lost a yard, then had Vick throw into the end zone for wide receiver Steve Smith.
The pass almost was intercepted by safety Kenny Phillips and Vick ended up taking a good lick from a pass rusher. The Eagles had to settle for a 21-yard Alex Henery field goal.
With the Eagles trailing 14-13 late in the third quarter, Vick scrambled to his left and completed a 14-yard pass to Jason Avant that gave the Eagles a first-and-goal at the 2. Instead of giving the ball to McCoy or bringing in Ronnie Brown, Reid made a curious decision. He called Schmitt's number.
Schmitt didn't have a single rushing attempt last season. Didn't have any in the first two games. Hell, he's only had five carries in his career.
Maybe Reid and Mornhinweg thought they'd catch the Giants by surprise. But they thought wrong. Schmitt made it to the 1, but he had a knee hit the ground before he was able to get across the goal line.
After a quarterback sneak by Vick also failed, Reid/Mornhinweg again ignored McCoy and Brown and handed it again to Schmitt out of an "elephant" formation (six offensive linemen and two tight ends). Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph blew up the play when he got penetration and helped tackle Schmitt for a 1-yard loss.
"It was a dream game for me and I couldn't get in," said Schmitt, who had four carries. "It's . . .not good.
"We just didn't execute. They whipped our asses in there, obviously. That's not good. You get that close, you've got to put it in. I take full responsibility on the first [run]. I should be able to get in there. The second one, they were pinching so much. They broke through. Couldn't do much about that."
The Eagles had to settle for another Henery chip shot that gave them a 16-14 lead. After getting the ball back, they had a fourth-and-1 at the Giants' 43. Reid weighed the risk and reward and elected to go for it.
With McCoy lining up in the same one-back, two-tight end set in which he'd gained the bulk of his 128 yards, he tried to go inside and get the first down. But there was nowhere to run. Before he could bounce outside, linebacker Michael Boley came off the edge unblocked and tackled him for a 3-yard loss. The Giants got the ball back and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," Reid said of the fourth-and-1 decision. "That's on me, and it's my responsibility there to make sure that we call those in the right situations. I didn't do it last week [against Atlanta] and I should have. I did it this week, and I shouldn't have. That's how this thing works sometimes."
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Eagles' offensive line. It did a good job of protecting Vick and later, Mike Kafka after Vick left the game with a broken right hand, allowing just two sacks. The line helped McCoy notch his second 100-yard game in 3 weeks. But when it needed that last yard on the two goal-line situations, when it needed that yard on fourth-and-1, they couldn't get it.
"It was very frustrating," center Jason Kelce said. "It's hard to run in short yardage. Especially when a team is packing it in there. They've got some big guys. So they're going to be stout inside. Especially on the goal line. A couple of plays I thought we got decent push. It's just very frustrating."
Said tight end Clay Harbor: "You've got to execute down there. They jam everything in. You know who you're blocking. You just have to get a surge. It's man vs. man. Whoever gets lower. Whoever pushes harder in that situation.
"They got underneath us and we couldn't push the ball in."
DID YOU NOTICE?:
-- The Eagles, who usually favor three-wide receiver sets, spent much of the afternoon in either two-tight-end or two-running-back formations as they ran the ball 40 times.
-- The Eagles, who committed just two false-start penalties in their first two games on the road, got flagged for four of them yesterday.
-- Safety Kurt Coleman was benched after two missed tackles on the same first-quarter play, an 74-yard touchdown catch and run by Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. He was replaced by Nate Allen, who had his own tackling problems on the Giants' next possession, when he got effectively stiff-armed by Ahmad Bradshaw on a 37-yard run.
-- LeSean McCoy rushed for 88 yards on 15 carries in the first half. In the Eagles' first two games, he had just 32 yards on 14 first-half rushing attempts.
-- The Eagles still had all three timeouts near the end of second quarter and were able to use them to get the ball back and move close enough for an Alex Henery field goal that narrowed the Giants' lead to 14-13 at the half.
-- Steve Weatherford's poor punt late in second quarter. It traveled just 27 yards and went out of bounds. Weatherford had been under orders from coach Tom Coughlin not to punt the ball to DeSean Jackson. He apparently didn't notice Jeremy Maclin, not Jackson, was the return man on that punt.
-- Akeem Jordan replaced Moise Fokou at strongside linebacker when he got hurt in the third quarter, even though Keenan Clayton is listed as the backup SAM on the Eagles' depth chart. Fokou was out for only a few plays.
-- Rookie linebacker Brian Rolle's influence on Trent Cole's third-down sack. Rolle, who came on an inside blitz on the play, forced Eli Manning over to Cole.
-- Wide receiver Riley Cooper went into the game in third quarter to block on a designated run by Mike Vick. Vick ended up gaining 8 yards on the play, then fumbled the ball right to offensive tackle Jason Peters, who gained another 7 yards.
-- Ahmad Bradshaw breaking a tackle attempt by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a third-and-1 at the Philadelphia 47 with 6:40 left in the game. Bradshaw gained 2 yards on the play, which was enough for a first down.
-- From the Ripley's Believe-it-or-not files: Nnamdi Asomugha gave up a 28-yard touchdown catch to Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
-- The poor decision Mike Kafka made on his first interception after replacing Vick. He threw a pass into double-coverage for DeSean Jackson. Cornerback Aaron Ross, who intercepted the pass, and safety Kenny Phillips both were right there with Jackson. The 5-9 Jackson had no chance to make a play.
BY THE NUMBERS:
-- Mike Vick, who fumbled three times, has 16 fumbles in his last 11 games. Just six were recovered by the other team.
-- The Eagles have failed to score on their first possession in all three of their games. They are 53-13 under Andy Reid when they score on their first possession.
-- The Eagles had beaten the Giants six straight times.
-- Reid's teams now are 46-33 against NFC opponents.
-- LeSean McCoy's 24 carries were a career high, topping the 21 he had last year against Atlanta. It was just the fourth 20-carry game of his career.
-- Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Trent Cole all have at least one sack in each of the first three games. Jenkins is the first Eagles defensive tackle to have a sack in three straight games since Darwin Walker in 2002.
-- The Eagles had 40 rushing attempts. It was their first 40-carry game since Dec. 7, 2008, also against the Giants.
-- DeSean Jackson has had just two catches in four of the Eagles' last five games dating back to last season. The lone exception was his six-catch, 102-yard game in Week 1 vs. the Rams.
-- Eagles opponents are 6-for-6 in the red zone the last two games.
-- The Eagles have given up four touchdown passes in a game twice in the first 3 weeks. That equals the number of times it happened all of last season, when they allowed a franchise-record 31 TD passes.