The Philadelphia Eagles had done it during the regular season – handing the Giants their only home loss at the Meadowlands during the 2008-9 NFL season. But could they do it on the big stage, in front of a national audience in the NFL divisional playoffs? Of course they could.
The Eagles defeated the Giants 23-11 with a dominating defensive performance and an offense that did just enough to send the Eagles to within 1 victory of the Super Bowl. First the defense – the Eagles held the Giants to just over 300 yards and only 16 first downs. While the Giants did have their chances, the Eagles held the Giants to just 3 field goals and only 3 points in the 2nd half. On 2 consecutive possessions in the 4th quarter, when the Giants needed just a yard or 2 to keep drives going on 4th down, the Eagles front line surge prevented the Giants from gaining any yards at all, solidifying the road victory. Eli Manning had an awful day – 15 of 29 passing, 169 yards, 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns. His 40.7 passer rating a clear indication that the Giants passing attack is much much different without a playmaker like Plaxico Burress lining up to stretch the field. Brandon Jacobs did manage 92 yards rushing on 19 carries and Derrick Ward added 12 rushes for 46 yards, but the Giants could never seem to do enough to advance to pay-dirt.
Although Donovan McNabb didn’t have a great statistical game, he did enough with the chances given to the Eagles offense. McNabb completed only 22 of 40 passes for 217 yards. He had 1 touchdown pass to Brent Celek which increased the Eagles lead to 9 points on the 1st play of the 4th quarter. He also rushed for a touchdown in the 1st quarter which gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 7-3. But he did throw 2 interceptions, which brought his passer rating down to 58.0. The Giants defense also kept Bryan Westbrook in check – 18 carries for 36 yards and 2 catches for 10 yards. Westbrook was the big difference in the Eagles win over the Giants in December, so the Giants did do a good job of containing him in the playoffs.
At the end of the day, though, it was the Eagles defense and an efficient McNabb that made all the difference on this cold January Sunday. McNabb has now led his team to 5 NFC Championship Games in the last 8 years. The other 3 seasons, McNabb was either hurt or dealing with the Terrell Owens saga which divided the team midway through the season. For a player who was benched by his coach at halftime of an embarrassing defeat in Baltimore on November 23rd and who has endured much criticism from the Philadelphia media and fans alike, McNabb continues to perform at a high level each and every year. He is this generation’s John Elway (at least until Elway won his 2 Super Bowls in his last 2 years with the Broncos). McNabb has led his Eagles to only 1 Super Bowl during those 5 NFC Championship Games and the Eagles ended up losing that Super Bowl back in 2004 to the New England Patriots.
Next up for the Eagles is the NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Phoenix. Can the Eagles win 3 road games in a row like the Giants did last year to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Only time will tell. But if Donovan McNabb has anything to say about it, I’d put my money on McNabb and the Eagles stifling defense. We’ll get to see McNabb on the NFL’s biggest stage for a 2nd time, and maybe this will be the year that McNabb and the Eagles get that elusive NFL Championship. Hey, the Phillies won the World Series in October 2008 – why can’t the Eagles win the Super Bowl in February 2009?
The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles will face off in the divisional round of the playoffs on Sunday afternoon. It’s a much different feel for the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants in 2008-9. During the 2007-8 playoff run, the Giants needed 3 road playoff wins just to get to the Super Bowl to go up against the undefeated and highly favored New England Patriots. This year, the Giants come in as the #1 seed in the NFC, with a 12-4 record and a 7-1 record at home. The Giants need just 2 home playoff wins to advance to a 2nd consecutive Super Bowl. The only problem – the Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now.
Ever since Head Coach Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb at halftime of the Eagles 36-7 loss to the Ravens, the Eagles have won 5 of 6 games, including a 44-6 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys on the last game of the season to secure a playoff berth and last week’s 26-14 win over the Vikings in Minnesota where the Eagles defense kept the Vikings scoreless in the 2nd half and proved why they have the 3rd best defense in the NFC. The biggest win during that stretch, however, probably came on December 7th – with a 20-14 win over the Giants at the Meadowlands – the Giants only loss at home this year. In that game, the Eagles were able to control the clock (35 minutes to 25 minutes) as Bryant Westbrook rushed 33 times for 131 yards and a score. The question is, will the Eagles be able to do that again. In the first meeting between the 2 teams in Philadelphia, the Giants defeated the Eagles 36-31 in a back and forth game. Westbrook only had 26 yards rushing and the Giants kept McNabb under 200 hundred yards passing, although he did throw 3 touchdown passes.
Although the Giants will be playing without play-making wide receiver Plexico Burress, the team is as healthy as its ever been this season. The Giants three-headed rushing monster will be in full force and affect on Sunday. Brandon Jacobs – ready. Derrick Ward – ready. Ahmad Bradshaw – ready. When those 3 get locked in – look out. And with a cold and blustery forecast, a solid, bruising rushing game in the windy confines of the Meadowlands is always a good recipe for success.
It should be a good game to watch. There is an intense rivalry between the 2 teams. The Eagles know the Giants and the Giants know the Eagles. You have the McNabb-Manning match-up. The Jacobs-Westbrook match-up. And you have 2 great defenses. Get ready for some grind-it-out, in-your-face football at the Meadowlands on Sunday. Enjoy…
Donovan McNabb redeemed himself on Thanksgiving Day with an incredible performance. McNabb rewarded head coach Andy Reid who had benched McNabb at halftime of last week’s loss after a slew of turnovers. The Eagles took a 24-7 halftime lead, scored at least 10 points in each quarter and cruised to a 28-point win over the NFC West-leading Cardinals. The Cardinals are not in danger of missing the playoffs in the atrocious NFC West, but their chances of over-taking the New York Giants for home field advantage are all but gone now.
McNabb completed 27 of 39 passes for over 300 yards passing. McNabb threw 4 touchdowns and did not throw an interception – good for a 121.7 passer rating. Eagles running back Brian Westbrook rushed for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns and also caught 4 passes for 20 yards and 2 touchdowns. 4 touchdowns on the day made a LOT of Westbrook fantasy football owners very happy.
On the Cards side, Kurt Warner completed only 21 of 39 passes for only 235 yards. Warner did throw 3 touchdowns passes, but he threw 3 costly interceptions.