PHILADELPHIA (CBS)— The play is called “39 crunch” and when the Eagles needed it, a bobbled snap and a simple pitch made up for a clunky offense when Michael Vick wasn’t his normal magical self.
The Eagles’ defense forced five turnovers and received some late-game heroics by LeSean McCoy in prevailing over the New York Giants, 27-17, at Lincoln Financial Field to give the Eagles a 7-3 record and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The difference came on a 50-yard scoring run by McCoy on a fourth-and-one play, “39 crunch,” with under five minutes left to play. Vick looked like he almost lost the snap when he juggled the ball, but regained control and pitched it just beyond the outstretched hand of Giants’ defensive end Osi Umenyiora to a waiting McCoy, who scooted through the left side of the Giants defense almost untouched and darted up the field for the winning score.
“It was a scary situation there,” said McCoy, referring to the high snap and Umenyiora almost intercepting Vick’s pitch. “But they were in trouble anyway, because they were boxed in, thinking we were going to go up the middle again. I was a little shocked to get the call, but it’s a play we practiced the whole week and have been working on for two weeks, and we finally used it. I was just kind of surprised to see all that open space.
“This was big for us. We overcame a lot of adversity and it’s something championship-caliber teams do. The run’s not working, the run’s not working, and we just had to keep sticking with it. You saw what happened. We battled.”
McCoy finished with a game-high 111 yards rushing on 14 carries—96 coming in the fourth-quarter, and 90 coming on the scoring run and a 40-yard run that sealed the victory. Vick, meanwhile, cooled considerably from his historic Monday night game against Washington, but did complete 24 of 38 passes for 258 yards. He turned the ball over for the first time this season, losing a fumble early in the fourth quarter, which was glossed over by McCoy and the Eagles’ defense.
A drive-killing Eli Manning fumble (recovered by Darryl Tapp) with 3:13 remaining in the game preserved the victory. From there, the Eagles converted the opportunity into a David Akers’ 30-yard field goal as added insurance.
But the Eagles also reached the top of the NFC East despite themselves, too. They continue to make correctable mistakes, penalized 10 times for 119 yards, were 1-for-5 in red-zone efficiency, and just 3-for-14 on third-down conversions.
What erased those deficiencies was the Eagles’ defense, which has really stepped to the fore in recent weeks. Against the Giants, the Eagles gave up 61 yards rushing, permitting Giant runners a mere 3.2 average per carry.
“To me, that was the key,” said Eagles’ strong safety Quintin Mikell, who had a team-high six tackles, sharing the honors with cornerback Dimitri Patterson. “We changed some things up [defensively] and that was a big key, too, but the biggest key was stopping the run, and that’s a credit to the front seven.”
Trailing 17-16 with 8:31 left in the game, the Eagles looked like they would get a break when it appeared Ahmad Bradshaw had fumbled, and the Eagles’ Brodrick Bunkley jumped on it at the Giants’ 40. But Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin challenged the play, and the ruling on the field was overturned. The Eagles held and forced the Giants to punt—which led to the game-winning drive.
Aside from big stops at crucial moments, one glaring surprise that arose from the defense was the surprising physical play of Asante Samuel. It could be the ultimate oxymoron to hear Samuel and unnecessary roughness. But that’s what the Eagles’ cornerback, known for his finesse style of tackling, was called for in an eventful second quarter for Samuel, where he recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass that led to two Eagles’ field goals.
Aside from his anvil-like hit on the Giants’ Derek Hagan, Samuel also lifted Giants’ tight end Kevin Boss over his shoulder midway in the third quarter.
The halftime lead could have been larger, if not for a dropped touchdown pass from Vick to a wide-open Jason Avant in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. The usually sure-handed Avant had the ball bounce right off his chest—much like the indelible image of former Cowboy Jackie Smith dropping a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII.
Vick put the Eagles up 7-0 on a four-yard delayed draw, which he was forced to take an outside route on, outracing the Giants’ Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips to the corner of the end zone.
The score, with 2:16 left in the first quarter, was the culmination of a 13-play, 7-minute, 9-second drive that started at the Eagles’ 32. The big play of the series was a 23-yard hookup from Vick to DeSean Jackson, moving the ball from the Eagles’ 24 to their 47. Vick was six-for-eight on the drive, for 59 yards.
The Giants, meanwhile, struggled through the first quarter, not crossing midfield. New York didn’t get its initial first down of the game until its third possession, when Manning hit Hakeem Nicks with a 15-yard pass with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
Until then, New York had seven yards of offense, with the Eagles bottling up the Giants’ rushing game.
When the Giants did get rolling, they sucked up 8:06 off the clock on a 14-play, 74-yard marathon drive. The Giants reached the Eagles’ 10, but couldn’t get any further than the five, setting for a Lawrence Tynes 24-yard field with 9:10 left in the half.
Eagles Notes: The Eagles’ Ellis Hobbs was carted off the field after suffering a helmet-to-helmet clash when he was tackled on the second-half kickoff. Hobbs suffered a neck injury, but x-rays came out negative and Hobbs was reported to have full movement in his extremities … Former Eagle Shawn Andrews, now the Giants’ starting left tackle, was called for two holding calls … Eagles’ left guard Todd Herremans had a terrible day, getting called for a 15-yard clip and a 15-yard chop block … Jason Avant made a circus, leaping catch early in the fourth quarter for 24 yards—a catch much harder to make than the imminent touchdown pass he dropped in the back of the end zone in the second quarter … Eagles’ left defensive end Juqua Parker left the game with a hip injury it was announced in the second quarter and his return was questionable.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito