EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBS/AP) — The New York Giants had their chance to bury the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago and failed miserably.
Who can forget the the Miracle at the Meadowlands in December, or if you’re a Giants fan, the Meadowlands Meltdown?
With first place in the NFC East on the line, Eli Manning and the Giants opened a 21-point fourth-quarter lead, only to see Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson steal their crown with one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.
Vick led the team to three touchdowns to tie the game late and Jackson won it returning a punt that was supposed to be kicked out of bounds 65 yards on the final play of regulation.
Remember either Giants coach Tom Coughlin slamming his clipboard to the turf as Jackson ran past the Giants’ bench? Or Jackson tiptoeing along the goal line to eat the final seconds on the clock before scoring.
It was uplifting and thrilling for the Eagles, and downright heartbreaking for the Giants, who missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
Less than a year later, the Giants (6-3) get another chance to bury to the Eagles (3-6), and this one seems just as improbable.
Few expected New York to have a one-game lead in the division and even fewer had any idea that Philadelphia’s ‘Dream Team’ would be this close to missing the playoffs with seven games remaining in the regular season. The comeback they need now might be even bigger than last season.
“Our mindset is just to find a way to win the game,” Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said. “We are just trying to take it one game at a time and have a chance to get in the playoffs and make some good of our season. We are just taking each game at a time. We can’t think about our record or where we are at, we just need to win a game.”
This one might be tough because Vick broke two ribs in last week’s loss to Arizona and did not make the trip to the Meadowlands. Vince Young will make his first start as an Eagle in Vick’s absence.
Jackson also is expected back in the lineup after being benched last week for missing a team meeting.
Coming off tough 27-20 loss at San Francisco that cut their NFC East lead over Dallas to a game, the Giants are preparing for Vick.
“This has been a big rivalry as long as I have been here, and I am sure it goes on longer than that,” defensive end Dave Tollefson said. “There are two agendas on each team, us trying to get back in the win column and get some control of the NFC East, and they are trying to get the ball rolling to make a push. It’s huge. It’s always something, isn’t it? When are the Eagles and Giants even going to play and it ain’t something?”
Five of the Eagles’ six losses have been by seven points or less, including five games in which they have blown leads in the fourth quarter. One of those losses was a 29-16 defeat to the Giants in which Eli Manning threw two of his four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.
Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, 15 clubs with a losing record after nine games have made the playoffs. Only three of those teams had 3-6 records, the last being Jacksonville in 1996.
The poor record has put coach Andy Reid under a microscope in a season where much was expected after the team stocked its roster by signing free agents, the most notable being cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
“I am going to tell you the same thing I told our media, I don’t worry about all that,” Reid said. “The only thing I would worry about is preparing our team to play the New York Giants. That is it. I don’t worry about anything else past that.”
Receiver Hakeem Nicks said the Giants aren’t looking at this game as a chance to bury the Eagles.
“We have to look at it like this is a hungry team coming out here,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game. We know they’re going to come out there ready to play and take everything away from us as well.”
Guard David Diehl also laughed when asked about ending the Eagles’ hopes.
“This is a team that talked about playing us again after the last game in Philadelphia and what better way for them to get their season back on track than beating us,” Diehl said. “We know it’s going to be a fight. We know everybody thinks this should be an easy one, that’s bull. We’re not falling for that. We respect them and we expect a 60-minute fight. Right now everyone is counting them out. We’re not.”
Just the memory of last year is enough to convince the Giants to never count out the Eagles.
“I am sure I said this before, but that game will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “Yes, it does stick with me, but you can ease some of that pain by getting a win on Sunday night.”
The Eagles are having a better year than the Giants in most statistics, with their biggest problem being 21 turnovers, including seven in the red zone. They also have been outscored 74-27 in the fourth quarter.
McCoy, who has scored a touchdown in each of the Eagles’ nine games, is leading the NFC in rushing with 906 yards, and is second in the league, only 11 yards behind Fred Jackson of Buffalo. The Eagles are averaging 418.2 yards on offense.
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