Andy Reid was about to play a leading role in one of the most infamous moments in Eagles history. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes had just missed a 54-yard field goal, leaving it wide left. But Reid had called timeout before the snap – barely.
Unfortunately, Reid’s timeout gave Tynes a second chance. Reid later said that 66,000 people were ready to rip his throat out.
Fortunately, Reid and his throat received a reprieve when Tynes’ second attempt from 54 yards fluttered to the ground just short of the goal posts, preserving the Eagles’ 19-17 victory over their NFC East rivals at Lincoln Financial Field.
The victory, which comes one week after an awful 27-6 loss to Arizona, improves the Eagles’ record to 3-1, putting them atop the NFC East.
“It means a lot to be 3-1,” Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. “It means a lot to be at the top of the division.”
Vick, like the Eagles as a whole, was unspectacular Sunday night. And that’s meant as a compliment.
Vick completed 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards. He also ran six times for 49 yards. Most importantly, he did not commit a turnover.
The transition from rollercoaster Vick to steady-and-under-control Vick was evident on the final play before what turned out to be the game-winning field goal. On third-and-goal at the 3-yard line, Vick rolled to his left. When there weren’t any opportunities to make a good pass, Vick took a 6-yard loss back to the 9 rather than force a throw into the end zone.
Discretion turned out to be the better part of valor again and again for Vick, who repeatedly ran out of bounds instead of taking big hits. On this occasion, his smart decision allowed Alex Henery to boot a 26-yard field goal to put the Eagles back ahead, 19-17, with 1:48 remaining.
“This is what I expect of (Vick),” Reid said.
Vick was aided by a game plan that included a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy. That was problematic during the first half, when the Giants bottled up the Eagles’ offense. But Reid stuck with McCoy, and he started to pick up large chunks of yardage in the second half, finishing with 123 yards on 23 carries.
“I think it’s easier on everyone when the running game is clicking,” Vick said. “It doesn’t allow the defense to tee off. … Balance is good.”
The running game also helped the offensive line’s pass protection against the Giants’ dangerous defensive line. Forced to defend against the run, the Giants linemen couldn’t pin back their ears and rush the passer on every down.
“There are things we got better at as the game went on,” Reid said. “I thought the offensive line found themselves as the game went on (in the running and passing game).”
The Eagles scored on every possession of the second half until the kneel down to kill off the final 10 seconds of the game. All four of those second-half trips ended in field goals rather than touchdowns, but that was good enough on this occasion.
The second half was a direct contrast to the uneventful first half. The first half was uneventful – unless you were a punter. Nine straight possessions ended in a punt.
That streak ended when the Eagles drove 70 yards for a touchdown late in the first half. Vick found DeSean Jackson (6 catches, 99 yards) wide open in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown with 1:47 remaining in first half.
The Giants responded by driving downfield and getting on the board with short field goal by Tynes with 5 seconds remaining in half. This was only a 25-yard field goal, as opposed to his longer attempt late in the fourth quarter.
Tynes almost had a better chance at the game-winning field goal. A pass interference penalty on Nnamdi Asomugha, which came five plays after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was called for pass interference on fourth down, gave the Giants the ball on the 26. But a pass interference call on Ramses Barden against Asomugha two plays later pushed the ball back to the 36, adding 10 yards to the distance on Tynes’ attempt.
After a half dominated by defense, it was as if the late first-half scores unlocked the keys to a puzzle. The formerly inept offenses found a way to move the ball. The offenses scored on every drive of the second half except for one when Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Manning in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter and when Tynes missed his field goal.
The Eagles’ formula for success included a hefty portion of McCoy, mostly running to the right side. McCoy ran seven times on the Eagles’ opening drive of the second half. His consecutive rushes of 34 and 22 yards brought the Eagles to the 1, although they were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
The Giants borrowed a page from the Eagles’ playobook on their next possession. Ahmad Bradshaw got the ball rolling with three straight running plays after a first-down pass to Barden. Two more runs by Andrew Brown set up Eli Manning’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz (9 catches, 109 yards) to even the score, 10-10.
The Eagles responded with a pair of field goals by Henery, sandwiched around Rodgers-Cromartie’s interception of Manning. But Manning (24 for 42, 309 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) drove the Giants 83 yards in 40 seconds, with the big plays being a 31-yard pass to Barden and a 41 yarder to Domenik Hixon (6 catches, 114 yards). Manning put the Giants ahead, 17-16, with a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Bear Pascoe with 8:45 remaining.
The Eagles drove back down the field and regained the lead on Henery’s 26-yard field, his fourth of the half.
The only thing the Eagles had to do was sweat out Tynes’ attempt at a game-winning field goal. Twice.