It's a shame the Eagles had to let it get to that point... but Donovan McNabb led a 32 yard game winning drive that featured a 27 yard pass to Jeremy Maclin, who made one of the best catches of the year, and ended with a 28 yard David Akers FG with 4 seconds remaining.
It really was a game of two halves as the Eagles started the game on fire. Donovan McNabb was 15 of 19 for 242 yards and 2 TDs in the first half as the Eagles took a 20-7 lead at the half. The second half would see a nearly 180 degree turn of fortune. McNabb started to struggle throwing bad picks, balls in the dirt, and taking a few ill advised sacks. Special teams turnovers, costly penalties, and poor defense led to the Broncos scoring 17 points in the 3rd quarter and pull the game even with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But then the defense tightened up and McNabb came alive and the Eagles squeaked one out 30-27. McNabb's 29 yard run on 3rd down on the Eagles second to last possession really turned the field possession battle in the Eagles favor. The drive would end in a punt, but Denver would have to start at their own 9. The defense then didn't allow a first down and suddenly the Eagles had the ball on the Denver 42 with 1:42 left. So, while it would have been nice to see the Eagles finish Denver off in the 3rd quarter... It's always encouraging to see the team making clutch plays at the end of a game especially against good opposition.
The win inches the Eagles ever closer to an NFC East title and the #2 seed in the NFC. The Eagles could win the NFC East with a Dallas loss tonight and pull even in the race for the #2 seed with a Vikings loss on Monday. The Eagles are now 11-4.
Headlines after the jump.
Return of Dawkins not really a story
While the return of Eagles legend Brian Dawkins was certainly the main story leading up to the game, he was fairly quiet when the hitting began. Dawkins was flagged for an early penalty, probably should have had another covering Brian Westbrook, and missed a tackle on a nice early screen pass to LeSean McCoy. In general, Dawkins was pretty much the player we saw last year. He was solid when playing up the box(while not really making any big plays) and struggled in coverage.
Regardless of how he played, I'm glad the game is over and we can all go back to liking him again.
Pick your catch of the game
There were two outstanding catches by Eagles WR in this game. The first was Jason Avant's 15 yard TD catch, which bounced off a defender's arm and into 81's hands as he knelt in the end zone. The concentration it took to stay with that pass and haul in was very impressive.
Then came Jeremy Maclin. The rookie actually had a great game in his return catching 6 passes for 92 yards, but he saved his best catch for last. Maclin fully extended his body and drug his toes to pull in a 27 yard pass along the sideline that set up a chip shot game winning FG. The catch was initially ruled out of bounds, but upon review it was clear that Maclin had made the grab and call was reversed.
The Broncos love WR screens
Seriously... have you EVER seen a team throw as many WR screens as the Broncos did tonight? It seemed like every other play was a quick screen to Brandon Marshall. It's no wonder the guy has so many catches this year. Nearly everything he catches is 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage and uncontested.
The screens had varying success. Late in the game the Eagles seemed prepared, but Jabar Gaffney did grab two TDs off them.
Literally anyone else should be returning kicks.
Jason Peters, Brodrick Bunkley.... I don't care, as long as it isn't Macho Harris. He started off his day taking a kick out of the end zone that he had to back up 5 yards just to catch. Any high school football coach will their return guy that you down that ball. You run toward the kick and return it with momentum. When you have to peddle back, you need to then make the catch, shift your weight forward, then start running from 5 yards deep. In the NFL, you have no shot at doing something with that ball. Guys are way too fast. Not surprisingly, Harris was tackled at the 10. It got worse from there.
Harris was leveled on a second half kickoff and fumbled, which gifted the Broncos their 2nd TD in less than a minute. Harris wasn't done though, as he would fumble yet another kick in the 4th quarter that the Eagles narrowly recovered.
A tale of two halves for Celek
I'm not totally sure what happened with Brent Celek in the second half, but he certainly had a monster first half. Celek continued his big breakout season with a 4 catch, 121 yard, 1 TD day.