I'll probably be riding adrenaline through most of this article having just witnessed LeSean McCoy close the game with an amazing 62-yard run (it probably should have gone for a touchdown had he not gotten cocky, but I'm not complaining). However, I can't help feeling a bit worried about the Eagles' future in the long run.
Let's break this game down in terms of why the win was good and why it was bad (if that's possible).
Why it was good:
- The defense. The Eagles' have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team all season on defense, and Dr. Jekyll decided to grace the Meadowlands with his presence tonight. They absolutely stuffed the Giants' run game, held Big Blue to ten points, and sacked Manning on crucial plays - including the game-winning sack-strip-recovery. The Giants punted the ball at least eight times during the game, a statistic that certainly speaks for itself.
- Closing out a game. Once again, the Eagles entered the fourth quarter with a lead. Once again, they gave up a huge play. Once again, the opponent scored a lead-altering touchdown. And then... the Eagles responded on both sides of the ball. The offense produced a clock-churning, morale-breaking 18-play touchdown drives to retake the lead. Vince Young's clutch play was certainly enough to forgive those three awful interceptions he threw, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt since he was learning a new system without an offseason and only had one week of practice with the first-team offense. And just when Philadelphia had all the momentum kicking the ball off with 2:35 left in regulation, they gave up another massive play to Victor Cruz. It was beginning like a movie we've all seen before... except with a different ending. This time, the defense stepped up to force a fumble and give the rock back to the offense, who was able to convert the first down and sit on it for the victory
- (Relatively) mistake-free play. Horrendous errors in penalties, tackling, ball security, and coverage have been haunting the Eagles on offense and defense all season. Tonight, having forgiven Vince Young, their mistakes went down considerably. They tackled well, didn't add any turnovers to Young's picks, and didn't give the Giants any freebies in terms of penalties. Of course, there was the blown coverage on Cruz and DeSean Jackson's frustrating taunting penalty, but as the scoreboard will tell, none of the errors went unfixed.
- C'mon, they beat the FREAKIN' GIANTS! Need I say more?
Why it was bad:
- A possible trap game for the Giants. Let's face it: the Eagles have been horrible this season and New York has a stiff test with New Orleans next week. If they hadn't prepared for the Eagles, they didn't hide that fact well. The Giants dropped passes all night and the defense was noticeably confused on several plays. While they still played the Eagles tough until the end, it was clear that team was not focused and seemed stuck in neutral for the majority of the night. The fact that Vick was out only adds to this possibility.
- Michael Vick's absence. I'm not trying to discredit anything Vince Young did tonight, because he should be given the game ball. But what does this actually mean for the Eagles? There's no quarterback controversy. Once Vick is healthy, he'll suit up and Young will retake the bench. Along with his fourth-quarter magic he's known for. Certainly I am not suggesting that Vick be benched in favor of Young, but the Giants were going up against a completely different quarterback in Young, one they weren't sure how to prepare for. Combine that with the fact that Vick has yet to show the game-winning drive this year that Young orchestrated means that the type of late-game heroics the Eagles showed tonight can be taken with a grain of salt until Vick produces similar results.
- The Eagles' long-term future. I'll admit it: I am among the fans who hopes Andy Reid is shown the door at the end of the season. Tonight's game just glorifies the understated fact that Reid's system is only successful if he has a good defense to support it. We've seen Juan Castillo's defense only show up four times this season, in each of their four wins. Overall, Andy's playcalling is awful at best - I couldn't believe it last week when McCoy only got fourteen rushes despite averaging almost six yards per carry - and prevents the team from winning when the defense can't pick up the slack. So there is a sizable part of me that wants to see the Eagles fail miserably enough to get Andy and Castillo fired (while I'll give him credit for tonight's win, his 'adjustments' only seem to show up sporadically. He's too unreliable to stay more than a season). Unlike most critics, I'd like to see them keep Morninwheg; the Eagles' offense has been their only reliable strength over the past few seasons. I have a strong hunch that the majority of their poor outings on offense since 2008 were mostly the result of poor playcalling by Reid. Worse still, he's too arrogant to admit it; when asked about playcalling after their loss to the Cardinals, Andy's reply affirmed his belief that the plays called give the team the best chance to win. So while I'll take a win over the G-Men any day, a few more years of Andy to me equals a few more years of unfulfilled Super Bowl aspirations. Better to accept this poor season and head for the future than to bleed out from the legs down.