Both before the game and at halftime, Brian Dawkins greeted fans with a loud and passionate "Hallelujah!"
And as Lawrence Tynes 54 yard field goal fell just a yard short to secure an Eagles victory, you have to think the fans were yelling Hallelujah right back.
The Eagles played probably their best game of the season last night, and they needed every bit of that effort to secure the 19-17 win over the New York Giants. Unlike past weeks where a win felt more like a loss, Eagles fans had to walk away from the Linc last night feeling good about this team.
Here is What I Liked and What I Didn't Like from last nights game:
What I Liked:
Michael Vick: When the Eagles announced before the game that Trent Edwards was active for only the first time since Week 1, it only fueled speculation that Andy Reid was going to have a semi-quick hook on Vick. Make no mistake about it- last nights game was huge for Vick. It was a turning point in this young season- could Vick rebound and deliver a solid performance without turning the ball over? The answer last night, as he managed the game to perfection, was a resounding yes. Vick finished the night only 19/30 for 241 yards and a touchdown, but the fact that he got that much behind an offensive line that was getting absolutely dominated by the Giants is a miracle. Vick was running for his life on most plays, but unlike the past few weeks, Vick did a great job of knowing when it tuck it and run, and when to just throw it away. There was no across he body passes or throws into triple coverage. If Vick can play this style of game- not dominating or flashy, but effective and simple- the Eagles are going to be a very hard team to beat.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson continued to show last night that he is more than just a deep ball threat. Jackson hauled in 6 catches for 99 yards and a TD, which gave him an average of just over 16 yards a catch. Jackson has been running a larger variety of routes this year then he has in the past, and is highlighting what scouts said about him coming out of college- that he a great route runner. Other than the debacle in Arizona- where really no one on offense showed up- Jackson has had at least 77 yards in every game. That's a consistency we have not seen from Jackson in the past. With Jeremy Maclin still hurting, Jackson stepped up and made big catches all over the field.
Icing The Kicker: Watching fans celebrate the first Tynes field goal miss- not knowing that a flag had been thrown- was really a sight to be seen. When Tynes lined up for the 2nd kick, it was maybe the biggest make or break moment of Reid's career. If he makes it, Reid's team drops to 2-2 solely because of his mistake. It's hard to imagine, but the public backlash on Reid might have reached a level we haven't seen. But while we all talk about it today, remember one thing- icing the kicker did work. No really, check the scoreboard. The Eagles did win because Tynes missed. Also remember that had Tynes made the first one and missed the 2nd, Reid would look like a genius. Tynes sent the first kick wide, and obviously focused on direction the 2nd time and it affected how hard he kicked it. It was short because Tynes was thinking about the first miss. Icing the kicker worked.
Fletcher Cox: The impact that Cox had on the game last night can not been seen on the stat sheet as he finished with only 2 tackles, but anyone watching that game last knows the Eagles have a special player in Cox. He was consistently in the back field against the Giants, and why he didn't bring down Manning, he forced him out of the pocket multiple times. Another great game from the rookie.
Taking Back The Linc: The Eagles have not given their fans much to cheer about at home the past few seasons. But through 2 games at home this year, the Eagles home atmosphere has been great. The fans are giving the Eagles the home-field advantage they lacked over the past few seasons.
Sticking With The Run: Last night really tested what was clearly a desire by Reid coming into the game to stick to the run. The Eagles offensive line was struggling not only in pass protection, but also in run blocking. LeSean McCoy had no where to go in the first half and had only 2 yards going into the 3rd quarter. But like he had 94WIP streaming into his headphones, Reid stuck with the run and it paid off big time. McCoy ran all over the Giants in the 2nd half and it is probably the biggest reason the Eagles won.Now let's just see if he does it next week.
DRC Coming Out Of The Endzone: Talking to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after the game, he was not shy about why he didn't down the ball- "I'm not a knee taker" he said almost defiantly. Yes, the safe thing to do is down the ball in the endzone and take it to the 20. Bringing it out of the endzone did not result in the big play that DRC hoped it would, but with is athletic ability you never know what it could- which is why I liked him trying to make something happen. It might have cost the Eagles 11 yards at that time, but in the long run, I'd rather have players who are confident and want to make plays.
Including Bryce Brown: In previous games I have not liked how Reid has used Brown- he seems to always give it to him in big situations. Last night was no different, as Brown got a carry just after the 2 minute warning and the Eagles looking to punch it into the endzone. But I was ok with Reid giving it to Brown there. McCoy had already carried the ball on 5 of the 9 plays that drive, and Reid was trying to give McCoy a break. Yes, it was coming out of the 2 minute warning, but Brown also offered a tough, between the tackle running style was could have caught the Giant off guard after dealing with McCoy's style. In addition, on an earlier Eagles redzone possession, Reid gave it to McCoy 3 straight time from the 1 yard line and he couldn't punch it it.
Winning: Last night was a huge game. It was Brian Dawkins night, the Eagles were coming off of a loss, the Giants were in the house, and Michael Vick was playing for his job in front of a national audience. It was a playoff atmosphere in the Linc. This game meant something to the fans. Coming out with a flat effort like they did in Cleveland or in Arizona would have really demoralized this fan base. Give the Eagles credit- they came to play last night. The defense was great, Vick played his best game of the year, and they made plays late to win the game. Coming away with a divisional win not only kept the Eagles on top of the division, it also was a big mental victory. It's still early, but this team can now think of it's self as a winning team- at 2-2, they couldn't have truly felt that way. Last year, they struggled to really ever get confidence and win big games. Being 3-1 is a big deal not only in the standings, but for a locker room full of players that are still learning how to win.
What I Didn't Like:
Burning Time Outs: Burning timeout's because of something simple like subbing is completely unacceptable, and could end up killing this team down the line. In the first half they had to burn one when Brandon Hughes ran on and off the field about 3 times before the Giants snapped the ball. In the 2nd half the same thing happened- but this time on offense. With DeSean Jackson banged up, Damaris Johnson didn't realize he had to go in and the Eagles were forced to burn a time out. Taking timeout's for reasons other than to stop the clock are always frustrating, but sometimes it's acceptable- having a big match up problem or Vick seeing something he really doesn't like. But burning one for subbing? That's bad.
Special Teams: Bobby April has been coaching special teams in this league since 1994. Juan Castillo has been coaching defense in this league for 1 year. With that in mind, I ask you- who's unit has been better this year? Bobby April came into Philadelphia with big expectations, but really has not lived up to them. Last night was another example, and it nearly cost the Eagles the game. The Giants had 217 yards in kick returns last night on only 6 returns- that's an average of 36 yards per return. By comparison, the Eagles had 50 yards on 3 returns for an average of just 16 yards. It's true that Colt Anderson and Akeem Jordan were missing, but as good as they are on special teams, that is still no excuse for that performance last night. Juan Castillo and his defense bailed out Bobby April last night.
Punt Returns: The past few week's Damaris Johnson has made his way into this section with his poor judgement on punt returns. He had another bad night last night, but it might be time to start blaming April for this. Johnson is a rookie. April isn't exactly convincing DeSean Jackson to fair catch it or let it go. Johnson is a rookie and April clearly can't get the message through to him- which is pretty troubling.
Rolling Vick Out On 3rd & Goal: After the game, both Reid and Vick were asked about the play call on 3rd and goal at the end of the game where Vick rolled out and looked to throw it. Given the success- or lack thereof- the Eagles have had this season on that play, it was at best a questionable play call. The headcoach and quarterback explained that it was meant to force the Giants to burn a timeout, and Vick was instructed to go down if nothing was there. It's good to know that Vick didn't go into that play thinking he had to throw it- but if the goal was to kill time, why not just run it? Why risk something happening- like an interception or a fumble? Reid was playing with fire by calling that play.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks