Last week, during their road-win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles struggled offensively in the first half (especially against a good run defense), but rode an Assante Samuel INT-derived TD and a strong defensive effort to a slim lead at halftime. In the second half, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles offense got into gear a little bit – throwing the ball more effectively to move the ball downfield. The defense kept up the pressure and Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson played a sub-par game – missing opportunities to help his team get back in the game.
Forward a week and make the following substitutions:
Giants for Vikings
Meadowlands for Metrodome
Eli Manning for Tavaris Jackson.
The arc of the game’s story was remarkably similar as the Eagles muscled their way to a 23-11 win in a Divisional Round NFL Playoff win against their NFC East rival, NY Giants. If it’s possible to say so, the Giants really lost their chance to control the game in the first half. The Giants D had effectively bottled up the Eagles (their only score off a 2-yd “drive” after Samuels' INT), while the G-men O had squandered several big-play opportunities and were unable to find the endzone – in large part due to Eli Manning’s inability to make precise throws in the swirling cold winds of the Meadowlands. I think that guy should play for a dome team. Really.
In the second half, the Eagles found a way to move the ball somewhat effectively without the use of Brian Westbrook, who the Giants kept from being a significant factor all day. In refreshing fashion, the Eagles converted several key 3rd-downs, with McNabb throwing darts to less-used-weapons, while their defense stymied the Giants on back-to-back drives with key 4th down stands.
And so, the Giants have to be left wondering what might have been if Plaxico hadn’t stuffed a loaded gun in his sweatpants, or if Eli had a stronger arm. The Eagles meanwhile head off to Arizona to face the even-more-improbably-in-the-NFC-Championship-Game Cardinals for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.
This year? Go figure.