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Monday, January 12, 2009

Eagles Beat Giants; Super Bowl a Win Away

I wish I had some brilliant insight into yesterday’s huge win by the Birds beyond what’s already being said. But the truth is I can barely believe the Eagles are still not only worth blogging about, but are suddenly expected to go to the Super Bowl.

Even Vegas thinks so. Juice on the 3-point spread favoring the Eagles versus Arizona on Sunday in the NFC title game, which is usually -110, is -130. I’m not Vegas Vic or anything but I’ve never seen that before.

The win was pretty ugly against the Giants. Both defenses dominated, but Asante Samuels set-up the Eagles first touchdown with an interception return to the 1-yard line, which may have been the play of the day.

The Eagles and the referees actually handed New York most, if not all, of their points. The Giants returned the opening kickoff to the Eagles 35 for their first 3 points; they got 2 points on what I thought was a ridiculous intentional grounding call on Donovan McNabb in the end-zone; the ensuing kick led to their next 3 points; and an interception of a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage led to their final 3.

In other words, you’re forgiven if you’re still wondering how the hell Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring.

Besides handing the Giants a safety and a field goal, the referees reversed a blatant interference call when Tom Coughlin cried enough about it. The defender had clearly yanked Kevin Curtis’ arm back, they got the call right, and simply reversed it.

Coughlin tried to work his magic again on a 3rd-and-short in the fourth quarter when the Eagles stuffed Brandon Jacobs short of a first down. This time it was an official challenge so the striped shirts could actually use the video evidence to uphold the call. It led to the first of two times the Eagles stopped the Giants on a 4th-and-short to take over on the Giants’ half of the field in the quarter. The first stopped a sneak attempt by Manning.

All the people falling all over themselves apologizing for being critical of Andy Reid and McNabb, and especially those like Governor Ed Rendell spewing a snobbish “I told you so” attitude about the duo, need to relax. After the game Rendell, who has spent most of the last decade or so doing Eagles Post-Game Live and recently added Pre-Game, couldn’t wait to scold those that had called for Reid’s job. He crowed that Reid is going to his fifth NFC title game. He just sort of ignored the fact that Reid has clearly changed his play calling, took so long to do so he almost single-handedly cost the Eagles a playoffs appearance entirely, and, oh by the way, has only one Super Bowl appearance in which the Eagles lost. You know, sort of like how he ignores his job as governor to be a football analyst on Sundays.

Nice work, “Guv.”

Sorry. I apparently have to periodically get ripping Rendell out of my system.

Back to football. Give Reid and McNabb credit. Yes, I was one of the guys calling for Reid to be fired. But he’s clearly changed things up. I still dare anyone to point out another coach that has caused such dramatic swings in his team’s fortunes based on the his play calling. He stayed with the running game yet again against the Giants despite it doing very little and has even shortened his receiver rotation to finally help out his quarterback. I don’t think Reid’s ever done that. The idea of McNabb managing a game has now been discussed in the last two weeks – another concept Reid has never even flirted with.

McNabb managed to scratch out a solid game. He threw for 217 yards on 22-40 passing along with a touchdown, added a second TD on a sneak, converted a key 3rd-and-20, and ran a good hurry-up offense for three points at the end of the half. Even his two picks weren’t horrible – one on the tip and another that equated to a punt on a 3rd-and-long that gave the Giants the ball on their 20. I still think he should use his legs more often, but he’s doing what needs to be done.

The broadcasters reported that Coughlin said his defense would have 22 eyes on Brian Westbrook. While they managed to clamp down on him, some of those eyes might have wanted to check out DeSean Jackson, who continues to impress, Kevin Curtis, despite dropping what would have been a big pass, and even Jason Avant. They all had 4 catches on the day. Even L.J. Smith, who was reportedly done as an Eagle which didn’t seem like the worst idea in the world, had a big catch to convert a 3rd-and-5.

Certainly, defense won this game keeping the Giants out of the end zone. But knowing they can win on a sub par day from their best offensive weapon has to be huge for that team’s confidence.

The bad news may be that Arizona upset Carolina. Too much confidence has rarely served Philadelphia well.

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