By Paul Dottino
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Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles have a psychological edge over the Giants. Maybe the Giants were too fatigued to finish the job. Maybe they were overconfident after building a three-touchdown lead. Maybe there were some questionable coaching decisions. Or maybe Michael Vick really is THAT good.
Let's try all of the above.
The Eagles scored 28 unanswered points in the final 7:28, capped by DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return for a TD at the gun to grab a 38-31 victory that gave Philadelphia a stranglehold on the NFC East. Jackson became the first player in NFL history to score a winning TD on a punt return on the final play of the fourth quarter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Eagles' comeback came in every which way – Vick made a handful of plays, the Giants broke down several times and then Jackson delivered the knockout punch, which became Philly's sixth straight win in the series.
Philadelphia will own the division title unless it loses its final two games (Vikings, Cowboys) and the Giants win their final two (Packers, Redskins). Rather the Giants realistically must look at the wild card, which will be obtained with a win in Green Bay - a loss to the Packers and the Giants must beat the Redskins and get some help on the final weekend to qualify.
Offense-C Shaun O'Hara. He gets the ball for gutting it out for the entire four quarters in his first game back from a sprained foot, which has not fully healed. O'Hara admits that he's going to play in pain for the rest of the season, but he answered the bell for his teammates and said he needed to get back into the lineup after missing six consecutive games (the original prognosis was that he might miss as many as eight).
WR Mario Manningham made eight receptions for 113 yards with the first two-touchdown game of his career, but had a horrible second half: two catches for 22 yards and a careless third-quarter fumble at the Giants 25 that, three plays later, Vicks turned into an 8-yard TD run that cut it to 24-10.
Defense-None. DE Justin Tuck was the front-runner through 3 ½ quarters, but even he would tell you that nobody on defense deserves a reward after this epic collapse.
Special teams-PK Lawrence Tynes. He did his job, enough said.
Offense-The receivers. None of them were able to get open on two key third-down plays during the fourth quarter, forcing Eli Manning to throw away the ball. Eli Manning was 4-of-7 (one tipped ball) in the period, with three catches by Kevin Boss and one by Manningham.
Defense-S Kenny Phillips. We have only so many fingers on both hands to start pointing out the plethora of missed opportunities this unit made down the stretch. So we're only going to focus on the play that started the avalanche.
Kevin Boss' 9-yard TD catch appeared to make this one a laugher at 31-10 with 8:17 remaining. The Eagles needed to answer with a quick score – just to get back in the same area code – and it took only two plays to respond. Vick hit TE Brent Celek for a career-long 65-yard TD on a post pattern while Phillips was playing a deep zone over the top. Rather than allow the completion, Phillips darted forward to either go for an interception or to time his hit and force an incompletion – he whiffed and Celek was gone (WR Jeremy Maclin wiped out CB Terrell Thomas attempting to gain an angle).
The intelligent play is to allow the catch and make the tackle, forcing Philadelphia to eat up more time as they attempt drive the final 35 yards from where the catch was made.
Special teams-P Matt Dodge/WR Duke Calhoun. There is no excuse for him not to punt the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds left, even if he wants to blame a high snap on Zak DeOssie.
While we're at it, we'll send Calhoun for some running, too. He missed the tackle on Jackson at the point of attack after Jackson bobbled the ball. Calhoun also was one of two Giants (Gerris Wilkinson was the other) who were nearest to the onside kick that was recovered by the Eagles' Riley Cooper with 7:28 to play.
Despite post-game comments that indicated the Giants' kickoff team was alerted to an onside kick to their side of the field, Calhoun and Wilkinson began retreating as the left-footed David Akers was making contact with the ball.
- Tom Coughlin 'Empty' After Giants' Stunning Loss (newyork.cbslocal.com)
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