Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Vince Young couldn’t do it on his own, and without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin dressed because of injuries and with Young making his first start in a Philadelphia uniform, the Eagles defense was going need to be special Sunday night. Considering Eli Manning is in the middle of a career resurgence and with the Giants playing well enough to take over the NFC East, the Eagles defense had a tough task in front of them.
And despite the high-priced offseason acquisitions -- I don’t need to list them; you already know who I’m talking about -- Philadelphia’s defense had been decidedly mediocre this season.
But with a 3-6 Eagles squad desperate to stay alive in the playoff race, no matter how slim its chances are, Philadelphia’s defense was superb, limiting the Giants running game to 29 yards (Giants coach Tom Coughlin called that pathetic). Though Manning threw for 264 yards, the Eagles also forced him into two turnovers that led to a 17-10 victory and killed the Giants chances to win on their home turf while keeping their lead in the NFC East.
Instead, the Eagles gained ground on New York, and though Young (23 of 36 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions) was more than solid -- especially on that final 18-play drive in which he helped convert six third downs -- the Eagles defense was just as important to the victory.
After holding the Giants to just three points through three quarters, the Eagles went into the final period with a seven-point lead. But the defense gave up two big completions from Manning to Victor Cruz, including a 24-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 10-10.
Young responded to give the Eagles the lead again, and this time, with 2:39 to play, it was incumbent on their defense to stop Manning once and for all.
Manning completed a 17-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks on a second and 20, but on third down, the Eagles blew a coverage against Giants receiver Victor Cruz, and Cruz turned a simple catch into a 47-yard gain to bring the ball to the Philadelphia 21-yard line.
Suddenly, Manning had plenty of time to try to tie the game. But on the very next play, one of those high-priced acquisitions made one of the biggest plays of the game. As Manning looked to scramble, defensive end Jason Babin blind-sided him and forced the fumble that the Eagles recovered to seal the game.
“I got extended,” Babin told NBC after the game, “and I kept hustling.”
Which was basically what the Eagles defense accomplished all game. Philadelphia hustled and it played hard and it fought for the right to continue a season on the brink of irrelevancy. And for a night, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo could celebrate what worked rather than ruminate about what didn’t.
“We’re going to go back and watch the film, and figure out whatever it is (the Eagles did well),” Babin said. “We’re going to bottle it. We’re not going to sell it. We’re going to keep it. There was something special with us tonight.”
Yes, one could say the defense was almost Dream Team like.
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