Ashley Fox: Too many points left on the field

Posted: November 22, 2010

This could have been so much easier.

Look out there on the choppy Lincoln Financial Field turf. That's where the Eagles left so many opportunities to put away the New York Giants on Sunday night. One was on the left sideline. Two more were in the south end zone.

Sure, the Eagles beat the Giants, 27-17, in a dramatic game. They had the lead, lost it, then grabbed it again. They now lead the NFC East with a 7-3 record that is tied for the second best in the conference and they trail only the 8-2 Atlanta Falcons.

The Eagles are in perfect position to make a playoff run. But to be truly special, they need to quit settling for field goals and put teams away when they have the chance.

"We have to be more efficient in the red zone," Vick said. "It was disappointing we didn't put the ball in the end zone more than we did. That can't happen. We'll correct that."

It did not cost them against the Colts two weeks ago, and it did not cost them against the Giants. But you've got to think it eventually will catch up to them. Great teams put teams away when they have the opportunity. Good teams find ways to win.

The Eagles are happy to be good, but aspire to be great because this season has such potential. All of the players in the locker room feel it. They don't really want to talk about it just yet, but this team wants to make a Super Bowl run.

They are young and brash and talented enough on offense to think it can happen, and with the muddled NFC, who is to say it can't? Who is really special? Atlanta? Green Bay? Chicago? New Orleans? The Eagles?

To be special, to go from good to great, the Eagles have to capitalize when they have the chance. Had they done just that in the second quarter against the Giants, they never would have needed that fourth-quarter rally powered by LeSean McCoy's young legs and his quick moves that look like another running back who was in his prime here a few years ago.

There were three plays in question. The first was when Michael Vick heaved the football nearly 55 yards to DeSean Jackson, who said last week that he has never played with a quarterback who can throw it as far as Vick or one who can overthrow him.

But that is just what Vick did. He put the ball about three yards out of Jackson's reach, although Jackson, who had more than a step on his defender, did not dive for the ball or even stretch out his arms to attempt to make the catch.

On the Giants' subsequent possession, Brandon Graham forced an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble that bounced to Asante Samuel, giving the Eagles offense the ball back at the Giants' 23-yard line. On third and 7 at the 20-yard line, Vick threw a strike between two defenders to Jackson. It was a little low, but Jackson got his hands on the ball. He could not make the catch, and the Eagles settled for a field goal and a 10-3 lead.

On the next Giants possession, Samuel stepped in front of an Eli Manning pass for an interception, again giving the Eagles prime field possession. The Eagles moved the ball seven yards to the Giants' 6-yard line. Jason Avant lined up in the slot. No one covered him. Vick fired a laser into the back of the end zone. It hit Avant in the hands, but he couldn't hang on to it, and the Eagles settled for another field goal.

It was all right there. The score easily could have been 21-3, maybe even 28-3 if you believe Jackson should have dove for that pass and could have caught it. This could have been Washington all over again.

Instead it was Colts redux.

The Giants were on the verge of getting frustrated. They were being careless with the football on offense. They were dropping men in coverage on defense, and mixing their pass-rushing schemes.

They were there for the taking.

"In life, you're not greedy," Andy Reid said. "But in the National Football League, you're greedy. You want to play as aggressive and tenacious every week."

And that means on every play, go for the jugular. Look back at the recent special teams. They did that. New Orleans. Indianapolis. New England. The 2004 Eagles.

"I wish we could have had the other three," Reid said of the Eagles' three losses this season. "That's how you go about it."

Score in the red zone. Capitalize on big-play possibilities. They don't come often enough. And neither do the truly special teams.

It was a good win for a good team, but this team aspires to be more. The Eagles want to be great.


Contact columnist Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyMFox

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