Eagles defense finishes off Giant surprise

Posted: November 21, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Jason Babin saw he had knocked the ball out of Eli Manning's grasp, and that Derek Landri was recovering for the Eagles, with a minute and 17 seconds remaining.

"We just won the game!" Babin said, when asked what was going through his head.

The Eagles' offense was painful to watch for about 50 minutes, but the defense shook off all the weeks of missed assignments and silly penalties, wide-nine confusion, fourth-quarter foldups, and questioning of Juan Castillo, to lead the Eagles to a stunning 17-10 victory last night at MetLife Stadium.

"One of the best feelings ever," Landri said.

Vince Young, starting for the first time in a year, in place of broken-ribbed Michael Vick, took the Birds on an improbable 18-play, 80-yard journey for the winning touchdown, finding Riley Cooper from 8 yards out with 2:45 remaining. The drive ate up an amazing 8:51, the Birds converting no fewer than six third downs.

"I just ran a quick slant, stopped at the top, and Vince put it right on the money," said Cooper, who hadn't scored this season. "We just knew we had to dig deep and put the ball in the end zone. I'm so proud of all of these guys."

The stars were Castillo's guys. They stopped the run cold (17 carries, 29 yards) and they set up camp in Eli Manning's face (three sacks, 10 hurries). The corners, not trying to juggle injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the mix, seemed much less confused; Manning found little to exploit.

At the end, just as the Giants seemed poised to drive for their second fourth-quarter TD, first down from the Birds' 21 with 1:25 left, after a 47-yard pass to Victor Cruz, Babin launched himself at Manning from behind, forcing a fumble that Landri chased down. The Eagles were alive at 4-6. The Giants were 6-4, having failed to shut the playoff door on their closest geographic rivals in the NFC East.

"This was a knock-down, drag-out NFC East battle," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. He said Young's ineffectiveness, which lasted well into the fourth quarter, "was a matter of getting settled down and into the swing . . . It's a little different than the scout team."

Reid noted that Young (23-for-36, 258 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, a 69.0 passer rating) "kept firing . . . he had a couple of turnovers but he came right back."

Asked about Babin's play, the thing that has been so lacking this season for a team that has blown five fourth-quarter leads into losses, Reid said: "That was huge . . . Somewhere you have to make those, and he did . . . We needed something to happen."

The early possessions were just dreadful, for both teams. Young's first snap, he tried to hit LeSean McCoy in the flat and bounced the pass. The Giants countered with tight end Jake Ballard dropping a Manning pass, wide-open in the middle of the field.

Then Young saw DeSean Jackson wide-open deep, took about a second-and-a-half too long to load up, and underthrew him, resulting in the first career interception for Giants rookie corner Prince Amukamara, playing in his first game.

Manning, not to be outdone, threw the ball into Jamar Chaney's chest, and then took a highly illegal ear-holing from Trevor Laws. The incensed Giants retaliated enough to turn the situation into offsetting penalties.

Blasting the quarterback away from the play after a pick has been illegal ever since the Eagles' Hugh Douglas dumped Bears quarterback Jim Miller on his passing shoulder in a playoff game following the 2001 season. Douglas helpfully tweeted last night: "It was legal when I did it."

Laws sparred with Giants guard Chris Snee at the end of the next several plays.

The Eagles, missing injured wideout Jeremy Maclin as well as Vick, did nothing with the takeaway, Chris Canty burying McCoy for a 3-yard loss as he took the handoff on third-and-1.

A drive that might have produced a touchdown had Jackson not left the game with a knee problem after a 32-yard catch instead ended in a 33-yard Alex Henery field goal, which looked huge at the time.

The Eagles had something going when, working from his 2, Young hit Jackson - knee all better - for a 50-yarder down the Giants' sideline, and the Giants committed an illegal hands to the face penalty during the play. But Jackson celebrated his presence among the Giants by first flipping the ball toward New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. If that wasn't enough to draw a taunting flag, the elaborate pantomime Jackson then performed, pointing to himself and strutting as he faced the Giants, certainly was. And because there were offsetting penalties, the ball came back to the Eagles' 2. Apparently, this was the correct interpretation, even though, had the Giants not committed a penalty, the completion would have stood. Only in the NFL.

Young threw another interception, to Corey Webster, after the ball bounced off Clay Harbor's helmet - because Harbor's arms were pinned to his sides by Aaron Ross.

Jackson atoned with a 51-yard punt return right after the first-half 2-minute warning, setting up a 14-yard Young touchdown pass to the MetLife Stadium crowd's favorite receiver, former Giant Steve Smith. It was Smith's first touchdown as an Eagle, and yes, he avoided getting confused about where the goal line was and going down a yard early.

Manning finally got the Giants going after getting the ball back with 1:22 left, and they got on the board with a 48-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal on the final play of the half.

The halftime stats told the lackluster story. Manning, who had been playing very well the past several weeks, was 7-for-18 for 77 yards, the pick, and a 29.2 passer rating. Young was 8-for-18 for 89 yards, a touchdown, two picks and a 38.7 passer rating.

Young's third interception was a potential killer. Second-and-9 from the Giants' 16, well within Henery's range for a field goal that would have made it 13-3, Young threw for Cooper in the corner of the end zone, even though Chad Hall was uncovered inside. The ball was underthrown, Cooper didn't fight for it, and Ross intercepted.

"That was all me," Cooper said. "Vince put it up for me to make a play. I looked back, I didn't see the ball, I guess it was caught in the lights. I didn't think he threw it to me. If I would have seen it, I would have gone up and got it. I was [hissed] about it. I'm glad I could redeem myself."

Early in the fourth quarter the Giants finally put together a touchdown drive, evoking all the bad fourth-quarter Eagles karma. Trent Cole was about to sack Manning when Will Beatty blatantly grabbed Cole from behind, giving Manning time to find Hakeem Nicks for a 47-yard gain. Then Manning found Cruz in the end zone, Cruz having eluded $60 million corner Nnamdi Asomugha, just as he did in the Sept. 25 Eagles loss at the Linc.

But Young somehow killed most of the rest of the quarter with the only real Eagles touchdown drive of the night, and then Babin and Landri refused to lose.

"That's how it was all week in practice, and we transferred it over to the game," Young said. "I had a couple of those little jitters. It's been a while, But overall, I started to calm down, and started letting things come to me."

Castillo actually smiled afterward, in a way that was not forced.

"We're playing hard. We've been playing hard," Castillo said, when asked the difference in the fourth quarter this time. "The bottom line is, our guys made plays. They weren't gonna be denied."

Birdseed

Andy Reid said Michael Vick's situation will be assessed "day by day" . . . The Prince Amukamara shove out of bounds that stopped LeSean McCoy at the 2, with 58 seconds remaining, after McCoy ripped off a 60-yard gain, stopped Shady's streak of scoring a touchdown in each game this season, at nine . . . DeSean Jackson, wearing a boot after the game, said someone stepped on his foot and that he would be OK . . . Third-round rookie corner Curtis Marsh was active for the first time and played on special teams.


For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

 

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