By David Elfin
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Philadelphia Eagles, down by three touchdowns with less than nine minutes to play, rallied for four touchdowns to stun the New York Giants 38-31 and take undisputed possession of the NFC East lead on Sunday with two games remaining. DeSean Jackson, who had been quiet all day, returned Matt Dodge’s punt 65 yards for the winning score on the final play.
Down 31-10 with just 8:17 to play, the Eagles refused to pack it in, getting a 65-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to previously silent tight end Brent Celek. Then Riley Cooper recovered David Akers’ ensuing onside kick, before Vick passed to Jackson for 13, ran 35 yards to the New York 9 and then scored on a 4-yard keeper to close the gap to 31-24.
Vick kept the Eagles alive with runs of 33 and 22 yards putting the Eagles on the Giants’ 20 with 1:58 remaining. Two plays later. Vick tied the game with a 7-yard toss to receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Philadelphia improved to 10-4 in extending its winning streak over New York to six games (including a 2008 playoff game). The Giants, who fell to 9-5, finish at Green Bay, whose star quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t play Sunday because of a concussion, and struggling Washington. The Eagles, who had beaten the Giants 27-17 at home four weeks ago, finish at home against Dallas and Minnesota, both of which are under .500. The loser of the battle for the NFC East title still has a good shot at a wild card berth.
Some thoughts on the game:
â€¢ Neither offense produced a first down during its first two series. The Giants faced second-and-18, second-and-28 and second-and-14 on their first three possessions. They overcame the third on a diving 22-yard grab by Hakeem Nicks on third-and-11. Just six plays later, Manningham got open in the left side of the end zone for a pretty 35-yard touchdown pass from Manning to give New York a 7-0 lead with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
â€¢ Each quarterback had an ugly throw picked off during the first quarter. Vick rolled left and didn’t get enough on a pass intended for Jackson that New York cornerback Corey Webster intercepted. However, Moise Fokou’s 18-yard sack of Manning ended the Giants’ ensuing series. Manning’s interception came on the penultimate play of the quarter when Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp tipped his third-down thrown into the hands of safety Quentin Mikell at the New York 45. The Eagles got on the board five plays later on Akers’ 34-yard field goal after Vick was trapped by a double-safety blitz by Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips with tackle Rocky Bernard getting credit for the sack on third down.
â€¢ Manningham upped the lead to 14-3 with 8:17 left in the second quarter as Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson slipped and the receiver fended off Mikell near the goal line. The 35-yard touchdown came one play after Philadelphia somehow left rookie safety Kurt Coleman alone on Nicks on third-and-11 and was beaten for a 15-yard gain. Tuck kept Big Blue’s momentum going by sacking Vick on the Eagles’ subsequent third down. The Giants then drove 55 yards in 12 plays before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes with 48 seconds remaining in the half.
â€¢ During the first half, Philadelphia lost rookie free safety Nate Allen to a right knee injury and New York lost backup defensive end Dave Tollefson to a sprained knee.
â€¢ Replay official Bob McGrath upheld a very questionable call that Maclin had fumbled after having possession but before he was down in the final seconds of the first half. Phillips’ return of the fumble set up Manning’s 8-yard touchdown to Nicks, who beat Patterson on the next play, to make it 24-3.
â€¢ Philadelphia finally crossed the goal line with 3:56 to go in the third quarter on Vick’s 8-yard pass to the wide-open Maclin that cut its deficit to 24-10. But when Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas deftly broke up Vick’s third-down bomb for Maclin on the second play of the fourth quarter, the Eagles had lost whatever momentum that it had gained. After allowing a 39-yard catch by tight end Kevin Boss, the Eagles forced a punt, but on their next play, Jackson picked up 31 yards before fumbling going for extra yardage – a play Andy Reid probably should have challenged. Phillips recovered at the Philadelphia 47. Boss beat Mikell for the 8-yard touchdown seven plays later.