EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. A year ago, they pulled out a win here on one of the most electrifying plays in NFL history.
This year, there were no fireworks. No long pass. No big return. Nothing close. No, this time there was just a methodical 18-play, nine-minute, 80-yard drive led by backup quarterback Vince Young and a desperately needed 17-10 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
It wasnt just one big play, said Riley Cooper, who caught Youngs game-winning TD pass with 2:45 left. It wasnt just a 50-yard bomb here. Everybody contributed. We pieced that drive together.
Eighteen plays? No big plays? That just doesnt happen with this team.
Thats really not us, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. But we had to do it that way. We just had to.
The Eagles had blown five fourth-quarter leads this year, and no team in NFL history has ever blown six, and when Eli Manning threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz to tie the game at 10-all 3 12 minutes into the fourth quarter, you couldnt help think it.
Its happening again.
We couldnt let it happen again, LeSean McCoy said. Played that bad dream over and over and over again, and we did a good job of not letting it happen again.
Young, making his first start as an Eagle in place of the injured Michael Vick, completed seven of nine passes for 67 yards on that final drive, and five different players converted a total of six third downs as the Eagles won for the fifth consecutive time over the Giants in East Rutherford and kept their faint playoff hopes alive for at least another week.
We just knew we had to dig deep and put the ball in the end zone, Cooper said. Im so proud of all of these guys.
Maybe 4-6 doesnt sound very good, but it sure beats being 3-7 with nothing to play for. The Eagles are now two games behind both the Giants, who they split with, and the Cowboys, who they beat once and play again on Christmas Eve.
We had to finish the game out, said McCoy, who put the game away with a 60-yard run with a minute left. The issue this whole year has been turnovers and not finishing the game, and today we finished the game out.
It just shows you the fight we have. So much was talked about this week. Mike not playing, Jeremy Maclin was out, the 3-6 Dream Team. So many things were being said and for us as a team, it was just fighting for four quarters and doing our job and it shows a lot about the character in this locker room.
Young overcame a shaky start two interceptions in his first 13 pass attempts to pass for 258 yards and a couple touchdowns (see story).
But he was at his best on the final drive, capped by his game-winning eight-yard touchdown on a slant to Riley Cooper with 2:45 left.
We said before the drive, were not walking off the field losing this game, said tight end Clay Harbor, who converted a third-and-three with a six-yard catch on the game-winning drive. We wanted to take over the game, and thats what we did.
That last drive, it shows how deep we are as a team and how many different guys can make big plays for us. In those situations, its clutch. Everything is amplified, its all pressure situations, converting third downs in the fourth quarter. It was now or never and everybody out just went out and did their job.
Ronnie Brown converted a third-and-three with a six-yard run, Young hit Cooper for 18 yards on the next third down, Young converted a third-and-one with a one-yard run on a keeper, and DeSean Jackson broke out of a tackle at the right sideline to convert another one.
Last week, the Eagles converted three third downs the whole game. On Sunday night, they converted six on one remarkable game-winning drive.
Thats just the potential of this offense when were not committing mistakes and turnovers, Brown said. Thats what were capable of doing. The Giants are a great team, but when we execute we can move the ball methodically on anybody, and that last drive was an indication of that.
Theres a lot of athletes on this team and a lot of guys capable of making big plays, and that last drive definitely showed that.
Youngs game-winning TD to Cooper was his first fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown pass since Nov. 29, 2009, when his 10-yard TD to Kenny Britt gave the Titans a 20-17 win over the Cards at LP Field in Nashville.
It came on a third-and-eight on a typically aggressive play call by Mornhinweg.
You have to be aggressive, Mornhinweg said. You just have to in this league. This other quarterback (Manning), now, hes been really hot in the fourth quarter and I wanted to run it twice and then make them use their timeouts, which we accomplished, and then on third down, you have to go for it and be aggressive.
You have to go for it in this league. Over the long run, it pays off. Now, it hadnt for us a few times this year, but it worked tonight.
Cooper, making his first start in a meaningful NFL game, caught five passes for 75 yards all in the second half.
I think he has a lot of confidence in me, and Im glad he does, Cooper said. He kept coming to me, kept putting the ball up for me to make a play and go up and get it, and that means a lot.
Alex Henerys 33-yard field goal and Youngs TD pass to Smith gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead before Lawrence Tynes hit a 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
The score stayed 10-3 until Mannings touchdown to Cruz, who surpassed 100 yards for the second time this year against the Eagles.
But this time, the Eagles answered. And after the Giants drove down to the Eagles 21 moments after Coopers TD, Jason Babin stripped Manning, Derek Landri recovered, and the Eagles had a win in their first game this year as an underdog.
Its definitely special to come here and beat the Giants, said Jackson, whose last-second 65-yard punt return gave the Eagles a 38-31 win here last year.
Theyre a great team theyre 6-3, pretty good record. Its just something about New York that were able to come here and put a show on in front of their fans. The energy that their fans give our team just speaks for itself. Were able to come out there and just do great things.
Jackson overcame a taunting penalty that cost him a 50-yard reception with a 51-yard punt return (see story) to set up Smiths TD and six catches for 88 yards.
McCoy, held to 53 yards on 22 carries in the games first 58 minutes, finished with 113 yards and surpassed 1,000 for a second straight season.
Defensively, the Eagles were terrific, limiting the Giants to 29 yards on 17 rushing plays and holding the NFLs No. 11 offense to just 10 points. Manning threw for 264 yards but was just 18 for 35 with two turnovers the Babin fumble and a Jamar Chaney interception.
It feels good to win, McCoy said. We take it for granted here, because we always win. This years been tough for us. We need to get used to this feeling. Its a good feeling to have.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org