You wanted convincing? You got it. The Eagles didn't beat their opponent by one point on Sunday night, as they did both the Browns and Ravens in Weeks 1 and 2. No, no, no -- they beat the Giants by two!
All kidding aside, there was progress in more aspects of the Birds' 19-17 victory over rival New York than a subtle difference on the scoreboard. They ran the ball. They protected the quarterback. Most important, they did not commit a single turnover. After they averaged four per game through the first three weeks this season, some of you may have doubled back to read the previous sentence twice.
Yet for their many steps in the right direction, the Eagles still had to take a few backwards. They were forced to settle for field goals in three out of four red zone trips. They needed to come from behind after their defense surrendered a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. Even after it appeared as though they had it sewn up when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed the potential game-winning field goal, it turned out he would get to attempt it again thanks to Philadelphia's favorite son, Andy Reid.
Reid called a timeout as the ball was snapped on Tynes' 54-yard field goal try with 15 seconds remaining, fans celebrating as they watched it sail left. Tynes got another shot at it, and while the direction was true, this time he took something off of the boot.
Luckily the pigskin dropped harmlessly in the end zone to seal the W, or we would have never heard the end of that one. Despite questions about the time-honored tactic of icing the kicker, Reid's game plan surely pleased the masses otherwise. If nothing else, it put a smile on the faces of LeSean McCoy fantasy owners.
With a 7-3 lead heading out of the locker room, Reid leaned heavily on Shady. Eight of nine plays on the opening possession of the second half were runs, handing the ball to McCoy seven straight times at one point. That particular drive ended with three points when they were unable to punch it in from the goal line, but the emphasis on the ground attack down the stretch allowed the Eagles to bleed the clock, which obviously came into play in the end.
17 of McCoy's 23 carries came in the second half, as the All-Pro back gained 123 yards all told, averaging 5.3 per attempt. He added three receptions for 17 yards through the air.
Pounding the rock didn't lead to a boon on the scoreboard, but it did take some of the pressure off of Michael Vick and the offensive line. After giving the ball away nine times on his own through three games, Vick played within himself against the Giants, keeping his mistakes to a minimum -- zero turnovers, and only two sacks, one of which was a give-up to make the Giants use a timeout. If nobody was open, Vick either scrambled for whatever the defense was willing to concede, or simply threw the ball away.
It helped that the patchwork offensive line finally seemed to gel in front of the quarterback. Early on, they opened few holes for McCoy, and it seemed like it was going to be another long night of Vick scooping himself off the turf play after play. McCoy obviously got his, plus the protection was vastly improved as the game went along. For the first time in 2012, Vick spent a surprising amount of time on his feet.
Vick finished with a workmanlike line, completing 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a TD, along with six runs for 49. He connected on a 19-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson, who was his top receiver with six catches for 99 ticks.
The Eagles' offense were not the only ones who got off to a slow start. Every drive for the first 28 minutes ended in a punt until Vick to DJacc broke the stalemate. Somehow, that was what it took for Eli Manning to get going. The Giants scored on three of their next four possessions, and would have done so on every one of them were it not for a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception in the end zone, his third of the season.
After DRC's pick opened the fourth quarter, the Birds settled for another field goal, pushing the tally to 16-10. Manning responded with a five-play, 83-yard march, abusing the secondary for gains of 31 and 41 yards before capping it off with a six-yard toss to little-used tight end Bear Pascoe, uncovered. Watching safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen bite up on play-action on those big gainers was deflating, while DeMeco Ryans appeared to be on the hook for the touchdown. Ryans had his fingerprints on Manning's 14-yard TD to Victor Cruz in the third as well, hesitating on his zone responsibility.
But after everything was all said and done, Juan Castillo's unit held strong when it mattered most -- even if the officials tried real hard to keep the game alive. Ticky-tack pass interference penalties against DRC on 4th and 1 and Nnamdi Asomugha on 3rd and 10 extended the drive. Miraculously, the Eagles got a call back when Ramses Barden dragged Asomugha down for an offensive PI, which set up the longer field goal try for the win.
While some might continue to make a big deal out of the fact that the Eagles once again came out ahead by the slimmest of margins, this was another huge win, one in which they likely would've given away a year ago, as has been said about the others as well. Taking out the Giants is always a huge win -- the reigning world champions, mind you -- and it moves Philly's record to 3-1 for the year.
It's also become safe to say we might be witnessing a trend here with this Eagles team. They must be talented to overcome four and five turnovers in previous victories, then to limit a Super Bowl MVP quarterback to 17 points. If the month of September is any indication though, they are still quite flawed, and little will come easy for the Eagles this season. Better buckle your seat belts on and take any prescribed heart medication. If the Birds are on, you can bet the final is coming down to the wire.
• The drive to set up Alex Henery's decisive 26-yard field goal was 12-plays, 75 yards. Vick only put the ball in the air three times on that possession. By the way, Henery hit all four of his tries, including a long of 48.
• Vick appeared to have been hobbled on his give-up sack when Osi Umenyiora slid across his legs, but the quarterback brushed it off as nothing too serious during his post-game presser.
• The Giants could never establish their running game, gaining just 57 yards on the ground on 19 attempts for a 3.0 average. Perhaps in correlation, they converted only two of 10 third downs.
• Eli shook off a shaky start to hit on 24 of 42 attempts for 309 yards and two scores in large part because the pass rush vanished, finishing with zero sacks. The Birds' front four made it hard on the younger Manning at the start, but the blocking eventually settled down and gave the QB time to operate.
• The Eagles kick coverage unit was absolutely torched by rookie running back David Wilson, whose six returns averaged 36.2 yards.
• Philadelphia won time of possession 33:21 to 26:39.