Friday, October 28, 2016

2000 Giants @ Eagles

Week 2

The Setup

If you watch football, or any sport for that matter, long enough, you learn that there are a few franchises that become media darlings, and get an unbalanced share of positive coverage (or any coverage), even if they don't win.  For the most part, New York teams do not apply to this.  Though the Yankees are likely the most recognizable sports brand in the World, there is a healthy amount of anti-NY bias in and around America that turns the Yankees into a lightning rod and will garner negative press.

In the NFL, there are a few teams that fall in this category, and it so happens the Giants reside in a division with 2 of them.  Of course, there are the Dallas Cowboys..."America's Team".  Undeniably, the Cowboys have a successful history behind them.  Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, dynasties in the 1970s and 1990s, and yes the Cheerleaders.  Playing in 8 Super Bowls and winning 5 of them.  They have a national following and always get big ratings.  However, since 1996, the Cowboys have become more a Jerry Jones side show than a success.  They go for the big names.  They built a massive stadium that is one of the envies in all sports.  But look deeper at what the Cowboys have become since winning the Super Bowl in 1995.  In the past 20 years, the Cowboys have made the playoffs 8 times.  And in that stretch, they are 2-8, and if not for the officials handing them the game in 2014 vs Detroit, should be 1-8.  They haven't been to the NFC Championship since 1995.  And yet, when Troy Aikman was calling a game earlier in 2016 at San Francisco and was talking about the 49ers (fair weather) fans watching the Cowboys offensive line he said the following:  
"These fans here are getting ansy because they see the Cowboys with all these high draft picks on the offensive line dominating.  And they are thinking, hey we used to be that team with the talented offensive line.  The one that dominated a game and wore teams out.  And were going to the Championship games.  Well, that's the Cowboys now."
No Troy, no it's not.  Perhaps a healthy dose of homerism from the former Cowboy Hall of Famer.  Or perhaps the CTE speaking.  But Dallas has not been to a title game since you were the QB.  Romo has never played beyond the 2nd round.  Mark Sanchez has more title game appearances than the Dallas Cowboys in the past 20 years.  Just stop it.   

While the Dallas love is always annoying, as are their fans, at the very least they can hang their hat on successes of the past.  You can't say the same for the Philadelphia Eagles.  But yet, at least  in the past 30 years, the Eagles seem front and center with the media love.  I get it in the late 1980s.  They had exciting players.  Randall Cunningham was one of the real first QBs who had the ability to throw a 50 yard pass with the flick of his wrist and run for 50 yard TDs, sprinting past defensive backs.  The Giants got a first hand look at how athletic he was in 1988 when on Monday Night he bounced off a Carl Banks sack and threw for a TD.  And then the boomed a 91 yard punt over Meggett's head in 1989.  He was a nightmare.  As was the Eagles defense.  Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, etc.  But what made them news worthy was their head coach, Buddy Ryan.  Much like his now loudmouth twin sons, the late Buddy Ryan was full of crap.  Yes, he won a title as an assistant on the Jets in 1969.  Yes, he was the architect of the 1985 Bears defense.  But in Philly, he spoke over and over how they were the best team in the NFL.  How they are going to win the Super Bowl.  The result?  5 years in Philly, 1 Division title, 3 playoff appearances-- 0 playoff wins.  Things quieted down somewhat in the 1990s, mainly because the Cowboys were in their Aikman/Emmitt/Irvin dynasty and owned everything.  And in the 2000s, it ramped up again.  Whether it was Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid's run when they pretty much took over the NFC East for several years.  And they made it to 2 Championship games at Philly...and lost them to Tampa Bay and Carolina.  And they did make the Super Bowl in 2004, and lost to the Patriots.  And as the McNabb star started to fade, they went and brought in a dog killer fresh out of prison in Michael Vick, saw his career flourish again and make the playoffs...only to lose to the Packers.  In 2011, they were the "Dream Team", signing high priced free agents and everyone had them in the Super Bowl.  Only, they finished 8-8, and saw the Giants win the Super Bowl.  After a crash and burn 2012 which saw them fire Andy Reid, it was on to the next shiny penny, college maven Chip Kelly and his innovative Oregon Duck offense.  Time of possession didn't matter.  Keeping teams off balance with a constant hurry up offense, attacking the defense.  And at first it seemed to somewhat work, going 10-6 and making the playoffs...and lose at home to the Saints, who never win on the road.  By 2014, the Chip Kelly excitement was starting to wear off, the Eagles faded down the stretch, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs.  In 2015, Kelly won a power struggle with Howie Roseman, tried to trade his next 15 drafts to get his former college QB in Mariota, and proceeded to dump productive players like McCoy.  Kelly wouldn't make it to the end of the season and was fired/quit.  And the cycle continued with Carson Wentz in 2016, who started out 3-0 and Brian Baldinger, said:
"Wentz is Peyton Manning before the snap, and Aaron Rodgers after it."
Arrrrgggghhhhhh!  No.  Just no.  He looked pretty good for a rookie.  But comparing him to 2 future Hall of Fame QBs?  This stuff drives me insane.  And it's usually the Cowboys or Ealges behind this type of ballwashing praise.

As it would turn out, it was those 2 teams meeting to start the 2000 season, which brought us to this review.  The Eagles, in Andy Reid's 2nd season, with McNabb now established as the starter at QB.   In 1999, they were a 5-11 team as Reid tried to implement his system, but they had a number of promising young players on offense (McNabb, Duce Staley, Chad Lewis) and defense (Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, Bobby Taylor) and went out and got some big price free agents like Jon Runyan, Steve Everitt, and Hugh Douglas.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys entered the 2000 season off an 8-8 season and a playoff appearance (and quick exit) in Minnesota.  By now the age was starting to show.  Aikman was 34.  Emmitt was 31.  Irvin was forced into retirement due to injury.  Their offensive line started creeping into their 30s (Stepnoski was 33, Erik Williams was 32).  And on defense some of their other stalwarts were getting old- Darren Woodson was 31.  Leon Lett was 32.  And the talent they used to have when Jimmy Johnson was there was no longer coming to bear, as Jerry Jones the GM wasn't much of a GM, choosing to throw big money at name free agents/trades past their prime, like Joey Galloway and Chris Warren.  

So the hype train, usually reserved for the Cowboys, ran into the new locomotive in Philly.  With the backdrop of 109 degree Texas heat, the Eagles started their season with an onside kick.  They would go down to score on a Jeff Thomason TD from McNabb, and the rout was on.  The score was 24-0 by the mid 2nd quarter.  By the end of the game it was 41-6, with only a garbage time TD by Randall Cunningham (yes, Randall) in relief of Aikman to make it a more friendly 41-14 beat down.  There was a new media darling.  The Cowboy king is dead, long live the Eagle king.  Duce Staley ran for 201 yards in this heat, and it came out that the Eagles training staff had their team drink pickle juice to combat the effects of dehydration.  How ingenious!  Screw Gatorade, the Eagles have all the answers.  

So all week long, the story was about the Eagles blowout in Dallas.  Stupid Eagle fans drinking pickle juice in the parking lot (as opposed to their usual taste for rubbing alcohol or urine).  Duce Staley was the next Walter Payton.  McNabb the best young QB in the NFL.  And they were coming home as the new presumed champions of the NFC East.

Meanwhile, I remember going into this game and thinking:  The Giants looked pretty good in their opening win vs. the Cardinals.  Not great, but good.  They had a good 1-2 punch in Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne.  Kerry Collins had established himself as the QB, wresting the job officially away from Kent Graham and the Giants bringing in career backup Jason Garrett.  They had some weapons at WR in Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard.  And on defense, the DL looked really good, with Strahan and Keith Hamilton, along with Christian Peter and Cornelius Griffin.  And they had Jesse Armstead and Micheal Barrow.  Sehorn was back from his injury and Shaun Williams a big hitter at safety.  

This was actually a good Giants team.  And Jim Fassel had owned the Eagles up to that game, going 6-0.  What if the Cowboys weren't all that good and the Eagles are way over hyped?  Right about kickoff, one of those strange sensations came over me, and as a Giants fan, while I'm optimistic all week, I tend to get pessimistic once the game starts and then hope for the best as it plays out.  This was different.  In watching the intro, something just clicked and I said "the Giants are going to kick the crap out of these guys".  And it turned out that my intuition was correct

The Game Highlights

Eagles would kickoff with David Akers sending it deep to Ron Dixon, 2 yards deep in the end zone.  Dixon would take the ball out up the middle and fall forward to the 22 yard line, hit down by veteran safety Tim Hauck.  Kerry Collins came out and began with a pass to Ike Hilliard on a button hook out to the 33 yard line, hit down by Troy Vincent, but good for a first down.  The ball would go to Ron Dayne up the gut, and plowed for 2 yards, hit down by Corey Simon.  On 2nd down a near disaster

On 2nd and 8, the Giants shifted formation and Collins would drop back.  Hugh Douglas would beat a double team, playing off the block of Lomas Brown and then shoving Tiki Barber aside and would hit Collins from behind and knock the ball loose.  Usually when there is a strip fumble like this, the ball would hit around the QBs feet and there would be a scramble.  In this case, the ball launched forward and all the way out to the 39, where Amani Toomer fell on it for 4 yard gain on a sack.  3rd and 4, as a draw went to Tiki, Douglas jumped offsides and had an unabated charge in the backfield, so the refs blew the play dead and the 5 yards gave the Giants a first down.  The ball was now out to the 44 yard line and gave to Dayne, running to his left, where he was strung out and hit down by Bobby Taylor and Simon at the 46.  2nd and 8, the Eagles would come on a blitz right up the middle, which was picked up by the offensive line and allowed Collins time to hit his hot read, which was Toomer, out by the right sideline at the Eagles 49 and he would turn up the field to the 43 yard line, running through Jeremiah Trotter and Vincent, good for another first down.  With Howard Cross in motion, the pitch would go to Tiki running to the right on a sweep and he would slip around the corner to the 41 yard line and out of bounds by Trotter.  2nd and 8, the ball again went to Tiki, again running to his right and he was met by safety Damon Moore at the 40 and shoved backwards.  3rd and 7, Collins took a 3 step drop and drilled a pass in to Hilliard, who made a lunge at the 35 to snag the ball and he fell forward right by the sticks, ridden down by Vincent.  The refs would bring out the chains and it would show that they were a half yard short.  Faced with a long field goal, Jimbo Fassel decided to roll the dice.  

But it was all for naught, with Dayne the lone setback, the Giants adjusted their formation and brought Greg Comella in motion.  With all that time to set up, Luke Pettitgout would jump early, and that false start would set the Giants back to the 40 yard line and force a punt.  So on would come Brad Maynard, who tried to pooch the ball near the goal line, but it would bounce at the 2 and go into the end zone for a touchback.

The Eagles would begin at the 20 led by Donovan McNabb, in his 2nd year out of Syracuse, and he would begin with a pump fake, get flushed out and pressured by Michael Strahan, who beat Jon Runyan on an inside move, and McNabb’s pass would be a dart towards FB Cecil Martin, but off target and incomplete.  2nd and 10, the ball would go to Duce Staley, who danced up the middle, but was smacked by Cedric Jones after a 1 yard gain.  3rd and 9, the Giants would come on a blitz, with Shaun Williams sprinting in from safety, and flushed McNabb to his left, where he would throw on the run towards Damian Douglas by the first down marker, but the refs ruled him out of bounds.  So a 3 and out for Philly, and former Giant Sean Landeta trotted out to punt, and he would send a booming kick to Tiki all the way out at the 20, but as happens on a long punt, Landeta out kicked his coverage and Tiki had room to find a lane up the middle and took it out to the 35, where he was tripped by Mike Bartum or else it might have gone for much longer.

The Giants second drive would begin with a run to Dayne to his right, hit by Trotter after a 3 yard gain.  2nd and 7, Collins would fake an end around to Dixon and throw back to his right to a screen to Tiki out at the 34 yard line, with 3 blockers set up in front.  Tiki would break a tackle attempt from behind by Mike Mamula, and lurch forward all the way to the Eagles 42, hit down by Brian Dawkins and a 19 yard gain.  First down, Collins would play fake to Dayne and that held up the Eagles rush, allowing Collins time to set up and throw a deep pass towards Toomer at the 21 yard line where Amani caught the ball and tried to drag his toes before going out.  One ref called it incomplete and after a discussion, decided he didn’t catch it.  Replays would show that Toomer actually did catch the ball, but Fassel did not challenge and moved on with a handoff to Dayne up the gut, where he was promptly met by Hollis Thomas after a 1 yard gain.  3rd and 9, the Eagles would blitz coming from the left side, however the Giants would sprint Collins out to the right, avoiding the rush from Douglas, and he would rifle a pass in to Hilliard at the 30, where he would drag his toes and get a first down.  With Tiki coming in motion out of the backfield, Collins would hand off to Comella on a quick hitter up the gut, and the fullback would find some room, follow a nice block by Glenn Parker and cut back to his left and get all the way out to the 14 yard line, stopped by Dawkins.  Another first down, and a draw to Dayne would go for a loss of 1 as he was stacked up by Paul Grasmanis right up the middle.  2nd and 11, Collins would take a shot at the end zone for Toomer, but it went over his head and he was well covered by Taylor.  3rd and 11, Collins again back, and had some pressure and tried to hit Hilliard over the middle but the play was broken up by Mike Caldwell, who smacked Ike and took him to the ground.  The Giants would trot out Brad Daluiso to bang through a 33 yarder to make the score 3-0 with 4:05 to go in the first quarter.

Daluiso’s kickoff would be a short one, bouncing at the 14 and was picked up by Brian Mitchell at the 11.  Mitchell would fake a reverse and come running his way to the left, but the Giants were not fooled by John Harbaugh’s special teams and he was nailed down at the 19 by Omar Stoutamire and Jack Golden.  McNabb would look at a blitz immediately, and it was picked up by the Eagles offensive line, giving him time to take a deep shot to Todd Pinkston, who had beaten Dave Thomas but dropped the ball at the 45, and the veteran corner might have gotten away with a pass interference as well.  2nd and 10, the ball went to Duce, who ran to his right, cut back over the middle and was dropped by Strahan and Ryan Phillips at the 22 yard line.  3rd and 7, McNabb dropped back, and started to feel a little pressure, which made the young QB start to scramble a little too soon and tried to run up the middle, where he was met by Christian Peter and Keith Hamilton, with Jesse Armstead coming over to clean up at the 26 yard line.  Another 3 and out for the Eagles on this hot and humid day.  Landeta’s punt was another boomer to Tiki at the 20, who ran to his right, bumped into his own man Reggie Stephens who was trying to peel back to block at the 24, and got swarmed by the rest of the coverage unit at the 23.

The Giants offense controlled the ball pretty much all quarter, and started with a fake to Dayne and would dump the pass off to Comella who slipped out of the backfield at the 25, and the fullback would chug out to the 34, hit by Barry Gardner, but good for a first down.  The Eagles would again blitz, and Collins would roll to his right and set up a screen to Tiki whow as open at the 31.  Barber would start to head up field, but he would get caught from behind by Douglas and was horse collared down at the 38, but it wasn’t a penalty in 2000.  Douglas would come out with an ankle injury on the play and set up a 2nd and 5, Trotter came on a run blitz right up the middle, but he was erased by a great block from Ron Stone, who leveled the linebacker, giving Dayne a lane up the middle and he got out to the 45, hit down by Carlos Emmons, but again, good for another first.  The Giants would shift their 2 TE offense and Collins would drop back and throw another dart to Toomer at the Eagles’ 41 yard line and he was taken down by Taylor on the final play of the first quarter.  Dayne would take the next carry, run to his right and get hit by Grasmanis at the 41 yard line, living up to what would become his name Ron “No Gain” Dayne.  2nd and 10, Tiki would take an inside draw, cut quickly to his left and accelerate up the field, break a tackle attempt from Vincent at the 29 yard line and keep his legs moving all the way down to the 18 yard line before Moore and Dawkins got him to the ground but good for a 23 yard gain.  Again defensive coordinator Jim Johnson brought the blitz, and again Collins rolled to his right to avoid it, pump fake and took a deep shot in the end zone towards Hilliard but the ball sailed out of bounds.  2nd and 10, Dayne would take the ball and chug around the left end to the 14 yard line, hit by Thomas.  3rd and 6, Collins in the gun, but the Giants would go backwards as Lomas Brown jumped.  3rd and 11, the Giants essentially had a give up call, a pitch to Barber running to his right, and he was met by Moore and Caldwell at the 19.  So the Giants had dominated the game so far, but all they had to show for it was a 2nd field goal attempt, this time from 36 yards out which was good by Daluiso to give the Giants a 6-0 lead with 11:43 to go in the 2nd quarter.

Daluiso would kickoff and this time there was some confusion between the return men Mitchell and Alex Van Dyke and it would bounce at the 4 yard line, picked up by Mitchell who ran it back up the middle to the 39 yard line, taken down by Thomas.  To compound things, the Giants were offsides on the kickoff, on Thomas.  The Eagles declined it and took the field position.  The Eagles would give to Duce, and again the Giants were waiting as Hamilton blew up the blocking, allowing Armstead and Strahan to clean up for no gain.  2nd and 10, Duce would run to the left, tried to turn the corner and was bumped out of bounds by Jason Sehorn after a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 8, the Giants would bring their blitz, with corner Emmanuel McDaniel chasing McNabb, who ran backwards and just slipped out of the sack, but he would commit the Cardinal Sin of QBs, by throwing across his body and over the middle towards, Duce, but Cedric Jones had peeled back from his rush and had an easy interception, but the defensive end dropped it.  A third straight 3 and out as the crowd was in stunned silence.  Landeta’s punt was a low line drive, that bounced at the 22 yard line.  Tiki didn’t play the ball and let it go, where it rolled forward all the way to the 7 yard line, a 52 yarder, his third 50+ yarder in the game.

The Giants were deep in their own end as the crowd started to come to life.  Collins would drop back into the end zone, and Douglas got his hands on him, but Collins broke away, was able to move up in the pocket and fired a deep pass towards no one, which probably could have been a grounding, but the refs let it go.  2nd and 10, Dayne got the carry up the middle, picked his way up the field and actually got the ball out to the 17 yard line, tripped by Emmons, but a big first down by the nose of the football to get out from deep in their own end.  First down, Collins back again, threw an outlet to Barber, which was very close to a lateral, but incomplete.  2nd and 10, a draw to Barber, who was met by Gardner at the 15 and driven back for a loss.  3rd and 12, Collins under center, would call a timeout to talk it over with Sean Payton and Jim Fassel.  After figuring it out, the Giants would fake a handoff to Barber, and Collins would rollout to his right, with no one open, would tuck it away and scramble out to the 18 yard line and out of bounds, no reason to force the ball.  Maynard would come on to punt it away and he would have a horrible effort, a wobbler that would bounce at the 45 and go backwards all the way the 50, downed by Lyle West.  The Giants would have an ineligible man downfield, called on Golden.  The Eagles obviously declined and took the field position.

The Eagles best field position started with a run to Duce going to his left, and he was met by Williams in the backfield for a 2 yard loss.  2nd and 12, we saw a little young McNabb athleticism

Early in his career, McNabb was a more mobile QB.  And the Giants had an unfortunate history of Eagle QBs scrambling around against them in Philly, particularly Randall Cunningham.  In this case, McNabb would have Hamilton bear down on him and dive at his legs, but he was able to avoid him.  And as he got away, he had Peter next looking to hit him, but he avoided the DT, kept his feet, bumped into his offensive lineman and away from a hit by Strahan and up the field, and away from Michael Barrow in open field, and took off to his right and out of bounds at the 35, forced by West, a 17 yard gain and the Eagles first 1st down of the contest.  McNabb would drop back and hit TE Chad Lewis, who had just beaten Barrow and he made a nice one hand grab and was down at the 3 yard line on a great catch, a 31 yard gain.  So Back to back great plays by the Eagles had them set up with a first and goal.  McNabb would fake to Duce and try to roll to his right, but this time the Giants pressure did get to him, as Hamilton came charging in again, which stopped McNabb in his tracks, allowing Strahan and Phillips to come over, and though McNabb flipped the ball away, the Giants were given a sack with control back at the 16 yard line.  2nd and goal at the 16, and McNabb was again under heat, this time from Cedric Jones, who hit him as he was throwing and the ball floated out of bounds in the general direction of Pinkston.  Andy Reid would call a timeout to regroup.  With Duce in motion, the Giants would blitz again, and McNabb would get nailed by Strahan and West, and would fling the ball over the middle, just past a dive by Barrow and incomplete, in the direction of Charles Johnson.  Akers kick would be good from 33 yards out to make the score 6-3 with 5:22 to go in the first half.

Akers kickoff would go to Dixon at the goal line, where he misplayed the ball, as it bounced at his feet and straight up in the air, and would show why he was such a dangerous return man as he accelerated past 4 Eagles converging on him at the 7 yard line and broke into open field, got past a dive attempt by Akers all the way at the 25, hopped past another tackle attempt at the 40 and was finally downed by Ike Reese at the 45.  So the Giants started off in great field position, would begin with a fake to Dayne, and then an end around to Amani Toomer, running to his right.  Toomer would get strung out and cut back into Eagle territory, but a blatant hold on Luke Pettitgout in open field where he choked Carlos Emmons in front of the officials, and the entire stadium, who all saw it happen.  So it made it 1st and 20 at the 35, the Giants shifted formation and gave to Tiki on a quick cut up the middle and he took it out to the 43 yard line, where he took a shot by Moore and hit his head on the concrete “astroturf” at the old Vet, and Tiki stayed on the ground as the Eagle fans predictably gave a little cheer, as is their way.  Back in 2000, there was no concussion protocol, so Tiki came off the field and was checked out by the doctors.  2nd and 12, with Ike Hilliard in the backfield, Collins dropped back, hit Greg Comella at the 42 in the flat, and the fullback got it to the 45, tackled by Gardner.  3rd and 10, Tiki came back in the game, with Collins in the gun, the offensive line stuffed the pass rush, giving the strong armed QB plenty of time to find Dixon on the sidelines at the Eagles’ 40 yard line for a big first down, as the rookie did a Toomer style dragging of his feet to stay in bounds.  First down, Collins faked to Dayne, he got some pressure from his right side from Mike Mamula, and the slow footed Collins was able to avoid him, roll to his right, and just throw the ball away as no one was open.  2nd and 10, the ball went to Dayne, and the first round pick took it up the middle, and cut back to his left, following a nice block by Glenn Parker and a nice crackback on Dawkins by Joe Jurevicius, and took the ball to the outside and plodded his way out to the 27 yard line, pushed out of bounds by Taylor.  First down, the ball again to Dayne, this time he got smacked by Jeremiah Trotter and was hit down after a very short gain.  That would lead to the 2 minute warning as the Giants were driving on a hot day.  2nd and 10, Collins would fake to Dayne and roll to his right, and hit Hilliard coming out of the backfield at the 29 yard line.  Hilliard would avoid Caldwell’s hit up high, spin away, from Trotter and Dawkins, and then get blasted by Caldwell coming back to clean up at the 25.  3rd and 8, with the clock running, the play was stopped to see if Hilliard’s knee went down on the initial hit by Caldwell as the instant replay booth buzzed down.  The decision was to let the play stand.  So again they lined up, and the clock was re-started and the Giants would take advantage of Jim Johnson

The Eagles have been a team that defensively lives by the blitz.  They did it over and over with Buddy Ryan in the 1980s.  The late Jim Johnson, the Eagles defensive coordinator also believed in it.  And when you blitz, if you don’t get there, you are in trouble.  In this case, they blitzed, a linebacker, which was picked up and gave Collins a pocket.  Collins, who had one of the strongest arms in the NFL, backing up and off his backfoot at the 32 yard line, pump faked to get the Eagles defense off balance, and just flicked the ball to Toomer, who burned the Eagles Moore and Al Harris and hauled in the easy TD in the end zone, and proceeded to do his spike celebration where his hand were so good and sticky that he couldn’t get the ball out to spike it and had to use his foot to get it off.  Not bad.  Daluiso’s extra point was good to make the score 13-3 as the Giants were handing it to the Eagles in the first half, keeping the ball for 21:53.

Daluiso’s kickoff went to Mitchell halfway into the end zone and took the knee for a touchback with 1:00 remaining in the half.  McNabb began with a drop back and blitz by the Giants corner, and McNabb dumped it off to Staley at the 18, and the running back took the ball out to the 26 yard line, ridden out of bounds by Jason Sehorn.  With :53 to go, on 2nd and 4, McNabb back, and the pocket collapsed as the QB ran forward and got drilled by Cedric Jones forcing a floater pass which went over Staley’s head for an incompletion.  3rd and 4 with :48 to go, the Giants came on a blitz

The Eagles blitzed on a 3rd down and got burned.  This time John Fox dialed up a blitz from MLB Pete Monty, who was not picked up as he barged though the middle and was ignored by Staley who looked the wrong way and just engulfed McNabb back at the 16 for a big sack.  The Giants called a timeout with :45 to go.  Landeta on to punt, and got off a low, short kick taken by Tiki at the 43 yard line, and he took it to his left, and accelerated past the first line of tacklers and stepped out at the Eagles’ 41 yard line with :35 to go, after a poor 39 yarder by the former Giant All Pro.

The Giants had 1 time out to work with and Collins in the gun, set up a screen as the Eagles again came on a blitz, and dumped it to Barber at the 46, with Parker in front, and Tiki got the ball out to the 38 yard line, where he was forced out of bounds by Trotter with :30 to go.  2nd and 6, Collins found Hilliard across the field at the 36 by the sidelines, Ike avoided Harris, and then took off up the sidelines and made it out to the 31 yard line, and out of bounds for another first down, with :23 to go.  The Vet was dead quiet as Collins was again in the gun and they would go from confusion to concern very quickly.

Talk about a shot to the gut.  The Giants were driving on the Eagles and the defense was looking tired.  Expecting a pass, Sean Payton called for a handoff to Tiki out of the gun, who started by running to his right, read the blocking, and cut back to his left, Emmons missed a tackle, and out by the 23 yard line, followed a block by Toomer and turned up the field, picked up another downfield block by Hilliard on Taylor, turned the corner as Bill Maas was in disbelief of what was going on, and Tiki raced into the end zone.  A smattering of boos in Philly as Tiki’s 31 yard TD run and Daluiso’s extra point, made the score 20-3, while Sean Payton was yukking it up on the sidelines.

Daluiso’s kickoff was a bouncer taken by Stanley Pritchett at the 30, and he got a nice little return, out to the 46 yard line, hit down by Emmanuel McDaniel with :08 to go.  McNabb dropped back, just avoided a sack by Strahan, and uncorked a Hail Mary, at the goal line, which was nearly caught by Todd Pinkston at the goal line, but it just fell incomplete as Sehorn knocked it away.  The half was over, and the fans lustily booed the Eagles off the field as the Giants had a 17 point lead going into the locker room and were in total control.

To start the 2nd half, Daluiso had a short kick that bounced out of bounds at the 10 yard line, which was a penalty and put the ball all the way out to the 40.  With good field position, McNabb started with a drop back and was hit as he threw by Strahan, but got the pass off down the seam to Charles Johnson, who was open, but the ball bounced off his hands near the 34 yard line.  2nd and 10, the Eagles got nailed for an illegal snap penalty on Bubba Miller.  2nd and 15, McNabb threw a quick pass down the line to Johnson, who caught it at the 34 and was hit down immediately by Sehorn and Shaun Williams.  3rd and 16, McNabb back and the Giants brought an all out blitz, which didn’t get there, and the ball went out to Johnson at the Giants’ 49 yard line and a first down, hit down by Sehorn.  First down, fake pitch to Staley and McNabb threw to his right to Johnson at midfield coming across the formation, and he was hit down by Sehorn at the 46.  2nd and 7, McNabb dropped back, had pressure in his face and somehow avoided a sack by Armstead and fired a pass down the field toward Johnson, but it was broken up by Sehorn.  However, behind the play, the Giants defense frustrated by McNabb getting away, had Keith Hamilton drill him for a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty.  With the penalty, the ball moved up to the 31 yard line and a first down, and McNabb would look to check down to his TE Chad Lewis at the 28 yard line, where he was dropped immediately by Armstead.  2nd and 7, again the Eagles would go to the pass, and with Williams coming on a blitz, McNabb would throw the ball out in the flat to Staley at the 26 and the running back would bounce off a hit at his thigh by Armstead, keep his balance, and lunge out to the 20, taken down by Sehorn and Thomas, and good for another first down.  With an empty backfield, McNabb hit Staley on a 3 step drop at the 17 yard line, Staley would get hit and spun down by Lyle West and Michael Barrow at the 14 yard line.  Staley would argue that his knee didn’t hit down and went into the end zone, but the officials would disagree, while the Eagles fireworks committee shot off a celebration too soon.  2nd and 4, Staley took the handoff running to his right, where he was smacked down by Ryan Phillips at the 11.  On 3rd and 1, the Eagles would call a timeout with 9:18 to go in the 3rd.  Andy Reid would go to his Chinese menu of plays and decided to go with a dropback by McNabb, where he rolled to his right and was pressured by Strahan and Armstead and forced him to throw it away.  On 4th and 1, the Eagles brought out David Akers for a field goal, and he banged it through from 29 yards out to make the score 20-6 with 9:09 in the 3rd quarter.  

The Eagles would kickoff to Dixon at the 11, and he would pick his way up the field to the 32 yard line, where he was hit down by the Eagles coverage team.  Collins brought his team out and gave the ball to Dayne up the gut, hit down by Douglas after just a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, with Comella in motion, Collins tried a quick pass to Cross over the middle, and it was broken up by Trotter.  3rd and 8, on a 3 step drop, Collins fired a slant in to Toomer, who got position on Harris at the 40 and lept in the air to snag the ball and fell forward to the 44 yard line and a first down.  Collins would give to Dayne, again up the middle and as he cut to his left, he was hit by Dawkins after just a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, the Eagles came on a run blitz, and actually ran past the initial penetration, and Hollis Thomas took the former Heisman Trophy winner down at the 46.  3rd and 7, Payton came with an interesting play, splitting Tiki out wide and with Hilliard in the backfield, the Collins would give a little shovel pass to Ike, who got beyond another Eagle blitz and took the ball at the 45, followed a good block by Dusty Ziegler and made his way out to the Eagles’ 44 and another first down, hit down by Simon.  On first, Collins dropped back, got pressure from Mamula again, and scrambled out to the 42 yard line, pushed out of bounds by Dawkins.  2nd and 8, Collins would throw a quick out to Toomer down the line at the 42, and the WR would try to dance past Taylor and was taken down at the 39.  3rd and 5, Collins again back, rolled to his right, and hit Toomer by the sidelines at the 30 yard line and out of bounds, but yet another first down.  The clock kept moving, the Eagles defense looked tired after a 10th play on the drive and the crowd was quiet.  So Sean Payton knew it was time to go for the throat

There are times when you go for the knockout and you set up plays and bring in the hammer.  Sean Payton has proven to be an aggressive offensive coach, winning a Super Bowl in New Orleans.  And here in Philly, on a first down, he had Collins drop back, and with no pass rush, lobbed an easy TD pass to Hilliard, who burned Taylor and the rout was on.  Daluiso’s extra point was good to make the score 27-6 with 4:01 to go in the 3rd.  

Daluiso’s kickoff would go to Mitchell at the 8 near the corner, and he took it up to the 32 yard line, hit by Reggie Stephens.  McNabb looking at a 21 point deficit tried to find a way to rally his team, and began with a pass over the middle to Staley at the 36, where he got past Barrow and and made his way to the 46, hit by Thomas and a first down.  With an empty backfield, McNabb dropped the snap, and was in trouble, but the refs blew the play dead on a false start by Staley, making it 1st and 15.  McNabb dropped back, with a blitz coming by the Giants, but was picked up by the offensive line, and the pass was in the direction of Johnson, but harmlessly hit the ground.  2nd and 15, with Barrow coming on a blitz and nailing McNabb just as he dumped it to Staley on a screen at the 37,  and with blockers in front, Duce made his way out to the Giants’ 47 yard line, with Sehorn nearly punching the ball out from behind, hitting him down at the 47.  3rd and 2, McNabb got pressure from Strahan up the gut and lobbed a deep pass down the sidelines to Pinkston, who stopped his route and jumped, as Thomas lost the ball completely, and Pinkston hauled it in at the 24, and pushed out, but good for another first down.  First down, McNabb fired a quick slant to Johnson at the 15 where he was covered up by Sehorn.  2nd and 1, we saw a bit of the young McNabb elusiveness

Here was saw what McNabb was, prior to injuries and age/weight.  While McNabb was never in the Randall Cunningham or Mike Vick scrambling class, he was athletic and quick.  In this case, he dropped back, had some pressure from Strahan, and took off up the middle on a QB draw, broke through the line, spun around a tackle attempt by West at the 11, got away from a last lunge from Barrow and into the end zone.  One thing that never changed however, was McNabb as a jackass, as he went for the layup celebration over the goal post when you are down 3 TDs.  But you can’t change who you are.  Akers’ extra point would end up getting blocked by DT George Williams and kept the score at 27-12 with :56 to go in the 3rd.

Akers kick would go to Dixon at the 3 and he would run it to his left, and find his way out to the 26 and pushed out of bounds.  As he was already out, he took an extra shot from Pritchett, which drew flags from the officials and added 15 more yards and put the ball out at the 45 yard line.  Good discipline Philly, nice job.  So the Giants took the nice field position, and gave to Dayne running to his left, where he was hit down after a 1 yard gain by Simon.  2nd and 9, the Giants let the quarter run out and put it into the 4th.  The Giants would give to Tiki on a draw going to the right, however, the Eagles were in place, but Tiki hunkered down, got lost behind the offensive line, and cut back to his left and followed a block by Dusty Ziegler and took off up the field to the Eagles 44 yard line, hit down by Dawkins, but good for a first down.  With Barber in motion, Collins rolled to his right, and fired to Toomer at the 35 yard line for a 9 yard gain, hit down by Barber.  2nd and 1, following a block by Comella, Dayne plodded to the right side and dragged Hollis Thomas to the 30, but good for another first down as the clock continued to run.  Dayne got the ball again, running to his right and cut back over the middle, but was stuffed for no gain by Trotter.  2nd and 10, a quick trap to Comella up the gut, and he gained 3 yards, taken down by Whiting.  3rd and 7, Collins dropped in the pocket, and off his back foot as he was getting hit, whipped the ball into Hilliard, who was hit close to the marker and pushed backwards by Dawkins, but the Giants were given a rare good spot by the refs, and a first down at the 20.  The Giants went back to Dayne, who just put his head down up the gut and powered forward for 1 yard.  2nd and 9, Dayne took a draw and got smashed in the backfield by Douglas and Mamula for a loss.  3rd and 13, a pitch to Tiki running to his left, but the Eagles read it again and was taken down by Trotter at the 28 yard line, for another loss.  Daluiso came on for a 44 yarder, and he buried it to make the score 30-12 with 8:40 to go.

Daluiso’s kickoff went to Mitchell at the 8, and he was taken down on a form tackle by Reggie Stephens at the 27.  With the clock against them, the Eagles started with a quick pass, and though he got nailed by Cedric Jones as he threw, the ball made it to Damian Douglas at the 30, and he darted his way to the 36 yard line, hit by Thomas and West.  2nd and 1, came a really strange play

Every now and again, you will see and offensive lineman have a shot at a catch.  Most of the time it’s illegal because the QB is throwing it away and the OL happens to be there.  And most times a pass is tipped, the OL’s hands are too wrapped up to do anything with it.  In this case, Hamilton was standing at the line and jumped and looked to knock the pass down (if not pick it off himself), but the ball bounced off one Eagle offensive lineman and then into the hands of Bubba Miller, who snagged it, tucked it away, and chugged out to the 44 yard line, tripped up by Armstead.  McNabb tried a deep shot towards Douglas, which fluttered away and was way incomplete.  Duce took the draw out to the 48 yard line, hit down by Strahan.  On 3rd down, McNabb tried a quick pass over the middle to Luther Broughton, and was nailed by Williams, knocking the ball loose and laid out Broughton.  The Eagles called a timeout with 6:50 to go in the game and looking at a 4th and 6, the Eagles had one last gasp.

And there went the gasp.  McNabb was looking at a delayed blitz, as Armstead came charging in as McNabb dropped back and rolled to his right, Armstead came firing up the field and nailed him for a sack at the 36, and essentially ended the Eagles last hopes with 6:46 to go.

As the Vet crowd started to stream to the exits, the Giants weren’t done piling on, and this time it was another run by Tiki

Pretty much what Tiki had done all day, and the Eagles defense exhausted, Tiki followed a block by Comella running to his right, waited for a lane and then popped through the line, and took off down the sidelines, making it all the way to the 8 yard line, ridden out of bounds by Vincent on a 29 yard carry.  First and goal, Dayne tried to pick his way to the right side, but was bottled up for a loss, but at least kept the clock running.  Dayne got the ball again, and pushed the pile to the 6 yard line.  3rd and goal, the ball went to Tiki on a draw up the middle, and was hit down by Douglas for no gain.  The clock would continue to tick down, and Daluiso trotted out and called a time out with 4:03 to go.  Daluiso would hit the 23 yard chip shot and make the score 33-12 with 3:59 remaining.

Daluiso’s kickoff went to Mitchell at the 13 and he took it to the 36, where he was taken down by a pile of players.  So now officially in garbage time, McNabb, dropped back and was hit down Jones and Strahan right near the line of scrimmage for a short gain.  2nd and 9, the ball was dunked off to Duce at the 38, and he was met immediately by Armstead and Short.  3rd and 7, the Eagles in a hurry up, McNabb, had time, dumped off to Duce at the 42, and he avoided Sehorn in the open field and got to the 47, hit by Monty.  However, a hands to the face on the Eagles wiped out the first down and made it 3rd and 17.  This time McNabb would have time again, roll to his right and fire a strike to Johnson at the 49, and a first down.  First and 10, McNabb tried to Broughton on a seam route, and the ball went through his hands as Short had good coverage down the field.  2nd and 10, McNabb back, with a blitz on, hit Lewis down the middle at the 26 and banged down by West at the 2 minute warning.  First down, McNabb dumped to Duce at the 27 coming across the field, and he got around Short and Monty, and was taken down by Williams at the 15 yard line and a first down, but he didn’t get out of bounds and the clock kept running.  This time McNabb pumped and scrambled up the field and took the ball out of bounds at the 7 yard line, pushed out by Short, but stopped the clock at with 1:25 to go.  2nd and 2, the Eagles made the most of garbage time

With the game well in hand, the Eagles got a textbook window dressing TD, from McNabb to Lewis, who was wide open in the end zone as the Giants blitzed, with Lyle West technically in coverage.  The Eagles would go for 2, and McNabb would roll to his right and try to dump it to Johnson, but Emmanuel McDaniel knocked it down, so the try was no good and the score held at 33-18 with 1:22 to go.

With kickoff coming, the Giants brought on the hands team

Now, this would be a pretty mundane highlight, Akers’ attempting an onside kick, and the Giants recovering it.  But what is interesting is what would come a few months later in the December game vs. the Jaguars.  In this case, Akers kick bounced up in the air, and the Giants front line didn’t wait for the ball, but rather ran up and created a pile with the on rushing Eagles.  That left a clear path for Sehorn to wait for the ball and jump and catch it.  Sehorn would run across the field and backwards towards the 45, but with some Eagles in his path, he would slide down at the 47.  If you go back and review the highlights of the Giants vs Jaguars game, the same exact thing happened, only this time, Sehorn took off with the ball for a TD.  We got a little pre-cursor here.  With 1:17 to go, it was time for the victory formation, and handshakes, but not before Andy Reid decided to use his final timeout with 1:10 to go, just to annoy everyone.  2 more kneel downs would officially end the game, and made the Giants 2-0 for the first time since 1994 with an impressive 33-18 win.

Interesting tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • This win made Jim Fassel 7-0 vs. the Eagles. He would go on to beat them 3 times in 2000, including the 2nd round of the playoffs at Giants Stadium.
  • His first loss didn't come until 2001, in a heart breaking 10-9 loss on a Monday Night, following a 15-14 loss at the Rams the week before.
  • While Fassel owned the Eagles early, from 2001-2003, he went 1-5.
  • The last Giant coach to beat a team 3 times in one season? Bill Parcells, who beat the Redskins 3 times, including in the NFC Championship Game in 1986 by the score of 17-0.
  • Ron Dixon had his first NFL catch in this game and only caught 6 passes his rookie year. In his 3 year career Dixon only had 36 catches.
  • Dixon was known for his speed and as a kick returner. He prevented a shut out in the 2000 Super Bowl, returning a kickoff 97 yards for a TD. But he first burned the Eagles in the Divisional round, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a TD in a 20-10 win.
  • Dixon also nearly burned the Eagles in 2001. Trailing 24-21 with only a few seconds remaining, the Giants ran the "Lambuth Special", a variation of the hook and ladder named after Dixon's alma mater. Collins dumped the ball off to Tiki over the middle, who drew in the Eagles defenders. Dixon came sprinting over from the right side and caught the lateral heading to his left, and had a convoy of blockers in front. Dixon sprinted up the field, with no time on the clock and you could actually hear the crowd at the Vet go silent in horror as they watched him run. Dixon made it all the way down to the 3 yard line, a 62 yard gain, before he was tripped up short of the goal line. The Eagles won the NFC East.
  • Pete Monty registered the first sack of his career in this game. His 2nd, and final, NFL sack also came in 2000, in a 13-6 win at Atlanta.
  • The Giants had their running game of "Thunder (Ron Dayne) and Lightning (Tiki Barber)" It was revealed that the fullback, Greg Comella also had a nickname..."The Cloud". Because before Lightning or Thunder, you need a cloud. Yes, sometimes this stuff gets stupid.
  • "The Cloud"'s 16 yard run in this game would turn out to be a career long. He would rush for 66 yards in his 7 year career.
  • Ike Hilliard's TD was the 2nd and final one vs. the Eagles in his career in 15 games vs. the birds. His only other one came in 1999 on a 9 yard TD from Kent Graham in a 16-15 win at Giants Stadium.
  • The Eagles punter was Sean Landeta, the long time NY Giant who won 2 Super Bowls with them in 1986 and 1990. Landeta returned "home" so to speak, as his professional career actually began with the USFL's Philadelphia Stars, before the league folded and he joined the Giants.
  • Duce Staley, who ripped the Cowboys for 201 yards the week before, had a slightly less productive day, rushing for 11 yards on 7 carries. Duce played the Giants 13 times in his career and only went over 100 yards rushing once, when he rushed for 126 yards in a 17-3 win at Philly in 2002. Duce actually only rushed for more than 65 yards just 3 times vs. the Giants.
  • While Jim Fassel and Andy Reid both would make 1 Super Bowl trip as head coach, and both lose, there were several assistants who went on to take teams to the Super Bowl as the head man. John Fox, the Giants defensive coordinator, would take the Panthers and Broncos to the Super Bowl, and lost both times. The Giants offensive coordinator, Sean Payton, would take the Saints to the Super Bowl in 2009 and beat the Colts. Meanwhile, the Eagles Special Teams coordinator, John Harbaugh, would lead the Baltimore Ravens to the 2012 championship, beating his brother Jim, who coached the 49ers.
  • The man calling play by play in this game was Sam Rosen, known more for his work on MSG Network as the voice of the New York Rangers hockey team.