Eagles show they can win another way

Michael Vick and the Eagles struggled at times, but made plays when they needed to. Howard Smith/US Presswire

PHILADELPHIA -- The only problem with Michael Vick having one of the best nights in league history is that it set up a pretty obvious letdown. But only six days removed from humiliating the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback did something Sunday that in some ways was more impressive.

He watched his gifted wide receivers drop passes in the end zone and made a few gaffes of his own, but he found a way to lead the Eagles to a 27-17 comeback win over the New York Giants. This was a game the Eagles could've easily lost after squandering opportunities in the red zone and allowing the Giants (6-4) to take the lead in the fourth quarter. But miracle of miracles, the Eagles turned to a running play to save the day and take sole possession of first place in the NFC East at 7-3. They may have won style points for dismantling the Redskins last Monday, but the win over the Giants gives the Eagles more credibility and makes them one of the top teams in the NFC.

The Giants made Vick seem mortal throughout much of the second half. Defensive end Justin Tuck fought through a double-team to strip the ball from Vick when he got careless early in the fourth quarter. And the Giants scored two plays later to take a 17-16 lead. The Eagles began the ensuing drive at their 10-yard line after a penalty, and their quarterback delivered a stern message.

"He said we need to get together and stop playing around," said Jason Avant, the normally sure-handed receiver who dropped a pass in the back of the end zone in the first half. "Mike said it was not acceptable."

Vick led the Eagles to the 50-yard line, but he misfired on a third-and-1 play with 4:38 left in the game. In typical Eagles fashion, they ran the play out of the shotgun with an empty backfield. But on fourth-and-1, the Giants were convinced that Vick would run the ball. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg knew the Giants were going to blitz, so he called "39 Crunch," which requires Vick to turn around and toss the ball left to LeSean McCoy.

To that point in the game, McCoy had only 13 yards on the ground. Vick bobbled the snap, which seemed to sort of freeze the defense for a moment. He tossed the ball to McCoy just past the outstretched hands of defensive end Osi Umenyiora and the running back followed the blocks of Jason Peters and Todd Herremans all the way to the end zone. McCoy said he quickly noticed that Giants linebacker Michael Boley was the only one blocking his path and he said the player “was too big to catch him.”

“I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw all that green,” said McCoy.

He finished the game with 14 carries for 111 yards and helped ice the win with a 40-yard run off left tackle. While reporters staked out McCoy's locker, Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson encouraged them to instead talk about the defense’s performance. And it wasn’t a bad idea considering the Eagles picked off Eli Manning three times and also recovered two fumbles. Cornerback Asante Samuel continued to be the Manning family’s worst nightmare with two more interceptions. He now has four interceptions against the Manning brothers this season, and he'll have one more crack at Eli.

“It was awesome for me,” he said. “I know they’re competitors. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. They’re Pro Bowlers, Hall of Famers, one of them and one making his way, so it’s a lot of respect.”

Vick was 24-of-38 for 258 yards and he ran for a 4-yard touchdown. He struggled against a good defense, but I think it will help him down the road. The Eagles could’ve easily collapsed after quickly giving up a 16-3 lead, but they made some huge plays down the stretch and then benefited from Manning’s inexplicable decision not to slide after he’d run for a first down late in the fourth quarter. This is the type of win that can help the Eagles as they push toward the playoffs.

“It’s an important game,” said coach Andy Reid. “They’re all important, but this part of it, we needed to do. The guys buckled down and they all trusted each other. You saw the offense cheering for the defense, and the defense cheering for the offense. They weren’t hanging their heads. They kept battling, and I’m proud of them for that.”