Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
The memory is etched in the minds of every Giants defender. But just for good measure, they kept a picture of the moment hanging in their locker room this past offseason.
The Eagles had taken control of last January's divisional playoff game when quarterback Donovan McNabb decided to have a little fun at the expense of the Giants. Following an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter, McNabb stepped out of bounds and then grabbed one of the phones to the Giants' coaches' box.
Even stoic Eagles coach Andy Reid had a laugh about the incident following the game, but the Giants failed to see the humor. In a part of the locker room that is off limits to reporters, a large color photo of McNabb's impromptu phone call has served as a reminder of that bitter feeling from the playoffs. But with Sunday's division game against the Giants looming in Philly, McNabb isn't serving up apologies. In fact, he's still laughing about his sideline act.
"Verizon wasn’t working," McNabb said. "There was nothing over there."
Honestly, it's not like the Giants should need extra motivation for Sunday's game. After a 5-0 start, they've dropped consecutive games to the Saints and Cardinals. Three weeks ago, a lot of us thought they were one of the best teams in the league. Now they're in a fight to stay atop what's looking like an overrated NFC East. The Giants haven't had a three-game losing streak since their infamous second-half collapse in '06. That team was 6-2 at the midway point before dropping four consecutive games. The '06 season ended with a 23-20 playoff loss to the Eagles -- and coach Tom Coughlin's job was in jeopardy.
Because of their Super Bowl title in '07 and division title in '08, the Giants get the benefit of the doubt after losses. But a three-game losing streak would bring scrutiny that hasn't been felt since that '06 season. Quarterback Eli Manning might be a made man in the Meadowlands based on his Super Bowl MVP, but he's played like a chump the past two games. He needs to be a lot sharper Sunday for the Giants to have a chance to win. All the pre-snap gyrations have become a little much, so maybe he should simply focus on beating the play clock.
The good thing for the Giants is that their rivalry with the Eagles is a separate entity from games against non-division teams. Because of the Giants' proximity to the Eagles in the Northeast, I think the Giants will be able to put some of the distractions (injuries) aside and focus on winning a game. This is supposed to be one of the best bounce-back teams in the league, but they certainly didn't respond last Sunday night against the Cardinals. Perhaps the sight of Mr. Telephone Man will be enough to get the Giants going. McNabb has been awful against the blitz -- 4-of-19 for 40 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- and I think Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan will bring the heat Sunday.
"It sits pretty heavy on us," Giants linebacker Danny Clark said of McNabb's prank call.
But I'm with McNabb on this one. These are two teams trying to establish some sort of identity. The last thing that anyone needs to be thinking about is a phone call that was placed last January.
"No, I don’t have any regrets for doing it," McNabb told Giants beat writers on a conference call Wednesday. "But in this game, do you really need any psychological motivation? I don’t think so. This is a game you dream about playing and you love competing -- no matter who you play. We’ve played each other for years and I don’t think you need any type of motivation to play this game. If you need any little thing that happened during a game last year or years before, then really you’re not truly focused on week in and week out trying to be the best at what you do."
And it's not like the Eagles are the same team that beat the Giants twice in a one-month span last season. They've had to rotate several offensive linemen because of injuries, and they feature a middle linebacker who was playing for the Rams two weeks ago. Oh, and there's a pretty good chance star running back Brian Westbrook will miss the game with a concussion.
The Giants based at least one expensive offseason move (LB Michael Boley) on the fact that Westbrook exposed their lack of speed at linebacker last season. With Boley and Westbrook both expected to miss Sunday's game, it will be up to Eagles rookie running back LeSean McCoy to try and expose the Giants' linebackers. He's shown flashes this season, but he's not as dangerous as Westbrook at this point.
This is a huge game for two teams that appear to have some serious flaws. And the Giants are hoping McNabb won't be able to answer the call this time around.