To lead it off, here is a short video. Just wait for the Brian Dawkins segment right before the end. No words...
Ten observations, in no specific order, from the victory:
1. Just in general, this team wins despite its flaws. The offense stalls, turnovers mount, and games get ugly. In end, however, the 2008 Eagles show grit, confidence, and steely resolve to win when the going gets tough. They have nothing to lose and this playoff run feels unlike any of the others over the past decade. The Phillies displayed the same qualities during their unforgettable postseason run. Signs of a champion indeed.
2. Yet again, Asante Samuel came through in the clutch. He has proved he is worth every penny of his contract, as he continues to add to an impressive playoff resume. You couldn't help but see his added desire to beat the same Giants who conquered his undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII last February. Twelve months later, the ultimate trophy is within Samuel's yet again.
3. There is now little doubt that the Eagles' defense is a Super Bowl-caliber unit capable of carrying an above average offense to a championship. We must acknowledge the multiple third and short and fourth and short situations late in the game where the defense turned back Eli and the running attack time and again. Under normal circumstances, we would expect the Eagles to give in and let up a first-down or two in these situations. For whatever reason, you now feel like they can make the stop when the pressure's on to secure a win.
4. Were my eyes deceiving me or did Reid and McNabb execute an impressive 2:00 minute drill at the end of the first half? After struggling to move the ball for two quarters, the Eagles abandoned any thoughts of running the ball and took to the skies. The drive included all the necessities: completions to the sidelines, no-huddle schemes, and obvious urgency by the offense. If Reid has devoted some practice time to this long-neglected subject, god bless him; the Birds may need it the coming weeks.
5. Here's to David Akers! He maintained his resurgence and won the kicker's duel over the Giant's Carney. On a day he went 3/3 (his counterpart was 3/5), Akers proved that his rough history at Giants Stadium is a thing of the past.
6. Yes, I know Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring, but anyone who thinks he is better than Donovan McNabb is joking. Although I understand that McNabb will have that "good but not great" aura until he wins it all, his pose and persistence on Sunday afternoon were noteworthy. Sure, his statistics were not particularly strong, but when it counted most late in the game he came up big while Manning bowed to the pressure.
One play that stands in my mind came with about 13:00 minutes to play in the third quarter. The Eagles trailed 11-10 and were stuck deep inside their own territory at the 15-yard line. In shotgun formation on 3rd and 20, McNabb dropped back and quickly came under pressure from the Giants offensive line. He dodged a tackle or two and stepped up to throw downfield, gunning a pass to an open Jason Avant. Avant, about eight yards short of the first-down marker, turned up-field and raced forward, maintaining the drive for the Eagles. The play was vintage McNabb, a nice reminder that the quarterback can still perform some magic.
Some info from the Eagles Blog over at Philly.com:
In the NFC, you have Donovan McNabb, who will be playing in his fifth NFC Championship Game and has been to one Super Bowl. Only four QBs in NFL history have started more than five conference championship games. They are Joe Montana (7), Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, and John Elway (6 each). With five, McNabb will join Tom Brady and Jim Kelly. Only seven QBs have started in more playoff victories than McNabb’s nine. They are Montana (15); Bradshaw, Brady, and Elway (14); Brett Favre and Staubach (12); and Troy Aikman (11).On a lighter note, was anyone else confused about McNabb's improvised "phone call" on the Giant's sideline? It looked like he was having a good time with it, but I still don't understand who or what he was mocking, or why it was funny. Someone needs to let me in on the secret.
7. The Eagles must limit their penalties next week against the Cardinals. Eight flags for a total of 61 yards is far too costly.
8. How many of us followed McNabb's long strike to Kevin Curtis through the air, ready to erupt in joy as the Eagles receiver sprinted past the cornerback with an open path to the endzone? How many more screamed out in agony and frustration as an easy reception fell to the turf? Luckily, Curtis made up for his drop with critical catches on subsequent scoring drives.
9. Strangely enough, there were no recorded sacks, for either McNabb or Manning, for the entire game. None. With all the blitzing packages, that is a big surprise.
Wild Card Weekend: 2-2
Wins: Ravens, Eagles
Losses: Chargers (my pick: Colts), Cardinals (my pick: Falcons)
Divisional Weekend: 2-2
Wins: Eagles, Steelers
Losses: Cardinals (my pick: Panthers), Ravens (my pick: Titans)
With my predicted Super Bowl teams left in the final four, I have to stick with them...
Ravens @ Steelers- Steelers 14-10- Big Ben and the Steelers hold off the Raven's hungry defense to march to their second Super Bowl appearance in four years. The Ravens only manage to force one turnover, but rookie QB Joe Flacco throws two interceptions and loses a fumble.
Eagles @ Cardinals- Eagles 34-20- McNabb has a brilliant performance, throwing 3 TD, one each to DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, and Kevin Curtis. Westbrook and Buckhalter share the load on the ground. Kurt Warner and the vaunted Cardinals receiving core put up some points, but the Eagles shut down their running game allowing the secondary to sit back for two interceptions.
Eagles- 1960...2009 (upside down?)
Hey, we can all believe.
Just win and let's head to Tampa...