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Eagles Triumphant on Brian Dawkins Night

Dawkins played the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field as well as he'd ever played the game, inspiring everyone in an Eagles jersey to embrace his trademark enthusiasm.

It was the type of game Brian Dawkins relished: a gut-check victory in which heavyweights traded haymakers, with the defenses winning on all scorecards.

But neither this game nor any future game would ever feature an Eagles #20 on the scorecard—not that any player within the franchise would want that burden.

The most beloved athlete ever seen in Philadelphia fired up the simmering crowd at Lincoln Financial Field with a retirement ceremony that was as intense and inspired as was his entire career.

Dawkins reenacted all his signature warm-up rituals for the salivating thousands: his crawl out of the tunnel, his rendition of the Eagles' fight song and his run through the Eagles line. All harkened back to his frenzy-inspiring play.

When the contest went down to the wire (and then a little past it), everyone watching had to be thinking the same thing.

Not tonight.

Not in front of B-Dawk.

In the final moments, the goalposts framed the collective, exposed hearts of the Eagles fanbase. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes took aim twice and misfired twice. Eagles fans breathed a deep sigh of relief Sunday night—and then did so again.

It was the kind of game won by a team with heart the likes of which Eagles fans have not seen since Dawkins himself last roamed the grass at Lincoln Financial Field.

Last things first

The Eagles kicked a field goal to take a tenuous, 2-point lead with less than two minutes to play. The Giants returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 36-yard line, and then drove into field goal range, aided by two pass interference penalties—one completely bogus, another questionable.

Officials then flagged Giants receiver Ramses Barden for offensive pass interference when Barden half-tackled Nnamdi Asomugha by the head. The ten-yard pushback forced Tynes out of a more comfortable distance, and the Giants elected to try a 54-yard attempt on 3rd down despite having fifteen seconds (but no timeouts) left with which to work.

The kick sailed wide left badly, but fans' celebrations screeched to a halt when it was revealed Andy Reid had called a timeout just before the kick. The potential of losing in such disastrous fashion was palpable. The second kick was right down the middle but just feet short, and the celebrations began again amid adrenaline- fueled palpatations.

To lose because of an “icing” gone bad, bad special-teams coverage and a questionable officiating call would have been a bitter pill to swallow. Twisting the knife in the Giant’s back twice was that much sweeter.

Trench warfare

The first half was a tale of two defenses, both of which were too strong for the offenses they opposed. Both teams' ferocious pass-rushers were neutralized early by numerous holding penalties. For as little as the Giants achieved rushing the football, the Eagles did nothing.

The dams were pierced slightly before halftime, with the teams accounting for ten points in the final 2 minutes of the second quarter, but nothing was easy for either offense on this night.

The Giants' run defense seemed glued shut, closing the holes Leshean McCoy targeted before he got there. Uncharacteristically, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg kept pouring water on the seals in the form of McCoy, until that glue gave way in the second half and he gashed them for 121 yards on 17 carries, adding to his first-half totals of 2 yards on six carries.

The Eagles did something else uncharacteristic: they took care of the football. The only turnover of the game was an Eli Manning pass intercepted in the end zone by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie—a huge play.

Commiting to the running game kept the Giants' vaunted pass rush at bay. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick looked much more comfortable, relaxed and decisive in the pocket than he has been at any time this season. Maybe there is some credence to his claim that missing the preseason accounted for his rustiness; he has to play more than one clean game to prove it.

Just as important was the return of Vick’s missing running ability. He looked more spry last night than he had all season. He turned the corner and ran at the right times, so mea culpa on last week's proclamation that he can no longer run effectively. When Vick is able to run, it loosens up the defense for the route-runners, which showed throughout the game.

The balanced play-calling helped Vick immensely. The Eagles' two best games of the year by far were against the Giants and the Ravens, and this balance was prevalent in both contests, approaching a 50-50 split. When the Eagles' offense skews badly towards passing this season, they've beaten a bad team by a single point (Week One in Cleveland) and gotten hammered (Week Three in Arizona).

The Weapon X mentality

The Eagles defense acquitted itself very well again, holding the high-powered Giants offense to 17 points and a 50 percent Red Zone conversion rate (including the DRC endzone interception). They held the Giants to a paltry 57 yards rushing as compared with their own 191 yards on the ground.

The Eagles were almost undone by their Red Zone futility and poor kickoff coverage. Alex Henery deserves a thumbs-up for his four field goals, but they almost were not enough. Time and again, returner David Wilson ran through gaping lanes to give the Giants offense a short field. The Eagles' defense did a great job managing it, but special teams aces, Colt Anderson and Akeem Jordan, cannot return from injury soon enough.

For a fan-base that loves defense, last year’s “soft” play on that side of the ball was painful to watch. This year’s group, so far, has shown signs it can become a top unit fans can be proud to root on. Andy Reid noted the importance of Demeco Ryans' leadership on the Giants' final drive.

The difference between Demeco Ryans at MLB and last year’s starter, Casey Matthews, is a microcosm of the entire defensive units from those two seasons. Last year’s defense knew how to lose games in the fourth quarter. In 2012, this defense preserved three leads in tight games under difficult circumstances.

Giants receiver Victor Cruz had a good game and did his obnoxious “salsa touchown dance” after he slithered into the end zone. As Lawrence Tynes' second field goal attempt fell short, every Eagles fan wanted to say to Cruz, "The music’s stopped. You lost, sit down."

It is early, but the Eagles now occupy first place in the NFC East. With a difficult game upcoming in Pittsburgh, Sunday's victory was almost a must-win, and win they did: with character, heart and just a little luck.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary B October 02, 2012 at 08:42 PM
The Birds and Gnats game is a continuing example of how you finish is what matters, ergo New York couldn't close, the Eagles win. And I agree with Vick's comment after the game about icing the kicker. There is no 'truth' to method of 'icing' a kicker anyways and more importantly, if something goes awry, you only give the team yet another attempt for the score and possibly a victory.
Mike Diviney October 02, 2012 at 09:00 PM
This from a guy who wears a Mark Bavaro jersey? That's not over? Wearing that isn't weird? Don't want to hear about your predictions of future splits. The split now is Eagles 1-0, Giants 0-2, Cowboys- who cares, they're not very good. Have some Phil!
Mike Diviney October 02, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Agree 100% on the need to remain balanced. The D is back to being one of the best in the NFL- although still a work in progress- GREAT to see. McCoy is awesome.
Mike Diviney October 02, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Yeah, I agree. I'd like to see a state on how often "icing" the kicker works. Basically gives the guy a practice shot. Especially on long FG's, I'd stay away from that from now on. GREAT WIN!!
Mike Diviney October 02, 2012 at 09:16 PM
See the picture above dumbass. Doesn't look like he's in street clothes there, does it?
Phil McConkey October 02, 2012 at 10:22 PM
just relooked at the picture. He's wearing football gloves and he's not even playing in the game. Weirdo
Sean McCullen October 02, 2012 at 10:43 PM
We can only hope B-Dawk goes onto be the stellar human being Lawrence Taylor has been in retirement. Please. LT is a weirdo. B-Dawk is the man.
Sean McCullen October 02, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Not to mention Tynes rushed onto the field after a few seconds of indecision on the Giants sideline. I personally would never "ice" the kicker. Definitely not on a 53-, 54-yard attempt as the kicking team scrambles to get set.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Sean, I hope you leave "Any Given Sunday" out of that equation. Because I love me some Shark.
Bo October 03, 2012 at 06:00 AM
You must not let him get that practice shot in kicking it between the uprightsif you wanna pull that move, God love Andy, but again with questionable time mgt skills, but it didnt hurt us in the end. I to wonder what that stat is when a coach burns a time out, which he won't get a chance to use, with the opposing team's FG kicker on the field and under 10 seconds left in the game.
Mike Diviney October 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Bo, agreed questionable decision by Andy, but it had nothing to do with time management at all. I would like to see a stat on how effective "icing" is- haven't been able to find it yet.
Mike Diviney October 03, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Agreed- no icing on long FG's. I think Coughlin really made a mistake. With 15 seconds left and a pretty good QB who's used to playing in tight games, I would let him go to a sideline route to pick up another 8-10 yards. As it turned out, 3 yards would've done it. Fortunately, they didn't and the Giants went up the t-pike losers.
Reed Rothchild October 03, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Regardless of the rings Eli has, he is and always will be a sad faced fraud. Am I biased. Yes. He could win a handful of Superbowls and is still 1/10th of the man Brian Dawkins was, is, and will be remembered. #20!!! Kudos to the Eagles for making amends to their worst decision in the Andy Reid era and presenting a purely electrifying and classy ceremony for a living LEGEND. Another good piece Mike. Party all the time
Mike Diviney October 03, 2012 at 07:25 PM
That's great! The Eagles organization did a first class job of mostly erasing the worst decision they ever made. B-Dawk got what he deserved, topped off by a thrilling Birds win.
Mike Diviney October 03, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Sunday night shows again that if you have a good team- on both sides of the ball- which the Eagles now have, it will win most games if the WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE. The Eagles outgained the Giants, had more first downs and greater time of possession. If they hadn't gotten the INT or if they'd given it away, even once, they would have lost the game. That's what it's ALL about.
Larry O'Doyle October 03, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I don't even consider what Andy did as an "icing". It's more like throwing an ice cube on to the field right before he kicks and hoping he slips. It's senseless and ridiculus in any situation let alone a 54 yarder. Anyway, the tribute to Brian Dawkins was emotional, electrifying and more than well deserved. From the moment I stepped from my silver deathsled to walk towards the Linc to the moment satisfied Birds' fans flocked to the exits there was never a moment when there was not a #20 emblazoned somewhere in my field of vision. Seeing Dawk crawl from the tunnel was incredible but seeing him circle back into it was bittersweet. The halftime show was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Between the celebration of music, highlights, and neon green laser show in honor of our legend, it was clear we all greatly appreciated the exceptional passion and spirit of this very rare Bird, and this was one night when one man was greater than the team. HALLELUAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Mike Diviney October 04, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Wow, well stated Larry. Icing does work sometimes, but I hope they create some sort of rule to stop that whole thing- makes for a disjointed end- always have to see if the HC called timeout or not. Regarding your comments on B-Dawk, all I can say is that I concur because you said it all.
Larry O'Doyle October 05, 2012 at 02:37 AM
What's your feeling on this clash with the Steelers? I think the key for the Birds is to keep it close early and try to steal it in the end. Wouldn't mind taking a few shots deep early to test their suspicious secondary. I am wary of the Haley factor after the brilliant gameplan he concocted in the NFC Championship a few years back.
Mike Diviney October 05, 2012 at 03:41 AM
My feeling is that these are NOT the normal Steelers. They haven't had a RB go over 43 yds this season and last 2 weeks, their top rusher has been under 28 yds. It looks like a bad spot- at Pitt, they're 1-2, coming off a bye, but I just don't think they're as good as usual. If the Eagles can avoid the MNF hangover/emotional win let down, they win the game outright.
Mike Diviney October 05, 2012 at 03:44 AM
A lot hinges on the health of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Status for both still up in the air last I checked. If they play, it'll be tougher, but I have a good feeling about this game- and not just because I'm a fan- I don't alway have a good feeling.
Mike Diviney October 05, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Last thing for now, but the Steelers are ranked 3rd in the NFL against the pass. They're 14th against the run. Obvious conclusion is that the Eagles need to be balanced and run effectively to help their cause.
Reed Rothchild October 05, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Eagles will score at will. Rapethisberger and the Steelers will be further exposed as a non-contender this season. Birds 35, Steelers 10.
Mike Diviney October 05, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Whoah Reed! I hope you're right, but the Steelers rarely fall apart like that, although I do think they're down this year, at least until they find a running game. It seems they'll be like the Giants- unable to run the ball and therefore, reliant on the pass. The Eagles D-line has played well, but HAS to get more sacks. Force their QB into enough mistakes because he has no running game. Eli didn't make too many but he made enough and the Eagles have to make Roeth do the same thing.
Mike Diviney October 05, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Not nearly enough buzz for huge win over the Giants. Winning this one will really galvanize the fan base to where we should be. GO BIRDS!!!
Gary B October 05, 2012 at 08:42 PM
It would be nice to see the game get a little chippy. Hopefully this week's earlier trash talking might plant the seed..although it was just directed at Boykin, I doubt much will come of it. still, I'm hoping the D gets nasty and sets a tone ....sighs...oh how I long for yester years ..lol
Phil McConkey October 07, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Steelers 28 Eagles 10. talk of Vick benching on Monday
Mike Diviney October 07, 2012 at 04:09 PM
What a p you are Phil. You try to lay low all week after the Birds beat up the Gints and send them packing- this after your drivel about Mark Bavaro and a guaranteed Giants win- then you pick against the Eagles the next week when they're playing another team. Even if the Eagles did lose, they'd still be in 1st place, looking down on the Gints. That being said, I don't see it- feeling good today. GO BIRDS!!!
Phil McConkey October 08, 2012 at 12:39 AM
recap? Vick fumbles? he he still your man?
Mike Diviney October 08, 2012 at 01:09 AM
You're such a P man. I didn't hear peep from u last Sunday nite. Yeah, you really had it scoped Phil with 28-10- great call. Don't love Vick, but he is captaining a 1st place team so I'd say yeah, gotta stick with him.
jblaze October 08, 2012 at 02:32 AM
For the most part the eagles D looked solid again. not so much for the Giants. Weeden didn't do anything against our D and either did Richardson but they looked like pro bowlers against the lowely Giants and there swiss cheese defense............B dawkins is the man and would love him to eventually coach our d-backs one day

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