The Eagles beat the Giants 45–38 last night. This means that, technically, had the Giants scored just one more touchdown, they could have forced overtime and placed the fate of the game in the hands of the coin-flip gods. And what chances they had: Eli Manning fumbled a ball at the Eagles’ fifteen after an ill-advised flop/dive maneuver (paging Joe Girardi!). Michael Boley mishandled what he thought was an incomplete Donovan McNabb pass in Eagles territory, then (along with everyone else on the field) allowed the live ball to lay on the turf until officials incorrectly stopped play. And there was Mario Manningham stepping out of bounds on a would-be touchdown, forcing the Giants to waste 50 valuable seconds for the score that would bring them within seven late in the fourth quarter.
But you get the sense that, had any or all of these plays been executed, the Eagles would have still found a way to win. The Giants led this game for a grand total of fifteen seconds, from the extra point following Domenik Hixon’s 61-yard touchdown reception until DeSean Jackson’s own 60-yard touchdown on the subsequent drive. (We’re not sure why McNabb didn’t throw deep to Jackson more often. Philly could have scored 100 points, and he could have done some more idiotic dancing.) The importance of this game had been well documented, and Dallas’s loss earlier in the day meant first place was up for grabs. It turned out to be wilder (and weirder) than anyone could have imagined. The Eagles didn’t play a perfect game, but neither did the Giants. Wild-card race, here we come.
We’d love to focus on the things they did right: three for four in the Red Zone, Hakeem Nicks’s nifty spin move (albeit after dropping a wide-open pass just plays earlier), and a whopping 512 yards of total offense. But it’s too late in the season to worry about anything but wins and losses. The defense allowed four touchdowns, and that’s too many even when the opponent doesn’t also add scores off of a punt return and a fumble return. (The Giants hadn’t allowed either of those all year, so their timing, as always, is impeccable.)
We suppose the defense deserves the lion’s share of the blame, but four lost fumbles and 45 points allowed aren’t the fault of a single person, or even a single coach. It was just one of those games. It’s become one of those seasons.