In the last two seasons, Eagles fans have been truly blessed with three of the most memorable quarters in franchise history.
The Eagles exploded in the second and third quarter against Dallas in the 2008 season finale. They dominated the Redskins in the first quarter of a Monday Night game in 2010. And they overcame an enormous deficit against the Giants near the end of 2010.
They came against our three divisional opponents, the three most hated teams in the league by Philadelphia fans.
The Eagles outscored these three teams 97-0 in a span of 33:51. Dominate doesn’t even begin to describe what the Eagles did to the Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants. They just destroyed these teams. They humiliated them.
It’s almost impossible to do so, and it’s purely for fun, but I’m going to try to compare the three peaks of each game to determine the best.
For the Dallas game, we’re going from 2:09 in the second quarter to 6:04 in the third quarter (11:05). In the Redskins game, we’re tracking until 14:54 was left in the second quarter (15:06). And the Giants game includes the last 7:40 of the game.
I compared them in offense, defense, special teams, the importance of the game, and the overall play.
I listed the games from best to worst for each category.
Giants: Three of the Eagles’ four touchdowns were offensive scores and two came from long drives in a must-score situation. Brent Celek started things with a 65-yard touchdown. Vick provided a sensational 35-yard run on the next drive, which ended with a 4-yard Vick rushing touchdown. And Vick drove the Eagles 88 yards in 2:50 with no timeouts, highlighted by 35 and 22 yard runs by Vick and a 13-yard game-tying touchdown to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 left. The Eagles drove 75 yards in two plays in 49 seconds, 57 yards in five plays in 2:00, and 88 yards in eight plays in 1:45. That’s 220 yards in 15 plays (14.7 yards per play) in 4:34 with the game on the line.
Washington: All 35 points scored by the Eagles were offensive scores. DeSean Jackson caught an 88-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. Michael Vick rushed for a seven-yard touchdown. LeSean McCoy caught an 11-yard touchdown. Jerome Harrison weaved his way through the Redskins’ secondary for a 50-yard touchdown. And Jeremy Maclin provided a spectacular falling grab for a 45-yard touchdown. In all, they scored touchdowns on each of their first five possessions, traveling 323 yards on 18 plays (17.9 yards per play).
Dallas: The Eagles scored 34 points in a span of 11 minutes and 5 seconds to completely put the game away and clinch the final wild-card spot in the postseason. But ‘only’ 20 points were scored by the offense. Correll Buckhalter caught a four-yard touchdown pass. Brent Celek caught a one-yard touchdown pass after great field position. And Akers added a 50-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, and a 41-yard field goal in the middle of the third quarter.
Dallas: With a 17-3 lead, Sheldon Brown intercepted Tony Romo and returned it 23 yards to put the Eagles in position for a touchdown right before halftime. In the third quarter, Brian Dawkins sacked Tony Romo, forcing a fumble, which defensive end Chris Clemons picked up and returned for a 73-yard touchdown. Three minutes later, Dawkins stripped Marion Barber at the two-yard line. Cornerback Joselio Hanson scooped up the ball and returned it 96 yards untouched for the Eagles’ second defensive touchdown. And two minutes later, defensive tackle Trevor Laws strip-sacked Romo, and linebacker Omar Gaither recovered the fumble.
Giants: The Eagles made stands when they needed the ball back. Although the Giants traveled 25 yards on seven plays, bringing the clock from 5:28 to 2:25, the Eagles forced an incompletion from Eli Manning on 3rd and 8 from the Eagles’ 40 when a first down would have either ran out the clock or allowed the Giants to score the clinching field goal. And the Eagles’ defense was spectacular on the final Giants’ drive, forcing two Manning incompletions, the second of which safety Quintin Mikell almost intercepted, and collecting a third down sack to get the ball back.
Washington: The Eagles forced four consecutive three-and-outs by the Redskins defense. They held the Redskins to 23 yards on 12 plays, an incredible 1.9 yards per play. And safety Kurt Coleman intercepted McNabb on the game’s second drive, putting the Eagles in excellent position for their third touchdown.
Giants: Two important plays on special teams helped win this game. Kicker David Akers executed a beautiful onside kick, which Riley Cooper recovered. The Eagles incredibly used just 10 men on the field in a successful attempt to trick the Giants. And on the game’s final play, DeSean Jackson returned Matt Dodge’s punt 65 yards for a walkoff touchdown, the first of its kind in NFL history. Receiver Jason Avant deserves lots of praise for his crushing block on Giants’ long snapper Zak DeOssie, which resulted in a mild concussion.
Dallas: Quintin Demps stripped return man Pacman Jones with five seconds left in the first half. Omar Gaither recovered, leading to David Akers’ 50-yard field goal on the last play of the half. Akers also kicked a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Washington: Special teams were a total non-factor. David Akers made all five extra points and put a couple of his kickoffs several yards into the end zone. But Jorrick Calvin fumbled the opening kickoff and returned it only nine yards.
Giants: The Eagles might have made the playoffs if they lost this game. We won’t know until after the season. But they might have finished as the NFC’s top team to miss the playoffs, which could affect the decision of whether or not Michael Vick is resigned next season (but not likely). This win virtually clinched a postseason spot and a division title. It also puts the Eagles in good position for a number two seed in the playoffs, which could lead to a Super finish. (If the 2010 season ends in a disappointing note, this game will probably drop below the Dallas game.)
Dallas: The winner of this game clinched the NFC’s final wild-card spot. The loser missed the playoffs. By winning this game, the Eagles might have done more than just clinch a postseason berth. They might have saved the job of quarterback Donovan McNabb. I don’t think McNabb would have been brought back in 2009 if the Eagles missed the playoffs, simply because he would have ended his fourth consecutive season without leading the team into January (remember, 2006 was Jeff Garcia’s year, and not McNabb’s).
Washington: The Eagles could have lost this game and it would have been disappointing but it wouldn’t have seriously altered their season. It did help put an end to the Redskins’ playoff chances, and (I like to think) led to their downfall, which resulted in the suspension of overrated defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (who can forget his crawl after Michael Vick?), and the benching of quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Overall Play (If you were going to show film to a high school team, which would you pick?):
Giants: The offense was clicking, especially Michael Vick, who threw two touchdowns and rushed for almost 100 yards and another touchdown in the last eight munutes. The defense made the stops when they needed to, and Trevor Laws provided the biggest sack of the season. And the special teams came up with the two biggest plays of the game: the onside kick, and Jackson’s punt return touchdown. This was the best performance based on offense, defense, and special teams.
Washington: The offense was as dominant as I’ve ever seen an offense. DeSean Jackson, Jerome Harrison, and Jeremy Maclin provided three of the best offensive plays of the Eagles’ season. And Michael Vick turned in arguably the greatest quarter of football by a quarterback in NFL history. He completed 9 of 9 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and he rushed 3 times for 26 yards and a touchdown. This wasn’t a football game. It was a highlight show.
Dallas: The only reason I put this last is because I think a lot more had to do with the Eagles getting lucky. Both of Brian Dawkins’ sack fumbles of Tony Romo resulted in perfect bounces and two big defensive touchdowns. It was still a incredible series of events in the late second and early third quarters.
Just for Fun: Ranking the Five Best Plays of the Three Games
1) DeSean Jackson walkoff punt return touchdown against the Giants: 2010
2) Joselio Hanson 96 yard fumble return touchdown against Dallas: 2008
3) Chris Clemons 73 yard fumble return touchdown against Dallas: 2008
4) DeSean Jackson 88 yard touchdown against Washington: 2010
5) David Akers/Riley Cooper onside kick against Giants: 2010
By the way, how ironic is it that Donovan McNabb was the winning quarterback in the season finale against Dallas in 2008 but he was the losing quarterback in the Monday Night shootout against Washington this season?