Lawrence Tynes had two chances to win the game in the final seconds. Luckily for the Eagles, he missed both attempts from 54 yards out.
Andy Reid called a timeout right before Tynes’ first attempt sailed wide, with 10 ticks showing in the fourth quarter. The coach was trying to ice the Giants kicker, but he nearly iced his own team. Reid joked that he felt like General George Custer.
“When you’re surrounded by 66,000 people that want to probably rip your throat out at the time, yes I did,” Reid said, when asked if he wanted to take that decision back. “That’s about 20-fold what Custer felt.”
The Eagles held on for a 19-17 victory Sunday night in an emotional game at Lincoln Financial Field. During halftime, the team honored longtime safety Brian Dawkins by officially retiring his No. 20 jersey. Dawkins led the crowd in a frenzied rendition of the Eagles fight song, then yielded the stage to Mike Vick and Co.
Vick led the Eagles on another game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. This one, going 12 plays and 75 yards, didn’t result in a touchdown. It produced a 26-yard field goal off the foot of Alex Henery. But, after surviving Reid’s timeout call, it proved to be enough to beat the Giants for the eighth time in their last nine tries.
“I don’t believe in icing the kicker,” Vick said. “You let them kick it and if it’s good, it’s going to be good. If not, you can’t play games. I don’t know who started that but we have to end that tradition.”
The Eagles also waded through some questionable pass interference calls prior to Tynes’ field goal attempts. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged for one on a 4th-and-1 that extended the drive. He held and pulled Ramses Barden down. However, the cornerback claimed Barden grabbed his facemask first.
"You can't ever hang your head in this game," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Three plays later, Nnamdi Asomugha was called for holding Barden. That one looked like a clean play, one Asomugha would actually get back two plays later when Barden was charged with offensive pass interference. Some wondered if it was a make-up call from the refs.
"I didn't know they were going to call it. I just felt the guy draped over me as I was trying to get the ball, those can go either way. Sometimes they don't call it," Asomugha said. "I know if it's the defensive guy, they're going to have to call it. An offensive guy, you never know."
The game started out very unlike a typical Eagles-Giants match-up. Neither side scored until 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the first half, when Vick hit DeSean Jackson on a 19-yard pass play to make it 7-0. The Vick-to-Jackson connection proved to be the only time the Eagles saw the end zone. They consistently drove down the field — breaking into the red zone four times — but settled for three field goals in those trips. In all, Henery booted four kicks through the uprights (20, 35, 48, 26).
"Going into every game you kind of feel like you have to make a kick to win the game, so you just kind of prepare yourself for that," Henery said.
And, for the first time this season, Vick didn’t turn the ball over. Not once.
“I just played smarter,” the quarterback said. “The thing is in this game, you can’t force opportunities against the defense, you have to let it come. I’ll be honest, missing the preseason did affect me to a certain extent.”
With Vick shaking off the rust, the Eagles stuck with a balanced game plan (30 called passes, 30 called runs) and even stuck with the ground game when it wasn’t working. LeSean McCoy carried six times for two yards in the first half, then cranked it on after halftime and ended up with 123 yards.
“I think in the second half, I just had that feeling, that feeling when you want the ball,” McCoy said. “Coach Reid, we do this thing where we look at each other, that type of thing. It’s the understanding. And the linemen did a great job.”
Many players have preached patience all season. They are a work in progress, a team still fine-tuning and working out all the kinks. They believe when they play their best, when all their weapons are unleashed, that no one can beat them.
They’ll get another big test next week in Pittsburgh. For now — for one night, a very special one indeed, in late September — they are kings of the NFC East. The Cowboys have a chance to share that title if they can beat Chicago Monday night and match them at 3-1.
“It means a lot to be 3-1. It means a lot to be at the top of the division,” Vick said. “We still have a lot of tough games ahead of us, but that’s what it’s all about.”