When the NFL is topsy-turvy with parity, rules changes, a sudden aversion to tackling, player injuries, attrition, fired coaches, reality TV shows, touchdown dances and the 24-hour news cycle it is refreshing to know that sometimes a good old-fashioned football game breaks out. This game reminded me of the 1958 championship game and not just because of the throwback uniforms for the Colts. It was a throwback to an era that seems to be slipping away – a well-played game by two teams who want to play hard for 60 minutes and win. No real losers aside from record. Fight hard. Play hard. Give your best effort. One team wins. The other team lives to fight another day.
How often have we seen Peyton Manning making impossible throws against hapless defenders and moving the chains as the clock winds down. And Manning, facing impossible odds and an array of savage blitzers, driving the Colts down the field for a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback win? He’s made a living out of it. That’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Sunday at the Linc, Manning found himself primed for another one of his historic comebacks. The Eagles blew a nine-point fourth-quarter lead vs. Tennessee, and now Manning was trying to make it happen again. A minute on the clock. Peyton Manning with the football, Colts trailing by a point or two. Adam Vinatieri ominously taking warm-up kicks into a net on the sideline. How often have we seen it?
“It’s moments like that you live for,” Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “I told the offense, ‘Good job, we’ll take it from here.’ That’s what we play the game for. You want to be on the field to end the game.” The Eagles led by nine late in the game when Manning drove the Colts 85 yards in just four minutes to cut the lead to two with 1:50 to go.
Michael Vick and the offense ground out a first down and forced the Colts to use up their timeouts, so when Manning ran back on the field, the Colts had the ball at their own 26-yard line, 40 seconds on the clock, and Vinatieri’s field goal range only 40 yards away. That’s one or two snaps for No. 18.
“Let me tell you something about Peyton Manning – every time he’s out on the field, you think he’s going to score a touchdown,” Vick said. Consider that the Eagles went into the weekend allowing an NFL-worst 63 fourth-quarter points, and half their secondary – rookie safety Kurt Coleman and first-time starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson – has virtually no NFL experience, and the odds were on Manning’s side.
This time, Manning couldn’t pull out a miracle. This time, the magic belonged to the Eagles’ defense and not the guy selected last week as the eighth-greatest player in NFL history. One game after a catastrophic fourth quarter against the Titans, the Eagles turned in an inspiring final period that propelled them to a signature win and right back into the thick of the NFC playoff race. The Colts got no closer than their own 41-yard-line on that final drive, and Asante Samuel sealed a massive 26-24 win for the Eagles with 18 seconds left with his second interception of the game and fifth of the year.
“[Quintin Mikell] and I switched positions,” Samuel said. “I told him to go to the corner and let me go to safety and read Peyton a little bit. So I read his eyes … and caught the pick.” And this time, Manning walked off the field a loser.
The loss was only Manning’s 26th since 2003, and the Eagles forced him to do things he rarely does. He had thrown only two interceptions all year, but Samuel picked him twice. He had been sacked just five times in his last six games, but the Eagles sacked him three times. And the Eagles pressured Manning enough that although he threw 52 times, he completed only one pass longer than 22 yards – a 33-yarder to Blair White in the second quarter.
Last time we saw the Eagles’ defense, it was hemorrhaging 20 fourth-quarter points to Kerry Collins. On Sunday, the Eagles became only the seventh team since 2003 – the span of 120 games – to record at least two sacks and interceptions of Manning in the same game.
Asked for the key to the defensive performance, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott immediately singled out one word – POISE.
“Poise. Incredible poise,” he said. “That was my biggest concern – could we stay poised for four quarters. Because you see teams like Monday night, [the Texans] stop him first drive, second drive, and then he gets on the sideline and looks at that book and figures them out eventually and then it’s bang, bang, bang, back to the old Peyton. We just tried to keep him off-balance, and the players executed.”
The Eagles improved to 5-3 this season, 5-2 in their last seven games and 3-0 when Michael Vick plays the entire game. They’re now 12-0 under Reid in their first game after a bye. The Colts had won four straight games over the Eagles by a combined 100 points dating back to a 20-10 win by Bubby Brister over Jeff George at the RCA Dome in 1993. And in Manning’s three starts against the Andy Reid Eagles, the Colts had won by an average of 41-17. Indy fell to 5-3 and saw its November winning streak end at 13, third-longest in NFL history.
“I thought Philly just out-executed us,” Manning said. “Philly has got an excellent team, and I thought they really executed their defense well. … Everything was kind of contested. We just had a tough time finding any kind of rhythm in the second half, and you have to give Philadelphia a lot of credit.” Manning passed for 294 yards and a TD, but he needed 52 pass attempts– eighth-most ever against the Eagles and fifth-most of his career.
Once again, the Eagles stuffed the run – the Colts netted 62 yards on 19 carries – and that gave the Eagles the freedom to go after Manning with their front four. The Eagles won despite failing to get in the end zone on three first-half drives inside the 10-yard line, and they won despite allowing 17 second-quarter points – the most they’ve given up in a second quarter since the 2006 Colts loss in Indianapolis.
Vick was brilliant in his return to action after missing a month with a rib injury. He threw for 218 yards and a TD, ran for 74 yards and a TD and once again played turnover-free football. DeSean Jackson also returned to action recording his 10th career 100-yard game (7-for-109), caught a nine-yard TD pass to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead, and ran for a critical fourth-quarter first down as the Eagles tried to eat clock.
LeSean McCoy ran 16 times for 95 yards, including a dazzling 62-yarder on the first play of the game.
The Eagles were penalized an astounding 14 times, including a couple disputed personal fouls on defenseless Colts. Most glaring was an incident in which Indianapolis receiver Austin Collie got crunched between two Eagles defenders and left the game with a concussion.
“What matters is the ‘W,’” Coleman said. “This is huge. I really think we can build on this, and this game can propel us to bigger things in the second half of the season.”
NEXT UP: WASHINGTON REDSKINS – GAME IN DC…
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org