Defense lifts Eagles into first place in NFC East

Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2001

PHILADELPHIA -- Andy Reid walked off the field at Giants Stadium, looked into the crowd and shouted, ''How about those cheesesteaks?''

The Philadelphia Eagles coach could have said, ''How about that defense?''

The Eagles finally snapped a nine-game losing streak against the New York Giants with a 10-9 victory Monday night, and moved into first place in the NFC East.

Donovan McNabb's 18-yard touchdown pass to James Thrash with 1:52 left was the game-winner, but the defense deserves most of the credit for the victory. While the Giants dominated the first half -- New York had the ball for 24:35 of the first 30 minutes -- they managed just three field goals.

In the second half, Philadelphia's defense completely shut down the Giants, gave the offense a chance to win it, and forced a turnover that sealed the victory in the final minutes.

''Our defense had a nice plan. In the first half, they were able to move the football, but they came out with field goals. That allowed us to stay in striking distance,'' Reid said Tuesday. ''I thought the second half performance was outstanding. One of the best that we've had since we've been here.''

Reid, who rarely shows any emotion, couldn't resist taking a shot at Giants fans after recording his first win at Giants Stadium in four tries.

''Some of those New York fans could be a little rough and they were calling me the 'Cheesesteak King' as I came out on the field,'' Reid said. ''I thought I'd give them one back.''

Reid and the Eagles nearly gave them a victory to gloat over.

The Eagles (3-2) had two weeks to prepare for the Giants after a 21-20 last-minute loss to Arizona at Veterans Stadium. None of that preparation worked -- until the final drive.

''The defense stopped them when they had to, special teams gave us field position when they had to and the offense came through when we needed it,'' Thrash said.

Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first series, and McNabb was intercepted on the first play of the second possession. The defense then committed three offsides penalties on third down during New York's first scoring drive.

Another offside penalty on third down contributed to the Giants' third field goal. An ill-advised timeout before David Akers missed a 44-yard field goal stopped the clock with 1:03 left in the half, allowing the Giants to move into field goal range, but Morten Anderson was short on a 49-yard attempt.

A penalty on tight end Jeff Thomason wiped out a fake punt conversion in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles used their last timeout in the second half with 11:53 remaining.

''You have to limit those,'' Reid said about the mental miscues. ''That's a challenge for us as a team. We have to play better than what we did there. In big games, I think we learn a lesson as a young football team. You don't want to press during those situations.

''I thought early we were so fired up and ready to go, but we were pressing a little bit as coaches and players, and we don't need to do that. We need to relax in a tense situation like that, keep our heads about ourselves and play like we did in the second half.''

Philadelphia hadn't beaten the Giants since Dec. 1, 1996. With upcoming games against Oakland and Minnesota sandwiched around one at Arizona, the Eagles couldn't afford to lose Monday. The defense made sure they didn't.

On the second play after taking the lead, Jeremiah Trotter sacked Kerry Collins, forced a fumble and Brandon Whiting recovered with 1:05 left. McNabb then ran 21 yards for a first down on fourth-and-3 16 seconds later to clinch the win.

''We knew that last time we played, we failed in that situation,'' defensive end Hugh Douglas said. ''We took advantage of this opportunity.''



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