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The dirty half-dozen

Quarterback Vince Young #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback Vince Young #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the New York Giants. (Nov. 20, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

I know Giants fans aren’t going to want to hear this, but I’m still amazed at the awesome drive the Eagles put together to take the lead last night. Not only did they go 80 yards in 18 plays and strip 8:51 off he clock, they also converted six of six third downs. And each of their first downs on the drive came on a third down. And Mathias Kiwanuka had three plays where he registered tackles for a loss. It was pretty remarkable.

But let’s look at what the Giants’ defense was doing on those third downs in particular to see where they had their chances to get off the field or, as the drive progressed, at least hold the Eagles to a field goal attempt.

First of all, the Giants had just scored their only touchdown to tie it at 10 and Mathias Kiwanuka made a great tackle on LeSean McCoy for a loss of 2 yards, which should have been enough to keep the momentum going. Vince Young completed a 9-yard pass to Brent Celek on second down, which brought up the first of the dirty half-dozen:


A really nice play call by the Eagles. Ronnie Brown is lined up in the slot to the right and takes a handoff running to the left. Todd Herremans pulls in front of Brown and seals off Dave Tollefson and Brown is able to run for a gain of 6. After two incompletions, that gave the Eagles …


Young hit Riley Cooper for a gain of 18 yards on a play where it seemed like Jacquian Williams should have dropped back into coverage instead of sticking with an underneath route. That brought the Eagles just about to midfield. Kiwanuka made another of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage on first down, Jason Avant made an amazing fingertip grab on a low pass on second-and-16, which set up …


This was almost the exclamation point on the night for Mark Herzlich. The rookie linebacker came blitzing up the middle and made a leap over McCoy and at Young. He very nearly got there, but Young was able to just get the pass off to Clay Harbor for a gain of 6 and a first down. That play reminded me of the one last year when Osi Umenyiora nearly tipped the ball away on a toss from Michael Vick to McCoy. It was just out of the Giants’ grasp and the Eagles took advantage of it. After that play, McCoy ran twice and it set up …


The Giants appeared to have Young stuffed on a quarterback sneak up the middle, but on a second effort the big backup quarterback was able to find a crease between his linemen and slither through for a gain of a few inches that goes down as a 2-yard gain. Young completed a short pass to McCoy an scrambled for a gain of 3 and the Eagles were well within field goal range. They came to the line and looked to have the Giants confused, but it was actually the Eagles who wanted to straighten things out so they called a timeout before regrouping to face a …


This was the real back-breaker. Young throws a pass out right to DeSean Jackson and Corey Webster is there to make the tackle at around the 17. It would have forced a field goal attempt and who knows what happens after that. But Jackson spun out of a tackle try by Webster and gained the first down plus some. Jackson wound up in the end zone preening for the fans even though it was not a touchdown (yet). It did set up first-and-goal from the 10. McCoy ran twice, once for a gain of 4 yards and once for a loss of 2 thanks to Kiwanuka. And that set up …


Young had thrown three interceptions already and the NBC announcers did not think that the Eagles would allow him to put the ball in the air at such a critical venture. Wrong. Young found Cooper in the back of the end zone through a lane that was open because Herzlich had bumped tight end Celek going across the middle and was unable to drop back into his responsibilities in time. That left Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle trailing Cooper and not close enough to make a play on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.

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