|by Ryan Messick
Two bobbles by the Eagles may have made the difference between an NFC East title and possible first-round bye and a seat at home to watch the playoffs. Just not in the way you’d normally expect. The Eagles bobbled the ball twice against the Giants with the game on the line in the fourth quarter – once on November 21 and once yesterday. Both mistakes were keys to success.
Yesterday, after rallying from a 31-10 deficit in less than eight minutes to tie the game at 31, it appeared the Eagles were forcing the Giants into overtime. Only 14 seconds remained, and New York had to punt. DeSean Jackson waited inside his own 30-yardline.
“The young punter was told to punt it out of bounds and he got a high snap and didn’t feel like he could and we all learned the hard way again,” said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. “At that point in the game with [Jackson] back there, you don’t punt into that.”
But Matt Dodge did, and Jackson fumbled the low, line-drive punt.
“You know, it was just slow enough to make it work,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He had a few seams, and the people that needed to converge on him when he fumbled it converged, and that’s not something we work on, but it worked out okay.”
“When I dropped the ball, I panicked real quickly,” Jackson said. “It was probably a good thing, because when I panicked I was able to locate the ball and it was maybe a foot or two away from me.
“When I grabbed the ball I went one way and when I looked up I saw a crease, and I just shot through that crease.”
The rest is history, and the muffed punt made it possible. A similar play sealed the Giants fate in the Eagles’ 27-17 win earlier this year. With 4:34 remaining, Philadelphia trailed 17-16 and had a fourth-and-one at the 50-yardline.
“They had been [zero blitzing] throughout the game,” Reid said after the first win. “So we had that toss in and we thought we could hit it if they were going to come with a zero blitz.”
Vick took the snap, but bobbled it as he went to make the pitch. “Luckily I had the glove on and I was able to get some grip and pitch it,” Vick said.
Vick made the toss just in the nick of time, as Osi Umenyiora’s outstretched hand was an inch, maybe two, away from deflecting the ball.
“I saw it all,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “I had a pretty good view. He missed it by just that much. That’s the way this game is.”
“I think we had it without [the bobble],” Mornhinweg said. “I think, but I’m not sure.”
“It made the timing just perfect,” Mornhinweg added.
Those quotes could easily apply to yesterday’s winning play as well. In a year in which the NFC has been packed together so tightly, two bobbles-turned-good will likely prove to be the difference between winning the NFC East and missing the playoffs. Without them, the Eagles could have been staring down an 8-6 record and eighth place in the NFC. Instead, they swept the Giants, lead the NFC East and have their eyes on a first round bye.
Follow Ryan Messick on Twitter.