Solving the Giants


Well, it doesn’t get any bigger than this. Are you ready? Do you believe the Birds are back? Can they upset mighty Big Blue and start a magical run to the post-season? On the heels of their glorious Thanksgiving night triumph, the Eagles have many, including some in the national media, believing they are primed to take down the Giants. I’ll admit, there does seem to be something in the air as the game approaches. So, what has to happen for the Eagles to pull out a win? Well, we all know the importance of slowing down the Giants’ rushing attack. And of course it’s crucial that the front-four pressure Eli Manning. Here’s five things I want to see on Sunday:

1) Amani Toomer and Domenik Hixon shut down – If these guys can’t get separation from Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown it will be a long afternoon for Eli. The Giants are going to run the ball and they are going to use play-action to create big plays. If Manning has nowhere to throw he will get rattled and he will get sacked. And we all know how Eli doesn’t like to get hit.

2) A commitment to run the ball – Listen, I’m not naive. I realize the Eagles aren’t going to find much room to run, but that doesn’t mean you abandon the rush entirely. The Giants defense wants the Eagles to become one-dimensional so they can tee off on McNabb. How do the Birds counter? Run from three and four receiver sets; use draw plays and designed QB runs; split Brian Westbrook out wide and run with Kyle Eckel. In other words, keep the Giants defense guessing. Pick your spots and run the ball. If McNabb has to throw 40 times, the Eagles are in trouble.

3) Execution on special teams – Games like this are often decided on special teams (remember Westbrook’s punt return in 2003)? In almost every game this season, the Eagles have been flagged for stupid penalties, be it illegal blocks, offsides, or holding. Unacceptable. Domenik Hixon has proven himself as a return man, so the Eagles must corral him. Jeff Feagles is the master of the coffin-corner kick and he will employ this technique to neutralize DeSean Jackson. If Feagles makes a mistake in the windy Meadowlands the Birds must capitalize. At the same turn, Sav Rocca has to do a better job in poor weather conditions. He was terrible against the Bengals.

4) The ball in DeSean Jackson’s hands – In the Week 10 meeting, Jackson totaled 85 yards and rushed for a touchdown. I want to see him even more involved on Sunday. DeSean has been nothing short of amazing thus far. But elite receivers must perform under pressure. Whether you think Plaxico Burress is an idiot is irrelevant. The guy plays big in big games. The Eagles must deploy Jackson in space and let him RAC!! It’s a lot to ask of a rookie receiver, but I believe he is capable of being the difference-maker.

5) Brian Dawkins being Brian Dawkins – This game is tailor-made for B-Dawk to dominate. It will be cold. It will be windy. It might snow. The beast inside Dawkins awakens for games like this. I want to see him blow-up a receiver. I want to see him packing the line of scrimmage. I want to see him blitzing. The Eagles D has lacked playmakers this year. Samuel, Trent Cole and Darren Howard have had their moments, but Dawkins knows what division battles in December mean. Hopefully, he’s got at least one more of those “Darth Dawk” games left in him.

We are going to learn a lot about the Eagles tomorrow. Whatever the outcome, I want to see the same intensity they showed last week against Arizona. Win and they are still alive. Lose and it’s a wrap on ’08. I’m expecting one helluva game. GO EAGLES!!