The public feud between Osi Umenyiora and "Twitter gangster" LeSean McCoy that erupted last week was both hilarious and illuminating. Not just because McCoy would so publicly critique a player on an opposing team as "overrated n soft" but also because Umenyiora's response was so vitriolic. He referred to McCoy as "Lady Gaga" and a "chihuahua or poodle" and said "she" could say anything "she" wanted to say.
It was the kind of thing that made you think that maybe the Eagles, who have beaten the Giants the past six times they've faced them, are getting to the Giants. You know ... psychologically.
"Well, I'm not going to get into what went on between those two," Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas told me in a phone interview Wednesday. "But yeah, I hate the Eagles, and you can put that in print. They're the one single thing that has kept us out of the playoffs the last two years. They knocked us out of the playoffs in my rookie year, when we were defending champs. We keep coming close, but we haven't been able to beat them, and it bothers us a lot."
The streak doesn't make a lot of sense. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Giants' record is 30-19 and the Eagles' record is 32-20-1 (counting playoffs). It's not as though the Eagles are winning 12 games every year and the Giants are winning six. They are comparable teams, rivals familiar with each other, and if you asked somebody who didn't know, he probably would guess the two teams were playing each other about evenly during that span.
But they are not. The Eagles have the Giants' number. And Thomas is right that it has cost him and his teammates dearly. The Giants were 11-1 and thinking about a second straight Super Bowl title when the Eagles beat them in the 2008 Week 14 game that began the streak. Five weeks later, they beat them in a divisional-round playoff game to end New York's title defense. They beat them twice during the Giants' epic collapse in 2009, and if the Giants had won just one of their two games against the Eagles in 2010, they'd have made the playoffs and Philadelphia would have been fighting out a wild-card spot with the Packers.
"It's just so tough, because this year we gave one away at their house, and then we definitely gift-wrapped them a Christmas gift at our house," Thomas said. "And we know. We talk about it a lot. We know that's the only team that's stopping us from getting to the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl."
The 2010 games were especially painful. In the first one, in Philadelphia on Nov. 21, the Giants held a 17-16 lead with less than five minutes on the clock when McCoy ran 50 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play. Eli Manning fumbled on the next drive, McCoy flipped the field with a 40-yard run and David Akers cashed in with a field goal that set the 27-17 final score.
And four weeks later at the Meadowlands? Well, that was the NFL's most eye-popping game of the season. The Giants led 31-10 with 8:17 to play when Michael Vick went completely nuts, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for a third to erase the lead in an eyeblink before DeSean Jackson's punt return won the game as time expired. That was the "Christmas gift" game to which Thomas referred, and it will long be remembered for the incredulous fury on coach Tom Coughlin's face as he bawled out punter Matt Dodge for not kicking the ball out of bounds -- as if a million other things hadn't already gone wrong to get them to that point.
"The worst," Thomas said of that game. "Because look at it. We put the blueprint out there for how to beat the Eagles. Look at what the Vikings did to them the next week, and then the way Green Bay beat them in the playoffs. We were stopping them. We showed people how to stop them. We know how to stop them. But for some reason, we can't seem to beat them."
The average score of the games in the streak is 32-21, and in the past two years the Eagles have averaged 37.5 points per game against the Giants. Thomas believes that turnovers are the key -- both ways, as the Giants have committed 17 turnovers and forced just 10 during the streak. But he also believes, as the scores indicate, that it's up to the Giants' defense to end the thing.
"Until we beat them, we can't get back to being a dominant team and a dominant defense," Thomas said. "That's the way I look at it. I think it's up to us as a defense to find a way to end this streak. And I believe we will this year."
Because free agency has so far been locked out along with the rest of the league's offseason business, we don't yet know how the rosters of the teams in the NFC East are going to look for 2011. But if we assume that the Giants and Eagles will be contenders again, it's fair to say this: Unless the Giants can finally find a way to win a game -- just one game -- against the Eagles, their late-season frustrations and their streak of playoff-free seasons are both going to continue. Right now, the Eagles are in the Giants' heads. And the only way to get them out is to beat them.