NFC East: rapid reaction 17
PHILADELPHIA -- In a stunning turn of events, the Eagles found out just before kickoff Sunday that they were still in the playoff hunt. They came out and overwhelmed the Cowboys to take a 27-3 halftime lead and then coasted to a 44-6 win.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb connected with Correll Buckhalter and DeSean Jackson on big plays in the first half to set up two Eagles touchdowns. But it was the Eagles' defense that shut the door on Tony Romo and the Cowboys. After last Sunday's loss to the Ravens, the Cowboys asked Romo to treat the football as a precious commodity. But the message didn't quite get through. He fumbled twice and threw a back-breaking interception late in the first half.
The Eagles defense returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the second half to remove any mystery from the outcome. The Eagles (9-6-1) will travel to Minnesota for a wild-card playoff game next weekend and the Cowboys (9-7) will have a lot of time to think about perhaps the most disappointing season in the history of the franchise.
McNabb was 12 of 21 for 175 yards and two touchdowns and he was able to finish the game on the bench. Unlike the game against the Ravens four weeks ago, it was a pleasant sight for Eagles fans to see McNabb cooling his heels. Fans and players spent part of the pregame watching the Bucs-Raiders game, but when Tampa Bay took a 24-14 lead, the game was turned off. The Raiders mounted a comeback and their 31-24 win coupled with a Bears loss to the Texans put the Eagles in position again. Unlike last week against the Redskins, the Eagles made the most of the opportunity.
They will be a dangerous team heading into Minnesota next weekend and the fact that they defeated the Giants recently has to give them a lot of confidence.
True to his word, Tom Coughlin played to win a game that had no bearing on the Giants' playoff position. It's just that he used mostly reserves to do it in the second half.
Coughlin pulled Eli Manning and several other key players at halftime, but it still took a 50-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell at the gun to win the game for the Vikings. The Vikings (10-6) will be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and the Giants (12-4) already had the No. 1 spot sewn up after last Sunday's win over the Panthers. I'm sure Coughlin was disappointed with the loss, but I don't think it will shake the team's confidence. The Giants finished the regular season by losing three of four, but they regained a lot of momentum in the win over the Panthers.
Manning was 11 of 19 for 119 yards before leaving the game, and David Carr filled in nicely in the second half, going 8 of 11 for 110 yards and a touchdown. When Coughlin heard about Ben Roethlisberger leaving a game with a concussion, I'm sure he felt like his decision was validated.
As expected, starting running back Brandon Jacobs sat out and Derrick Ward received the bulk of the carries. He finished with 15 rushes for 77 yards, which gave the Giants the fifth tandem in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards.
MVP candidate Adrian Peterson rushed for 108 yards against the Giants, but 67 of those yards came on one play.
In the whole scheme of things, it was a successful day for the Giants because no one sustained any serious injuries. It had to gnaw at Coughlin to remove the starters, but he did the right thing. Now the Giants can sit back and figure out who they'll play in the divisional round on Jan. 10 or 11.