Thursday, December 16, 2010
Updated: December 18, 3:58 AM ET
Play that got away still haunts Giants
By Ohm Youngmisuk
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- LeSean McCoy remembers seeing Osi Umenyiora come within fingertips away of deflecting Michael Vick's pitch to him.
And once the ball got to his hands, McCoy then recalls being stunned.
"There was nobody around," McCoy remembers of his 50-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 that beat the New York Giants. "It was definitely surprising to see nobody anywhere close."
The first time the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles faced each other, the game came down to one play -- McCoy's touchdown, which erased a one-point Giants lead with 4:25 left in a 27-17 Eagles win Nov. 21.
Nearly a month later, the teams meet again, with the stakes even higher. The winner between the Giants (9-4) and the Eagles (9-4) can take the lead in the NFC East race with two games left in the season. The Eagles have already beaten the Giants, so a regular-season sweep would greatly help their hopes for a division crown.
The Giants were devastated after rallying to overcome a 16-3 deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia last month. After the loss, they vowed to start a winning streak so they would be playing for the NFC East when they met the Eagles again.
That objective was accomplished, as the Giants ride a three-game winning streak into this monster showdown. Now one of the Giants' biggest season goals is right in front of them for the taking.
The Giants get the Eagles and Vick on their home turf with the division at stake.
"Games like this, they normally come down to one play, and that was the play of that game," defensive end Justin Tuck said of the McCoy backbreaker. "Hopefully, we have the play of the game."
The Giants would love nothing more than to be faced with the same opportunity again -- one fourth-down stop to potentially win the game.
Certainly Umenyiora would love to have another chance, since he came within inches of blowing up the Eagles' play.
First, the Giants must do what they did in Philadelphia, which was make Vick look human. One week after Vick's historic, video-game-like performance against the Redskins on "Monday Night Football," the Giants held him to under 300 yards of total offense and just one touchdown.
They tried to force the left-handed Vick to his right side and progressively brought secondary blitzes to force him to make quick decisions.
Safety Antrel Rolle, utilized as sort of a rover to spy on Vick and make split-second decisions, came in on a bunch of delayed blitzes and he was able to pressure the Eagles QB, who was sacked three times.
"I think we got to him," Rolle said of the pressure on Vick. "You could see it in his face and see it in his movement. I know I was so exhausted, so I know he was exhausted."
The Giants did leave themselves exposed at times with single coverage and were fortunate that the Eagles receivers dropped some passes. Jeremy Maclin had nine catches for 120 yards but DeSean Jackson only finished with five receptions for 50 yards.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's plan to contain Vick provided a kind of blueprint for other teams facing the Eagles.
"There were a lot of secondary blitzes," Tuck said. "A lot of things that were key blitzes weren't necessarily called blitzes. It might have looked like they were blitzes, and that is one of the reasons why we had a little bit more success, us and Chicago, than some other teams. We will tweak some things here and there."
Perhaps even more important than finding a way to slow Vick down will be the Giants' ability to stop beating themselves. They turned the ball over five times against the Eagles as Eli Manning accounted for four turnovers. Manning leads the NFL with 19 turnovers, and he will have to find a way to stop throwing picks without trusted receiver Steve Smith, who is out for the year with a knee injury.
After the loss in Philadelphia, the Giants' locker room was overflowing with frustration and disappointment.
They had come within one play of potentially winning the game. And considering that they turned the ball over five times, the game might not have even come down to a single monumental play if they had taken better care of the ball.
An exasperated Tom Coughlin made a lineup change and started Brandon Jacobs over Ahmad Bradshaw in an attempt to curtail Bradshaw's fumbling. The move sparked a rushing attack that has averaged 181 yards per game in the past three wins. The Giants have actually rushed for 100 yards or more in every game this season except one, and that was when the Eagles held them to 61 yards on the ground.
Now, with another chance to beat the Eagles, one Giant is looking forward to making a game-winning play if the opportunity presents itself again.
"We have to win this game," Umenyiora said. "I was frustrated because I thought we should have won, and we gave them the game. I know how tough it is to win in this league. If we eliminate the mistakes this time, we should be all right."
"It was a game that we shouldn't have lost, but we did. Now we get them back on our home turf, and hopefully things will turn out different."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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