I

That was the most improbable Giants win I have ever seen. We’ve all seen our share of improbable losses – the Vikings playoff game in ’97, the not-talked about but gut-wrenching loss at home to the Titans in 2002 (which preceded our running the table over the last four games), the Niners playoff game in 2002 – and it sure is nice to be on the other side.

We certainly know how the Eagles and their fans feel. It’s the same old script, but with the roles reversed for the G-Men:

You completely dominate the better part of the action. It’s not even close, as severe an ass-whopping as you could put on another team. Everything is too good to be true, but the scoreboard doesn’t quite reflect how much you’ve dominated. But whatever, the clock is ticking down, and you sit on the lead a little bit. Maybe you get a little complacent. Maybe the other team catches a break, in this case the Holy Roller II, courtesy of Tim Carter. And then the dominoes start falling, one after another, impossible to stop because you’ve already turned the switch off. The magic that carried you to your lead is lost. Actually, it’s not lost, it’s firmly in the possession of the other team, who can all of a sudden do no wrong. How stupid you feel – this other team wasn’t quite as bad as you were thinking at the beginning of the game, and your team wasn’t quite as good. But either way, it would still take an extraordinary amount of things to go wrong between now and triple zeroes – you should still survive this game. Take it as a lesson. Get your shit together for the next game, and don’t sit on leads. But the dominoes keep falling, and you still can’t catch a break, and when it’s finally over, the other team is celebrating and your stadium is stunned and silent. A dismal Sunday.

Man, it feels good to do this to the Eagles and their fans.

II

Needless to say, thank God we pulled this one out. It would have been pretty disastrous to be heading to Seattle at 0-2 while the 2-0 Eagles went to San Francisco. We wouldn’t have been done if we had lost this game, but if we had lost next week after losing this one, we would have been. Our season would have been over before it had begun, and that would have really, really sucked.

But now, with what might be the two toughest games on the schedule cleared, we’re tied for first place. Losing next week is still a possibility and we’d obviously rather win, but losing wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. We’d head into our bye week a game out of first, but with the opportunity to regroup and make things right. And if we win next week, we’re right on track, something that would have seemed like a pipe dream with 10 minutes left in the third quarter of this one.

III

One minute into the fourth quarter of a long afternoon, the Giants caught a huge break when Tim Carter recovered Plaxico’s fumble in the endzone for a touchdown. It was practically the first lucky break that we had caught in a year where nothing had gone our way. But it wouldn’t be the last. Between then and the end of the game, we benefited from more than our fare share of significant breaks. If even one of the following things hadn’t happened, our chances of winning the game would have been significantly reduced.

–The Eagles had the ball at their 32 with 4:22 left in the game. Still up by 10, all they had to do was get a couple of first downs and run out the clock. With a two possession lead, the one thing they couldn’t do was give the Giants a turnover and the chance to quickly shave one of the scores off. But Brian Westbrook did just that, coughing up the rock while going down to the ground. The Giants recovered and scored a few plays later when Eli hit Toomer on a beautiful touchdown pass, and the comeback continued.

–With 15 seconds left in regulation and the Giants down by three, Eli Manning hit Jeremy Shockey for eight yards, and Shockey was able to get out of bounds. We were left on the Eagles 32 with 10 seconds left and no timeouts, which would have meant a Jay Feely 49-yard field goal attempt. Feely was 0-1 from field goals over 40 yards in the preseason and missed a 40-yarder against the Colts. Did any Giant fan feel confident in his ability to knock through a 50-yard game-winning field goal?

Fortunately, Trent Cole, who had otherwise played a great game as a pass-rushing specialist, pulled a boneheaded move by kicking Kareem McKenzie, drawing a 15-yard personal foul and setting Feely up for an eminently makeable 35-yarder. Feely knocked it through and we were heading to overtime.

–Onto overtime, where after picking up a first down and committing yet another false start, the Giants faced a 1st and 15 from their own 42. Eli Manning went back to pass, and for the eighth time of the game, he was sacked. For the second time, he fumbled. But for the fourth time, the Giants pounced on a fumble. Of the game’s four fumbles, the Giants recovered them all. This is extraordinary lucky; as the guys at FootballOutsiders point out, fumble recoveries are completely random. Had the Eagles recovered this particular fumble, they would have taken possession at the Giants 34. In all probability, we would have been done.

–We wound up punting a few plays later, but a bad punt and bad coverage gave the Eagles possession on their own 44. On third down of that series, McNabb went back and threw a strike downfield to LJ Smith, who, for his part, saw the ball clang off his hands. I’m not exactly sure where Smith was – I think it was somewhere between the Giants 40 and 30 – but if he makes that catch… we’re probably done. This wasn’t the only Philly drop – I’m just guessing, but I would say that dropped about eight passes throughout the game, another bit of luck – but it was the biggest.

–So we had the ball back and we started moving. On a 2nd and 10 from our own 45, Eli threw a ball on which Vishante Shiancoe and Brian Dawkins converged at the same time. From the replays, it looked like Dawkins had more of a claim on that ball than Shiancoe. The announcers called it “joint possession,” which would mean Giants ball, but I thought Dawkins pretty much had it firmly wrapped while Shiancoe only had one arm on it. I think it should have been a pick, but it wasn’t, and the drive marched on.

(It should be noted, though, that the Giants were victimized by a similar call earlier in the game. Sam Madison made a really nice leap on a corner-fade pass to Donte Stallworth, and pretty much the same thing happened. Both guys had a claim on the ball, but Madison had a better one. The refs wound up compromising and calling the play an incomplete pass [which, whatever the play was, was not that]. The Eagles scored a few plays later.)

–And finally, this isn’t exactly “luck” like these other breaks were, but let’s not forget how… fortunate we were that Plaxico came down with Eli’s fling on the last play. It was 3rd and 11 from the 31 yard line, so had that pass gone incomplete, Jay Feely would have been brought in for the 49-yard field goal. What a game.

IV

Some other huge, late-game plays that we shouldn’t forget:

–With 1:56 left in the 4 quarter, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 12. McNabb hit his fullback, Thomas Tapeh, in the flat. Tapeh turned up field and had only Sam Madison between him and a game-clinching first down, but Madison made a huge open-field tackle on a man who outweighed him by 63 pounds to keep the Giants hopes alive.

–With 35 seconds left in regulation, we had 1st and 10 at our own 35, with no timeouts. Eli dropped back but was forced to step up in the pocket from outside pressure. A defensive tackle got his arms around him and all but swallowed him up, but Eli flung one downfield for Tim Carter, who came back and made a big 22 yard catch. After spiking the ball, we picked up eight more yards when Eli hit a gimpy Shockey, who was able to get out of bounds. The personal foul on Cole followed, and Feely was set up for the 35-yard, game-tying field goal.

V

A miracle it was, but let’s not forget that the majority of this game consisted of the Eagles kicking our asses all over the field. I have a problem with the way Tim Lewis called this game. McNabb had all kinds of time in the pocket, and was able to pick our defense apart for the better part of the game.

After a while it was clear that the front four wasn’t even coming close to getting it done. Whenever they got near McNabb, he was able to dance around the pocket and buy more time for himself, as he is wont to do. But with the exception of an unsuccessful LaVar Arrington blitz – it was another quiet game from Mr. Nickles – we stubbornly insisted on only sending our front four for the first three quarters. (There were probably a couple more blitzes that I missed, but still.) I’m sure I was not alone in screaming at the TV as the Eagles effortlessly took it down on us one possession after another. Why didn’t we at least try to make something happen? Things couldn’t have been any worse than they were!

VI

The penalties. At least now the whole thing is completely out in the open. In this game we committed nine penalties for 75 yards. The two most egregious came at the very end of the game.

–Tim Carter’s holding on the Brandon Jacobs run in overtime that pushed us back from, like, the 10 to the 25.

–The Shawn O’Hara false start that pushed us all the way back to the 31, creating the situation where we needed the Eli-to-Plax heave. These two penalties were completely ridiculous.

We also had numerous false starts, a delay of game, and a Chris Snee personal foul. Anybody who is reading this blog probably watched the telecast, and anybody who watched the telecast heard Aikman and Buck just completely rip the Giants for their sloppiness – Buck called them “flat-out undisciplined” at one point – but it bears mentioning again: What the hell is the deal with the penalties? In case you missed it, the Giants are the third most penalized team in the NFL in the time since Coughlin took over – only the Raiders and the Cardinals have been worse. This is completely unacceptable, and has to get better.

VII

So do the special teams. I don’t have stats on this, but our coverage and return teams are not doing the job this year. Feagles has been very good though. So what’s the deal with R.W. and Morton? It seemed that R.W. replaced him at one point, but then Morton went back. We’ll find out more this week, I’m sure.

VIII

Some other observations:

Madison had a really rough time out there. I’m not sure, but I think they switched Webster over to Stallworth for the second half. On Stallworth’s touchdown pass, what was Madison doing in press coverage with no safety help?

–It’s hard to kill Webster for getting beaten by Reggie Brown. Those things happen, although we Giants fans would prefer if those things happened less frequently than during the Will Allen years.

–Westbrook ran roughshod over us in the first half, but we stopped him in the second. It seemed like a lot of counters. My friend Wong speculated that our tackles were getting blown off the ball in the first half. The outside linebackers didn’t seem to do the best job of keeping contain.

The O-Line stepped up big late in the game. Credit these guys for bouncing back, but God, they looked awful for a lot of the game. Especially McKenzie, who had a really rough time with Jevon Kearse. McKenzie is going to need help with speed-rushers.

–The protection was bad, but Eli seemed really lead-footed and tentative in the pocket. There were a couple of sacks in the early going that he all but walked into, something that really stood out after watching Peyton last week and McNabb this week. Those two throws to Burress off his back foot were also concerning – we’re lucky those didn’t get picked off.

But no, I’m not actually gonna sit here and criticize Eli. He went 31/43 for 371 yards, and led us on some gut-check drives that we’ll never forget. We’ll see this point made around 2,000 times this week, but you only wish that he could flip that switch before the last possible moment. Either way, ya gotta love it.

Amani Toomer. Just when you’ve forgotten about him, he comes back with a game like today. He’s gotten really good at finding soft spots in the zone. And he’s so smooth, and so good at dragging his feet.

Plax looked good, and that last play was up there in any discussion of great Giants plays. I love how he chucked the ball into the crowd, ripped off his helmet, pumped his fist, and just started barking at those fans. Incredible. But the way he carries the ball has to be addressed. My brother Harv made the point that it’s pretty ridiculous that Colonel Tom and co. haven’t taken care of this – every time he makes moves with the ball out there, millions of Giants fans hold there breath.

Tiki wasn’t getting holes for much of the game, but credit him for persevering and contributing a lot at the end.

Jacobs continues to impress – the guy’s running with authority. Very exciting.

Shockey injured? Again? It’s gonna be like this all year. Again.

–I almost forgot, but the defensive game-ball goes to Gibril Wilson. He was everywhere.