A deeply satisfying win.  Once again, just when you thought you couldn’t be any higher on this team, they manage to impress you.

This game reminded me of the Pittsburgh game in that going into each contest, many people predicted us to lose.  The rationale was that we can’t win ‘em all, and since we have to drop some games, these wouldn’t be such bad losses.

Both performances attest to the hunger of this team to defend its title.  In both games, we showed early that we were the superior team (in the Eagles game, a 244 to 126 advantage in yards in the first half), but were unable to convert this play-by-play dominance into a commensurate advantage on the scoreboard (only a 20-17 lead).

And when both the Steelers and Eagles scored third quarter touchdowns to take the lead, it looked as if we had squandered our best stretch of ball and were positioned to lose a game we should have won.  But in both games, we persevered and resumed our dominance.

This team has heart.

I. Colonel Tom

Maybe today’s game will go down as the moment when we officially embraced Colonel Tom.  We all know what I’m talking about: the challenge on Eli’s pass to Boss that set up Jacobs’ touchdown to put us up 27-24.  That was the biggest play of the game.

Michaels and Madden were all over it: Tom has the best challenge percentage in league history (granted, the challenge rule dates back only to 2004).  But what does this tell you about Tom?  Sure, I have my gripes with him, mostly centered around his under-utilization of Ahmad.  But we have a great coach, and we should be grateful.  A lot of Giants fans, including me, were wrong about him.  Tom Coughlin is a winner.

As opposed to, say, Andy Reid.  Thank you, Andy, for the clock management at the end of the first half that cost your team four points, the senseless challenges that spent the Eagles’ remaining time outs, not running a play before the two-minute warning because McNabb was tired (awwwww), and the consecutive running plays on the last series. 

And you wonder why Eagles fans are so bitter?

II. The O-Line

Brandon Jacobs was NBC’s “Horse Trailer Player of the Game,” or whatever they call it, and Jacobs deserves props.  He ran really well, gaining 117 yards at 5.7 per (although his three fumbles, only one of which counted, detract significantly from his outing).

But we all know where this game was won: In the trenches, with the best offensive line in the league.  The Eagles came into the game with the third best rush defense in the league, with an outstanding -18.6% DVOA.  No problem.  Our boys up front paved the way for the running backs to gain to 217 yards on a cool 4.9 yards per carry.

The running game was the foundation of our attack that put up 36 points and notched 401 total yards on one of the best defenses in the league.  As for pass protection, Eli was only sacked once against a defense known for its ability to bring pressure. 

Nothing new here, but our O-line is the foundation for our success, probably the biggest a reason to be confident against any team in the NFL going forward.

So let’s honor these guys by name: Dave Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie.  Once again, the game ball goes to you.

III. Fumblitis

Over the past few games, we’ve seen Jacobs be increasingly reckless with the ball, so I can’t say I was all that surprised about tonight’s three fumbles (again, only one of which actually counted, but still).  Add in the rare Ward fumble at the most inopportune time, along with another unconscionable fumble by Ahmad, and we have something to worry about here.

If Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb weren’t Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, we might be blaming the fumbles for costing us a game in which we were clearly the better team.

Fortunately, we got away with it, but this is worrisome and has to stop.  Maybe we can bring back Tiki Barber as a guest lecturer on recovering from fumblitis.

IV. Special Teams

Save for the Quinton Demps fumble, we got killed in this area during the first half.  To our credit, we responded in the second half, but this still has to be considered an area of concern.

I can’t figure out why kickoff coverage has been a sporadic vulnerability for us over the past couple of years.  If the Jerry Reese Giants are characterized by anything, it is their athleticism on the roster from top to bottom.  This would seem to be a team ideally suited to field good special teams.

By the way, Tynes has to be the worst kickoff specialist in league history.  His kickoffs are probably better than Carney’s, but really, what’s the point or carrying him and not an actual kickoff specialist.  Are there any of these guys out there?  Because when it comes for field goals, I think Carney’s proven enough.  He has to be our guy going forward.)

Also, it was nice to see Hixon break one today – that call on Johnson was bullshit.  After the Seahawks game, that guy has been somewhat slept on, but he reminded us again what an asset he is.

Big ups on special teams also go to Ahmad, who made two great sticks on kickoffs.  Speaking of special teams…

V. Chase Blackburn

A crucial fumble recovery in the first quarter and then the game-clinching stop of Westbrook, along with a nice tackle on a kickoff.  He started at weakside linebacker today and should stay there for the rest of the season.  As I said last week, this guy needs to be on the field.

VI. Corey Webster

Yes, he got beaten by DeSean Jackson on that last scoring drive, but aside from that, I’m pretty sure this was a blemishless performance.  People talk about how much this guy has improved, but that’s a backhanded way getting at how good he is.  Sure, Corey Webster is the 2008 Most Improved Player.  But he’s also one of the best cornerbacks in the game.  In the NFL, it always takes time for a guy’s reputation to catch up to his production.  In the postseason, look for announcers to be making this point: Corey Webster is a Pro Bowl caliber corner.

VII. Odds and Ends

–What happened to the end zone fade to Plax?  Surely it’s worth one play on a goal-to-go series.  If the Eagles can do it with Hank Basket on Aaron Ross, surely we can do it with Plax on Asante Samuel or Sheldon Brown.

–Antonio Pierce was getting abused in pass coverage by LJ Smith over the middle.  This seam pattern has been a consistent vulnerability for this defense.

–Madison Hedgecock needs to re-learn how to catch.  What is that, four passes in a row he has dropped?  I don’t get it: Last year he had pretty good hands.  It was a drop by Madison, along with an uncharacteristic drop by Ward (who’s a great receiver), which kept us from converting those two Eagles turnovers into 14 points.  This effectively allowed Philly to stay in the game.

–Mathias Kiwanuka made a nice play “setting the edge” on a Westbrook run, but lost contain on two other plays.  I’ve said this before: ‘Nuke needs to be more disciplined out there.

–Kevin Boss, the end zone drop notwithstanding, can play.