It was arguably the most important game of the Giants 2009 season, a key matchup in the NFC East.
In a turbulent year where the division was up for grabs, the Giants could move into the top spot with a victory over the Eagles. It was late in the season and playoff berths were at stake.
Distressed Giants fans watched as McNabb absolutely shredded the New York defense. He ended the game with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 110.3 in the Eagles 45-38 win that put them atop the NFC East.
McNabb effortlessly targeted the holes in the Giants defense, particularly on long range bombs downfield to DeSean Jackson, who had 178 yards receiving.
In total, the Eagles got 307 yards through the air in their key win over the Giants verses 77 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the defense gave up 38 points, allowing Eli Manning to throw for three touchdowns. Manning ended the game with a quarterback rating of 130.5.
As an angry Giants fan, it was enjoyable to see the Eagles get creamed 0-24 two weeks later, even if it was by the division rival, the Cowboys.
As a football fan, certain differences between Philadelphia’s performance against the Giants in week 14 and the Cowboys in week 17 stood out loud and clear.
The conclusion was simply this: the Eagles weren’t a good team when Donovan McNabb wasn’t playing well.
Against the Cowboys, McNabb wasn’t connecting on those deep throws that gave the Giants D fits. With that downfield threat neutralized, the Eagles were helpless on offense.
On the other side of the ball, Philadelphia couldn’t stop Romo, who racked up 311 yards against the Eagles and ended the day with a quarterback rating over 100.
Going back to the Eagles/Giants game, the Philadelphia defense didn’t stop the New York offense; the Eagles won the game because McNabb outgunned Manning.
Outside of McNabb, Philadelphia didn’t have a lot going for them; no defense, no running game. No quarterback completely carries his team all the time (not even Peyton Manning) which left McNabb in a sticky situation with the Eagles.
The Philly offense depended heavily on McNabb, and when he was having an off day or getting harried by a defense, nobody else could step up to help carry the load. Yet the blame was still laid on McNabb’s shoulders.
In their wild card game, the Eagles lost to the Cowboys again, as McNabb couldn’t repeat his stellar performance against the Giants in week 14 and the Eagles were only able to generate 56 yards rushing.
Over the season, McNabb’s numbers didn’t vary much between wins and losses. The Eagles lost games when they couldn’t generate yards on the ground.
On top of that, the Eagles defense gave up double digit points in every game of the season.
All things considered, it would seem fair to say that McNabb held up his end of the bargain by keeping the team in games. His supporting cast seems to be to blame for the inability to win that elusive “big game.”
That’s one side of the argument.
On the other hand, McNabb’s had all the time in the world (eleven years) to bring Philadelphia a title, and he hasn’t.
He is in the last year of his contract and owed a lot of money the team could use to shore up problems elsewhere. McNabb is 33, meaning that his years in the NFL are numbered. For the Eagles, signing an aging quarterback to an expensive contract extension may not be a prudent move, especially when they have a young guy on the roster they like in Kevin Kolb.
Obviously, the Eagles chose this side of the agreement. McNabb has been traded to the Washington Redskins. Philadelphia will now focus on Kevin Kolb as their quarterback of the future.
You could argue that the Eagles did what was best for their franchise by looking ahead and making sure the team will stay competitive for years to come.
Or you could argue that Philly traded away their best player; the man who was responsible for keeping them competitive.
Either way you look at it, the trade has major implications for the NFC East. The Eagles just became a very young team led by a quarterback who will be starting in his first full season in the NFL. It wouldn’t be a stretch to predict that Philly will take a step back this year.
The Cowboys seem to be trending upwards, and if the Giants can fix their problems on defense they will be a tough competitor as well. Both of these teams can take advantage of the now inexperienced Eagles.
And what about the Redskins? With a new coach and talented veteran quarterback, they could make some noise in the division, especially when they play the Eagles.