November 11, 2007

A Stand To Save A Season

It was three plays to save a season. Yes, even if the Eagles had lost in Washington this weekend they would have had a chance to make the playoffs, but realistically, every member of the defense knew what was at stake.

With its back against its own end zone – and the wall – and the Redskins only seven yards away from all but putting the game out of reach, the Eagles defense had to make a stand.

Three plays to save a season.

Eventually, three plays turned to six. Six snaps from inside the 10-yard line. Six times the Redskins attacked the goal line, trying to put the game – and maybe the Eagles – away. Six times, the defense stood firm, setting up Philadelphia's dramatic 33-25 win on Sunday.

"When all of the odds are against you and you are still fighting, that's character. You develop that when nobody is looking," linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "When you look back at the film you'll see a whole lot of guys doing the little things right and that was the emphasis this week. Doing the little things."

When the Redskins got the ball back after a Donovan McNabb fumble with 8:03 remaining and two point lead, the Eagles defense hadn't been doing too many of the little things right.

Washington had physically imposed its will upon the Eagles for much of the afternoon, and when Clinton Portis gashed the defense twice to set up 1st and 10 from the Philadelphia 7-yard line, he moved past the 100-yard mark.

The Redskins were counting on him to get seven more, but the Eagles defense simply wouldn't allow it.

"I was proud of our goal line defense. I thought they did a heck of a job. You don't like being down there but if you are down there you really have to get it after them," head coach Andy Reid said.

First and goal from the seven. The Redskins tried a toss left to Portis that was strung out by defensive tackle Mike Patterson, gaining only one yard.

Second and goal from the 6-yard line. Portis bulls his way off of right tackle Todd Wade, but meets defensive end Trent Cole and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley after only a gain of 1 yard.

Third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The Redskins tried their one and only pass of the entire series, and drew a defensive holding call which gave them a first down.

With a new set of downs and the ball on the 3-yard line, the Eagles defense had to do it all over again – with the pressure of a nasty running attack, a two-point deficit, a rapidly declining clock and a potential 3-6 record resting squarely on its shoulders.

"Everyone knew it. You could tell in guys' eyes," Bunkley said. "Even when they got the first down we knew that we could get back on the ball and make something happen and we did."

First and goal from the 3-yard line. Portis went off of left tackle Chris Samuels but is pulled down by Spikes and Darren Howard after only a gain of a yard. Timeout Eagles.

Second and goal from the 2-yard line. Howard and Jevon Kearse met Portis in the backfield for a loss of one. Timeout Eagles.

Third and goal from the 3-yard. A false start penalty on Chris Cooley was followed by a draw play that was snuffed out three yards short of the end zone by Spikes and cornerback Joselio Hanson. Third and final Eagles timeout.

Spikes said that he thought the timeouts, while called to leave as much time as possible for Donovan McNabb and the offense, actually helped the defense immensely.

"When you have a defense backed up against the goal you never want to give them a chance to breathe; get a chance to get together," he said. "We did, so we were able to kind of talk to each other and realize what was at hand."

What was at hand was a defining moment of the season so far. The Redskins settled for a 21-yard Shaun Suisham field goal. Two Brian Westbrook touchdowns later and the Eagles returned home to Philadelphia with a win, and hopefully much more.

"I hope that goal line stand will snowball for us," Spikes said. "I'm not just saying defensively but team-wise."

In the end, they could quite literally turn out to be, six plays to save a season.


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