And there it was -- twice. Fourth and short, fourth quarter, tight game, the best team in the league at running the ball at the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles defense.
And there was Brodrick Bunkley -- twice -- getting penetration, clogging up the lanes, and short-circuiting the lifeblood of the defending champion New York Giants. You can say all you want about Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins, this one was on a third-year defensive tackle that few outside the Delaware Valley had ever heard of. The score read Eagles 23, Giants 11. But when it counted most, it was Bunkley 2, Giants 0.
After the Eagles made it 20-11 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Giants drove to their own 44, where they faced fourth-and-six inches. They wouldn't be passing. From the outset the serpentine Meadowlands winds had turned Eli Manning's passes into oblong paper airplanes -- floating and diving unpredictably at the whim of the breeze. No, they would run.
New York lined up in a two-tight end set. Bunkley set up to the right of Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara -- whose job would be to charge low and move Bunkley just enough for Eli Manning to stretch for the first down. No dice. Bunkley charged low and to his left and drove O'Hara backward. Manning sought to extend his frame, but collapsed against the back of his stalwart center. It wasn't even close. The Eagles had held.
On the Giants next possession, they drove near mid-field again -- fourth-and- 2 from their own 47. This time they aimed a 265-pound battering ram named Brandon Jacobs out of the same two-tight end set. Again, O'Hara was called on to get underneath Bunkley, drive him to the side to allow Jacobs to blow through the hole. Again Bunkley was lower. No leverage. No hole. No first down. All in attendance knew the essential truth -- the Giants were defeated then and there.
Anatomy of a Play
Philadelphia ran for just 59 yards themselves, but relied on two turnovers, two missed field goals and the two fourth-down stands to topple the NFC's top-seeded team.
Philadelphia turned an Asante Samuel interception into a one-yard McNabb touchdown run and took a 10-8 halftime lead. A 36-yard field goal by John Carney gave New York an 11-10 lead early in the second half before the Eagles dominated the rest of the third quarter with a David Akers field goal and a drive that resulted in McNabb's touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek that made it 20-11.
Manning finished just 15-of-29 for 169 yards and two interceptions. While Jacobs led New York with 92 yards rushing on 19 carries, the Giants were unable to gain the crucial ground yardage when it truly counted.