Eagles go for NFC East clincher vs. Giants

Saturday, November 27th 2004, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ After losing their third straight NFC title game earlier last January, many wondered whether Andy Reid could keep the Philadelphia Eagles on track for another year.

New York Giants linebacker Carlos Emmons was never in that group, especially after his old team picked up the volatile but very productive Terrell Owens in the offseason.

``What they have done this season doesn't surprise me,'' said Emmons, who signed with the Giants in the spring, about three months after his best season in Philadelphia was ended by a broken leg. ``The whole time I was there I knew we needed a guy like T.O. But they never got him.''

Owens and his NFL-leading 13 touchdown catches have put the Eagles' offense on par with its dynamic defense in what has turned into a brilliant regular season.

The Eagles (9-1) will win the NFC East title for the fourth consecutive year if they beat slumping New York (5-5) at Giants Stadium on Sunday.

With a win, Philadelphia would become only the third team to clinch a division title in 11 games since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. The Bears in 1985 and 49ers in 1997 were the other two. Chicago won the Super Bowl. San Francisco lost the conference title game.

While admitting the burden of not getting to the Super Bowl has been heavy for the Eagles, Emmons said Reid has a very talented and focused group of players.

``When I was there and we lost, it was always `We're ready for the season to start right back over again. We want to try again,''' Emmons said. ``That's all you can do.''

Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said Reid can take much credit for the team's success.

``After a big win he is the same, and after a loss he is the same,'' Dawkins said. ``He portrays that to us in preparation. Another thing is his attention to detail. He is always talking about the little things. If you take care of the little things, all the big things will be taken care of.''

That approach might explain why the Eagles are downplaying their bid for another division title. It's just another step.

``The guys know pretty much what's at stake,'' Owens said. ``It's not a must win for us. We shouldn't go up there and play like we must win that game, but we know we should win the game, according to the circumstances.''

The Eagles had no trouble handling the Giants in the opener, posting a 31-17 win in a game in which Donovan McNabb threw three of his four touchdown passes to Owens.

The Giants, who have lost three straight games and four of their last five, have lost several key players since that game. All Pro Michael Strahan and fellow starting defensive end Keith Washington are out for the season with injuries and linebacker Barrett Green has missed the last three games with knee and ankle problems.

The other major change is Eli Manning at quarterback. The No. 1 overall draft pick made his first start last weekend in a 14-10 loss to Atlanta. He played well in the second half in giving New York a chance.

Manning knows the Eagles' defense is going to blitz. Philadelphia leads the NFC with 29 sacks and it will be going against an offense that has given up a league-high 41 sacks.

``They're going to try and confuse me and come from different spots,'' Manning said. ``Chances are I'm going to see a blitz that they haven't done yet and that's when I'm going to have to make a good decision and whether they trick me or confuse me, I can't turn one mistake into another.''

At this point in the season, the Giants can't afford many more mistakes. While they have stumbled after a surprising 4-1 start, they are still tied with St. Louis for the last wild-card playoff berth.

``I think it's important for us not to forget that,'' Giants cornerback Will Allen said. ``But there is no more room for error after these past three weeks. There's just no more room for error.''

Owens comes into the game within reach of setting a team record and winning a personal bet with Reid. One more touchdown catch will set a single-season Eagles mark currently shared by Mike Quick (1983) and Tommy McDonald (1960 and '61).

``Well put it in the book,'' Owens said.

With two more TD catches, Owens will force Reid to wear a pair of his tights.

``Put it in the book,'' Owens said with a laugh.

And if the Eagles win, put them in the playoffs.