Eagles beat Ravens at own game
The Eagles didn't make mistakes and won the field position battle, beating the Ravens at their own game Sunday.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Ravens' plan was simple, as it usually is. So simple, in fact, that the man who had the biggest hand (or forearm, in this case) in foiling it, Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins, was able to summarize it in just a few sentences.
"They thought, especially with [running back Brian] Westbrook being out [rib injury], that they could keep us out of the end zone and (play) field position," the Eagles safety said. "'Get to the 50-yard line, punt them down there, our defense will hold them, they'll punt back, we'll be within the 40s, our offense can make a couple of plays, maybe put some field goals on the board, maybe get us a touchdown, we'll get up 7-zip, then let our defense take over.'
|“||We can win with our offense putting up points, we can win with our defense having to hold people. I think that's the sign of a pretty good team that can be a great team. ”|
|— Brian Dawkins, Eagles safety|
"We didn't let that happen."
Philadelphia played Baltimore's game and beat the Ravens at it, 15-10. It was a defensive game with four field goals (three by the Eagles) accounting for the scoring until Terrell Owens' game-breaking 11-yard touchdown with 9 minutes 12 seconds to go.
Owens' score and ensuing celebration were the most exciting moments of the game, but the turning point came nine plays and four minutes earlier. With the Ravens at the Eagles' 39 and looking like their offense was ready to have its say in the outcome after Kyle Boller's 21-yard completion to Travis Taylor, Dawkins forced Baltimore's only real turnover on the next play. (Officially, the Ravens turned it over twice, the other time on an interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.)
Chester Taylor, replacing a suspended Jamal Lewis for the second and final game, was on his way down, courtesy of Dhani Jones, when Dawkins game in and put his right arm right on the football. Hollis Thomas recovered. Philly took over and drove 65 yards in nine plays to the game's first touchdown, and the Ravens, though they made it interesting, with a touchdown on the ensuing possession, couldn't recover.
"When T.O. scored that touchdown, that definitely put us behind the 8 ball," said Ravens defensive end Anthony Weaver.
"I always do that," Dawkins said, explaining his decision to lay a hit on Taylor when he was already on his way down. "When the guy's going to the ground, I always try to deliver a big blow. It's not really to get the ball out, it's more just to let him know it's going to be like that all day long."
Did he feel like Taylor was in a vulnerable position? "It depends on the ballcarrier," Dawkins said. "When you're going down you may extend the ball a little bit just to brace the fall. That's not really in my head to tell you the truth."
Lewis, tight end Todd Heap, and left tackle Jonathan Ogden weren't in the Ravens' lineup, yet they had a chance late to be the first team to knock off the Eagles. Instead, their last possession ended at Philly's 48 after four straight Boller incompletions, including a first-down spike to stop the clock with 1:18 left.
The game went exactly according to Brian Billick's plan, except for the field position part. Thanks to David Akers's deep kickoffs (four into the end zone, three touchbacks) and Dirk Johnson's 42.5 net-punting average and three downed inside the 20, Baltimore's average staring field position was its 19. And then there was that little turnover in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, we wanted to go in and lose. At the start of the day, I said, 'Let's go in, keep it tight, fumble the ball, and then lose,' " the Ravens coach said sarcastically. "Sure you want to play good defense and hopefully keep them from making it a high scoring game, which is their M.O. You want to be close enough at the end to make a difference. We couldn't quite pull it off."
"This is our style of game," Weaver said. "This is the way we play ball. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way today.
"This feels like a playoff loss. We're trying to reach that elite level, and in order to do that, you have to beat the elite teams. This was an opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it. We're trying to put the Ravens back on the map. We've just got to get to the playoffs. Once we get there, the playoffs were built for us."
But Sunday belonged to Philadelphia.
"We can win with our offense putting up points, we can win with our defense having to hold people," Dawkins said. "I think that's the sign of a pretty good team that can be a great team."
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.