PHILADELPHIA -- Andy Reid did what so many Eagles fans have longed for him to do.
He ran the ball.
With his quarterback only a week removed from a concussion, the pass-happy Reid came out and made like Chuck Noll yesterday in the Eagles' NFC East battle against the Giants. He used a ton of two-tight-end sets. He brought fullback Owen Schmitt out of deep freeze and handed him the ball four times.
The Eagles ran the ball 40 times, which was their most rushing attempts in nearly 3 years.
And they lost.
Most of the time, they ran it effectively. They rushed for 177 yards, 128 by LeSean McCoy. But those numbers turned out to be hollow.
When the Eagles most needed to run the ball, they couldn't. They came up small on two first-and-goal situations, and also failed to convert an important fourth-and-1 at the Giants' 43 early in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to the visitors and kick-started New York's 29-16, come-from-behind victory.
"We've got to toughen up, especially in the red zone," right guard Kyle DeVan said. "Things happen a lot faster down there. We should have been able to put the ball in the end zone no matter what plays Marty and Andy called. We should be able to punch it in there. That's on us.
"You run the ball all the way down there, well, shoot, that's what we're asking for. We're asking to run the ball. And then when we get inside the red zone, we're not saying, 'OK, coach, we got here, you can throw it now.' That's something that has to get better. You have to put it in when you get in the red zone. It is what it is."
DeVan is right. It is on them. A first-and-goal at the 3, another first-and-goal at the 2, the offensive line has to execute. But there also was some curious playcalling on the two goal-to-go situations by Mornhinweg and Reid.
On the first one, early in the second quarter, the Eagles ran the ball on eight of 10 plays as they drove from their own 20 to the Giants' 3, with McCoy converting a third-and-1 from the 7 with a 4-yard run.
But after another McCoy run out of a two-tight-end set only produced 1 yard, Reid reverted to form. Called a short dump pass in the middle to McCoy that lost a yard, then had Vick throw into the end zone for wide receiver Steve Smith.
The pass almost was intercepted by safety Kenny Phillips and Vick ended up taking a good lick from a pass rusher. The Eagles had to settle for a 21-yard Alex Henery field goal.
With the Eagles trailing 14-13 late in the third quarter, Vick scrambled to his left and completed a 14-yard pass to Jason Avant that gave the Eagles a first-and-goal at the 2. Instead of giving the ball to McCoy or bringing in Ronnie Brown, Reid made a curious decision. He called Schmitt's number.
Schmitt didn't have a single rushing attempt last season. Didn't have any in the first two games. Hell, he's only had five carries in his career.
Maybe Reid and Mornhinweg thought they'd catch the Giants by surprise. But they thought wrong. Schmitt made it to the 1, but he had a knee hit the ground before he was able to get across the goal line.
After a quarterback sneak by Vick also failed, Reid/Mornhinweg again ignored McCoy and Brown and handed it again to Schmitt out of an "elephant" formation (six offensive linemen and two tight ends). Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph blew up the play when he got penetration and helped tackle Schmitt for a 1-yard loss.
"It was a dream game for me and I couldn't get in," said Schmitt, who had four carries. "It's...not good.
"We just didn't execute. They whipped our asses in there, obviously. That's not good. You get that close, you've got to put it in. I take full responsibility on the first . I should be able to get in there. The second one, they were pinching so much. They broke through. Couldn't do much about that."
The Eagles had to settle for another Henery chip shot that gave them a 16-14 lead. After getting the ball back, they had a fourth-and-1 at the Giants' 43. Reid weighed the risk and reward and elected to go for it.
With McCoy lining up in the same one-back, two-tight end set in which he'd gained the bulk of his 128 yards, he tried to go inside and get the first down. But there was nowhere to run. Before he could bounce outside, linebacker Michael Boley came off the edge unblocked and tackled him for a 3-yard loss. The Giants got the ball back and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," Reid said of the fourth-and-1 decision. "That's on me, and it's my responsibility there to make sure that we call those in the right situations. I didn't do it last week and I should have. I did it this week, and I shouldn't have. That's how this thing works sometimes."
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Eagles' offensive line. It did a good job of protecting Vick and later, Mike Kafka after Vick left the game with a broken right hand, allowing just two sacks. The line helped McCoy notch his second 100-yard game in 3 weeks. But when it needed that last yard on the two goal-line situations, when it needed that yard on fourth-and-1, they couldn't get it.
"It was very frustrating," center Jason Kelce said. "It's hard to run in short yardage. Especially when a team is packing it in there. They've got some big guys. So they're going to be stout inside. Especially on the goal line. A couple of plays I thought we got decent push. It's just very frustrating."
Said tight end Clay Harbor: "You've got to execute down there. They jam everything in. You know who you're blocking. You just have to get a surge. It's man vs. man. Whoever gets lower. Whoever pushes harder in that situation.
"They got underneath us and we couldn't push the ball in."