PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The season was slipping away for the Eagles and someone needed to make a big play. Juqua Parker and the defense stepped up just in time to send Philadelphia into its bye with reason to have hope.
After letting the San Francisco 49ers move the ball almost at will in the first three quarters Sunday, the Eagles' D shut them down in the final 12 minutes. Not only that, the defense turned into another offensive weapon.
Three straight turnovers helped the Eagles rally to take a lead, but the 40-26 victory wasn't secure until Parker intercepted J.T. O'Sullivan's pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left.
For Philadelphia, this was a must win. The Eagles (3-3) couldn't afford to lose more ground in a tough NFC East. They remain last, but closed within a game of second-place Dallas and Washington.
``This was a significant game in general for us,'' coach Andy Reid said Monday. ``It's important we establish more consistency and eliminate some of the highs and lows.''
downs this season. The lowly Rams couldn't muster more than a field goal in the opener, but the Cowboys' high-octane offense racked up 380 yards and 34 points in a 41-37 win in Week 2.
Philly's D rebounded the following week, dismantling the Steelers in a 15-6 win. The Eagles limited the Steelers to 180 yards and had nine sacks, knocking Ben Roethlisberger out of the game after he went down eight times.
In a 24-20 loss at Chicago on Sept. 28, the defense stiffened after allowing 21 points in the first half, but couldn't get key third-down stops late.
Last week, the Redskins controlled the ball for nearly 35 minutes and totaled 388 yards in a 23-17 win.
It looked like more of the same for the first three quarters against the 49ers, who had 389 yards and 20 first downs in that span. Then came one big play after another from a defense determined to save the season.
``We had to go after it,'' Parker said. ``We needed to win this game. It was huge. It was very important.''
First, linebacker Omar Gaither smothered halfback Frank Gore on a screen pass on third-and-10 to force a punt with under 12 minutes left and the 49ers up 26-24. Donovan McNabb drove the offense to a go-ahead field goal by David Akers.
d returned it 41 yards to the 49ers 7. Another field goal gave the Eagles a 30-26 lead.
The 49ers faced a third-and-3 at their 26 on their next drive when Trent Cole sacked O'Sullivan and forced a fumble recovered by Chris Clemons. That led to yet another field goal and a 33-26 lead.
Because the offense couldn't turn those turnovers into touchdowns, the 49ers still had a chance. That's when Parker made sure the Eagles wouldn't blow this one.
The defensive end dropped back into coverage instead of rushing the passer and O'Sullivan never saw him when he fired a pass. Parker caught it at the Eagles 45 and raced back the other way to put the game away, surprising quite a few people with his speed.
``I would have loved to have told him to down it at the 1, but he was on a roll,'' Reid said. ``Those guys don't get to touch the ball much. It was a heck of job by him. It was a great call by (defensive coordinator) Jim (Johnson). J.P. playing in space, he showed his athletic ability and speed on that play, and that's a compliment to him.''
Despite the dominating performance in the fourth quarter against San Francisco, the Eagles have a few things to resolve over the bye week. Their once-stingy run defense has suddenly gone soft the last two weeks.
In the first four games, Philadelphia had allowed just 53.8 per game on the ground. Clinton Portis ran for 145 yards of Washington's 203 yards rushing last week and Gore had 101 of San Francisco's 131 yards on the ground.

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