Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 1, 1996: There’s just something about the Eagles that turns those big bad Giants into a bunch of softies. Even under Parcells, the Eagles would give the Giants fits and win games in strange ways. That all seemed to change when Reeves became head coach due to the fact that the Giants swept the Eagles in both 1993 and 1994. However, since then it has been all Eagles once again. It is tough to determine who will have the emotional advantage on Sunday. The Giants are coming of their most emotionally charged wins in years and the Eagles are coming off a draining loss. Which team will be more mentally sapped on Sunday? The Eagles still have a shot at the division and desperately need this game. The Giants once again are playing for pride and their head coach’s job.
Giants on Offense: The Giants are just not scoring enough points on offense. Once again, the offense was saved by the Giants’ defense last week. If you told us the Giants’ offense would only score 13 points and yet the Giants would have beaten the World Champs, we would have said you were crazy. The Giants can’t afford to count on the defense week-in-and-week-out. More points must be generated. If the Giants score more than 20 points in a game, it’s a miracle (and usually it is because the defense or special teams score). Why aren’t the Giants scoring more? (1) Because they are terrible at converting on 3rd down, and (2) they are terrible at scoring TD’s in the redzone. In both situations, a QB needs other weapons besides his receivers. Most QB’s in the league have a 3rd down back (i.e., Larry Centers or David Meggett) or a TE (Wesley Walls or Jamie Asher) who can keep the chains moving or make a play in the endzone against a safety or linebacker. Basically, Dave Brown has no security blanket. Brian Saxton is a much better receiver than Howard Cross and we would continue to work him more and more into the offense. The need for a 3rd down back must be addressed in the offseason. The Giants’ offensive line dramatically outweighs the Eagles’ front seven, yet the Eagles defensive line and linebackers always seems to give the Giants problems. It’s time for the line to use their bulk and strength in order to wear down the Eagles. Power the ball right at them! Run Wheatley behind these big boys and right behind FB Charles Way. Wheatley is due to break a big one soon. The more chances he gets, the more likely he will score on a game-breaking play. The problem the Giants will face is that Eagles’ defense matches up extremely well against the Giants (just like the Panthers and Cowboys). The Eagles have two very physical CB’s that like to jam WR’s at the line of scrimmage. Chris Calloway and Thomas Lewis (if he plays) do not play well against this type of coverage. Thus, if we’re the Eagles, we concentrate on the run on first and second-down and then bring in the nickel package on third down and have the CB’s jam the WR’s. Thus, not only will the Eagles be jamming the wideouts, but there will be more defensive backs than wideouts. Do you really think the Eagles are going to worry about Howard Cross or Gary Downs? What makes matters worse is that the Eagles are so well coached on defense that it always seems like they know what play the Giants are going run. Interestingly, the Cardinals went after CB Bobby Taylor last week with some success. Dave Brown and the Giant wideouts will need to make some plays if the Giants are to win. Don’t be so predictable! Pass to the wideouts on first down. Put a WR in motion (a moving WR is almost impossible to jam) and play multiple WR’s to one side and group them together (also difficult to jam — and also an effective way to run a “legal” pick). However, we also think the way to hurt the Eagles is to use Way, Hampton (or Wheatley), and Saxton in the passing game — and not just on 3rd down! On the line, Mike Mamula gives Bishop almost as much trouble as Simeon Rice does. We’d run at Mamula to slow him down some. The Eagle pass rush usually gives the Giants fits, so the order of the day SHOULD be 3-step drops, slants, and screens. The play-action roll out will only work so many times Dan!
Giants on Defense: What amazed us so much last week was not so much the play of the secondary and the forced turnovers, but the play of the Giants upfront in neutralizing the Cowboys running game and that huge offensive line. More of that effort is needed this week as the Giants face a decent Eagles’ offensive line and Ricky Watters. We say it week-in-and-week-out, but the key on defense in EVERY game is shutting down the opposition’s running game first and foremost. We need another big effort against the run by the defensive ends and tackles, as well as the linebackers. If you can frustrate Watters early, you can “mentally” take him out of the game. You can also force him to fumble — and once he does that, those “nice” Eagle fans will get all over his back. The Giant CB’s face a severe test this week in the form of Irving Fryar (who is having a remarkable year) and Chris T. Jones (who is underrated). The CB’s need to play aggressively and disrupt the routes of the wideouts. The “West Coast” offense is all rhythm and timing — disrupt that rhythm and timing and the offense will be out of wack. QB Detmer can’t be intimidated, but he can be frustrated. Be physical with the receivers and knock them around. The two match-ups that could give the Giants the most problems is TE Jason Dunn versus Jesse Campbell and the RB’s (Watters, Charlie Garner — if he plays, and Kevin Turner) versus Widmer and the strongside linebacker (Buckley or Miller — if the latter plays). The linebackers (Buckley or Miller) need to jam Dunn at the line and Campbell has to have a big game in coverage. Buckley will be tested in coverage as well, but his toughest challenge will be against the run. The Eagles know he’s out there and have had success running on him in the past. Another key is the pass rush. The Giants’ pass rush seems to have disappeared as the season has worn on. Hamilton, Harris, and Strahan in particular need to step it up another notch. Using some of those blitz packages the Giants used early on in the year might help as well. What are you saving them for Nolan?
Special Teams: One of the few areas where the Giants have been able to outplay the Eagles in recent years. However, Eagle RB Derrick Witherspoon has returned two kick-offs for TD’s this year, including one last week. Brad Daluiso finally made some clutch, long-range field goals last week, but has to make some more in order to gain our confidence again. Conrad Hamilton has done a decent job returning kicks, but he needs more help back there. Punt returns have been pathetic since Toomer went down. It would be nice to see the Giants block a kick or punt this week.
Outlook: Don’t be fooled by last week. The Giants have been far too inconsistent this year to expect them to play well again this week. The game is in Philly and the division title is at stake here for the Eagles. The Eagles’ defense will shut down the Giants’ offense and the Giants’ defense won’t come up with points on their own this week. Eagles 24 – Giants 6.