Sep 152004
Philadelphia Eagles 31 – New York Giants 17

Game Overview: I said in my game preview that I couldn’t tell what kind of team the Giants would field this year. On Sunday against the Eagles, we started to get some answers. Before I get into the positional specifics, here are some general observations:

  • I firmly believe the Giants were not so bad on Sunday as the Eagles were very good. They are very well-rounded with a good offense, defense, and special teams. And by far, this is the best offensive talent the Eagles have had since Donovan McNabb has been there. It’s not just the presence of WR Terrell Owens, but they have a legitimate homerun threat at running back and two very good pass-receiving tight ends. The blocking by the offensive line and fullback is very strong. When McNabb is on his game (and he was VERY sharp against the Giants – he made some absolutely fantastic throws), this may be the best offensive team in the NFC. It also may be the best team period in the NFC.
  • I really disagree with those who said Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis did not call an aggressive game against the Eagles. The Giants showed a lot of different looks with their fronts and coverages. They also blitzed a lot. The Eagles did a great job of reading the blitzes and/or picking them up. As I said, they have a solid offensive line and they have a lot of quality underneath receivers who can burn you (Westbrook and the tight ends). What made the defense look so bad is that the players did not execute very well. There were physical and mental mistakes in coverage (mostly physical) and there were many mistackles. My only criticism of the schemes (or lack of understanding) here is why the Giants kept allowing the tight ends a free and easy release from the line of scrimmage. There was too much pitch-and-catch for McNabb in an offense that relies on timing.
  • The Giants probably do not have enough talent on defense to seriously compete this year. To be fair to the defensive players, they were hampered by nagging injuries to key players in the preseason such as CB Will Allen, SLB Carlos Emmons, WLB Barrett Green, and DE Keith Washington that caused a lot of practice time to be missed. All four of these players didn’t play particularly well on Sunday. But the Giants don’t have a lot of speed or talent at linebacker or safety. Worse, since these are the natural leadership positions in a defense, the Giants are also suffering from a lack of passionate defensive leadership. If the Giants are going to compete with the best in 2005, they will need to aggressively pursue free agent defensive players (because they only have four picks left in the 2005 NFL Draft and rookies usually do not make a dramatic impact).
  • On the other hand, barring injury, the offense should continue to grow this year. TE Jeremy Shockey has been out so long that I forgot how good he really is. Yes, he only had two catches on Sunday and yes he dropped a sure touchdown pass. But he demands double-coverage and even when double-covered, he still gets open. The offensive line played a good game against a quality opponent and will continue to get better. And Tim Carter showed signs of contributing. Amani Toomer needs to step it up however.

Why did the Giants lose on Sunday? Because the Eagles are a better football team and they played like it. Pretty simple.

Quarterbacks: Kurt Warner (16-of-28 for 203 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) was OK. The biggest negative on him was the fumble on the goal line that probably prevented a touchdown (his earlier fumble was from a huge hit on a cornerback blitz that he didn’t see coming). The fumble on the goal line was inexcusable. Warner also missed on a couple of throws such as his overthrow to Shockey deep into the end zone in the 1st quarter (this is likely the result of the two barely practicing together) and his slightly inaccurate throw to Ike Hilliard in the 4th quarter on 4th-and-goal that also should have resulted in a touchdown. In addition, Warner was flagged with a false start penalty. But Warner generally made good decisions, stepped up into the pocket, got rid of the ball quickly at times (and thereby helped out his offensive line), and showed good toughness despite receiving some pretty good whacks. I really liked the 43-yard pass play right before half to Ike Hilliard where Warner read Hilliard’s intention to alter his route down the middle of the field and he lofted a nice touch pass to Hilliard as pressure was bearing down on him from behind.

Manning saw his first action of the regular season on the Giants’ final two drives of the game. He didn’t throw a pass on the first drive, but threw 9 passes on the final drive (completing 3 of them, 1 being dropped). His best throw was the 29-yard strike to Tim Carter on 4th-and-10. He and Amani Toomer did not appear to be in sync on a couple of shorter efforts.

Wide Receivers: I was very disappointed with Amani Toomer (4 catches for 41 yards). He was far too quiet, especially when you consider with Shockey back in the line-up and receiving double-team attention. Toomer must have had some good one-on-one opportunities. He also had a costly drop early in the 2nd quarter that would have put the Giants in scoring position. Two plays later, they had to punt instead. Look at what Owens did for the Eagles and look at what Toomer did for the Giants – that’s why I’m disappointed in him. Toomer did use a nice stiff arm on a quick pass from Warner in the 4th quarter that picked up 9-yards (I really liked this play as Warner clearly saw an all-out Eagle blitz coming and the Giants were prepared for it).

Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 59 yards) made a nice route adjustment on the aforementioned 43-yard play, but likewise was too quiet on Sunday. Even though Warner’s pass was thrown behind him on 4th-and-goal, a receiver the caliber of Hilliard should have made that catch. Hilliard also dropped a pass on the Giants’ final drive of the game. The Giants did throw to Hilliard on a WR-screen on 3rd-and-11 that picked up the 1st down (as I said in the preseason, the WR-screen to Hilliard is a great play because of his run-after-the-catch ability). Hilliard missed a block on one of Dayne’s runs that could have picked up more yardage had he kept the defensive back from penetrating from the backside.

Tim Carter (4 catches for 51 yards) was solid, including a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-5 and a 29-yard catch on 4th-and-10.

Tight Ends: It was great to see Shockey back on the field and even better that he finished the game without getting hurt. It was not a good game for Shockey, but his very presence demands double-team attention. For example, on the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game, Shockey dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. But what was amazing on the play was that Shockey broke away from the double-team coverage on him to get that wide open in the first place. Later in the drive, Warner overthrew him in the endzone on a route that was run like an athletic wide receiver. His inside fake caused two defensive backs to lose a step on him (similar to the play where Terrell Owens beat Will Allen and Shaun Williams for a touchdown).

Shockey made two key blocks on plays run to the left on the first scoring drive that picked up a total of 37 rushing yards. In the 3rd quarter, he dropped another pass from Warner, but a few plays later, he got deep down the seam for a 34-yard reception. Two plays later, he got a good block on a 7-yard HB Ron Dayne run. My only criticism of Shockey on his blocking is that he needs to finish better at times.

Visanthe Shiancoe did not block as well as he did in the preseason. To be fair to him, he was left all alone with DE Jevon Kearse on a number of plays and that is a tough assignment. Kearse beat Shiancoe twice in pass protection, leading to incompletions. He also had problems moving Kearse out on a couple of running plays, including one that drew a holding call. But Shank did have some nice blocks in the game on positive outside runs, as well as Tiki Barber’s 72-yard scamper. Late in the 1st quarter, Shiancoe could not haul in a slightly errant throw from Warner on a crossing pattern over the middle. I thought that Shiancoe should have picked up the cornerback on the blitz that caused Warner to fumble the ball in the 3rd quarter.

One of the plays that Coughlin ran that I thought was neat was a formation that had Barber, Shiancoe, and TE Marcellus Rivers all lined up together in the backfield in a sort of wishbone set. This play seemed to confuse the Eagles as it developed into a screen pass that picked up a key first down on 3rd-and-5.

Running Backs: Interestingly, Ron Dayne (13 carries for 45 yards, 1 touchdown) started the game and saw almost as many touches as Tiki Barber (9 carries for 125 yards, 1 touchdown; 5 catches for 75 yards). This was reminiscent of the 2000-2001 Giant seasons. Dayne played pretty well. I was impressed with his power on the goal line when he lowered his pad level and drove the defender back 3-yards into the endzone for a touchdown. Earlier on this drive, he had a nice 15-yard run around left end behind solid blocking from Shiancoe, Shockey, and LG Jason Whittle.

There was another interesting wrinkle from Coughlin with a formation that had both Barber and Dayne in the backfield together. Barber went in motion as a receiver while Dayne carried the ball up the middle for a 2-yard gain. I do not think Dayne ran poorly in short-yardage on Sunday. There were three plays that he didn’t convert, but on two of these he was hit in the backfield (RG Chris Snee being at fault on both of these) and on the third, he did a good job of twisting forward and almost scoring on the play.

Tiki Barber ripped off a really nice 22-yard gain on a run around left end behind blocks from Whittle and Shockey. However, in the 2nd quarter, I thought that Barber screwed up a screen pass on 3rd-and-15 when he ran his route past the line of scrimmage and ahead of his blockers. But Barber rectified this later in the game with two excellent screens, one where he went in motion and cut the play back against the grain to pick up 25 yards; the second being a typical screen pass that picked up 34 yards. The Giants are quickly developing into a very good screen team with screens being run to Barber and the wide receivers. We will probably see one to Shockey soon. Regardless, Barber is very good on screen passes because of his vision and elusiveness in the open field. Barber’s 72-yard run late in the game was the type of big SCORING play that was missing from Barber’s game last year.

Both Barber and Dayne were real solid on their blitz pick-ups. However, Jim Finn was not on one play as he got run over by a linebacker leading to a sack on the Giants’ last possession of the first half. Strangely, Finn did a much better job of lead blocking between the tackles than he did on outside runs. A few times I spotted him not being able to take out the defensive back on wide runs – a fullback MUST take out the defensive back in these situations.

Offensive Line: This group played surprisingly well against an aggressive opponent that likes to confuse the opposition with different blitz packages. Keep in mind that Jason Whittle is playing left guard for the first time and was just anointed the starter a few days ago, Chris Snee is a rookie, and this was David Diehl’s first game at right tackle in an NFL regular season game. At times, pass protection was rock solid. At other times, it was made to look good by the short passing game and quick release of Kurt Warner.

Jason Whittle looks like a natural at left guard. He made two outstanding blocks on pulls to the left that sprung Barber for 22 yards and Dayne for 15 yards. Whittle and Diehl got excellent blocks on Barber’s 34-yard screen pass late in the 4th quarter. The only pass protection breakdown I saw from Whittle came with only seconds left in the game as his opponent was able to exert pressure on Manning on one play. Whittle was also flagged with a false start.

David Diehl did an excellent job in pass protection against Jevon Kearse and Jerome McDougle – two 1st round pass rushing specialists.

Chris Snee was very solid against a quality opponent, Corey Simon (who was limited to 1-tackle). His biggest mistakes (and they were a costly ones) came in short yardage. Snee missed Dhani Jones on the run blitz on 3rd-and-1, leading to a 1-yard loss in the first half. Inexplicably, Snee got creamed on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line two plays before Warner fumbled the ball away in the second half. This failed block allowed the Eagles to penetrate and hit Dayne behind the line of scrimmage. Snee was also flagged with a false start.

The biggest liability was LT Luke Petitgout. He was beat twice cleanly to the inside, once by DE Derrick Burgess (causing an incompletion) and a second time by DE Hugh Douglas (causing a sack). That doesn’t mean it was a bad game for Petitgout, but as I said in the preseason, Petitgout needs to elevate his play commensurate to what he is being paid.

The Petitgout sack was the only sack (there were five) that was the fault of the offensive line. There were two coverage sacks (where Warner and Manning took off running), the failed blitz pick-up by Finn, and a corner blitz where I thought Shiancoe should have picked up the guy.

Pulls by Petitgout and OC Shaun O’Hara sprung Barber on a 10-yard run in the 3rd quarter. However, a few plays later, Petitgout wasn’t able to prevent penetration by LB Dhani Jones on a Barber run that only picked up 2 yards. Petitgout did get a nice push on the very next play on a Dayne run off left guard for 7 yards. O’Hara had problems with moving Dhani Jones out on another left side run.

The 72-yard run by Tiki Barber was exceptionally well-blocked with Diehl and Snee getting good blocks at the point-of-attack, O’Hara getting a great downfield block, and Tim Carter and Shiancoe also shielding their opponents.

Defensive Line: Not a standout game. The biggest problem was that when the Giants rushed their four down linemen, they got little pass pressure. DE Keith Washington never threatened LT Tra Thomas and that hurt. DE Michael Strahan had one sack against RT Jon Runyan, but more was hoped from him in this department. I would say that Runyan out-played Michael on this day. Norman Hand and Fred Robbins simply didn’t generate enough heat on the pass rush.

The good news with the two tackles is that they were pretty stout against the inside run the few times the Eagles challenged the Giants on the inside. On the Eagles’ first drive of the game, Fred Robbins did an excellent job of holding his ground against a double-team block, holding HB Brian Westbrook to a 2-yard gain. Hand stuffed a Westbrook run on the goal line, but both he and Strahan got blocked effectively on a later 3rd-and-1 play. Robbins made a few plays against the run in the second half. He fights through blocks pretty well. In my opinion, he’s a huge upgrade over Keith Hamilton in run defense.

The big run of the game for Philly – the 50-yarder by Westbrook – came at the expense of Strahan and SLB Carlos Emmons. Both were man-handled at the point-of-attack. Strahan also lost contain on McNabb on the latter’s amazing scramble-and-throw for a touchdown in the 1st quarter. Strahan later missed a sack on McNabb near the goal line in the 4th quarter. The Eagles were also not afraid to run at Strahan in this game and picked up some good yardage by doing so.

William Joseph saw playing time in both halves. On his first play of the game, just like in the preseason, he quickly penetrated the line and positioned himself to make a play in the backfield for a loss on Westbrook. Unfortunately, he missed the tackle. Still, his initial penetration was impressive. In the 4th quarter, he was flagged for being offsides (the penalty was declined).

What was interesting was that the Giants actually played the 3-4 defense more than I expected. And the linebackers were often defensive ends, including Keith Washington. This confused the Eagles early on. For example, on a 2nd-and-8 play, Washington and WLB Barrett Green broke through to pressure McNabb from his right (and Washington was playing linebacker). The Giants moved in and out of this look, sometimes rushing only four, often times blitzing. But the Eagles did a better job of picking up the blitz as the game wore on and/or hitting the open underneath receiver. The Giants blitzed different guys from different positions, but for some reason, it was no longer confusing the Eagles.

Linebackers: Not good. Pass coverage on the underneath receivers was very poor. There were instances where the tight end or back was left wide open (though some of that may have been due to the blitzing). What bothered me was that the tight ends were allowed a clean release off of the line of scrimmage in an offense that is based on timing. Now sometimes this was not possible because the tight end was put in motion, but too often the tight end simply ran a hook pattern unopposed, sat down in the zone between linebackers, and caught a quick pass from McNabb for 6-8 yards. It was too easy for McNabb and he was playing pitch-and-catch like it was training camp. In my opinion, the best way to prevent this is to jam the tight end at the line.

The Giants blitzed their linebackers (and defensive backs) a lot. Somebody asked me in The Corner Forum why the Redskins were able to exert pressure on the Bucs with their blitzes and the Giants could not against the Eagles. For one, the Eagles blockers are much better. Secondly, the Giants do not have LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington at linebacker. None of the Giants’ linebackers, except for the inexperienced Reggie Torbor, look like overpowering blitzers. And at this point in his development, Torbor is still a bit of a liability as he falls prey to misdirection and is still learning how to cover people in pass defense.

Carlos Emmons was blocked at the point-of-attack on Westbrook’s 50-yard run. But the biggest culprit in the game was Barrett Green. You would be hard-pressed to find a more embarrassing performance by a linebacker on any team on opening day. Green not only did not make any plays, but he missed tackle after tackle, leading to significant accrued yardage totals after contact. Green had a shot on Westbrook on his 50-yard run just past the line of scrimmage but missed him. And he was absolutely horrendous on the first Eagles’ drive in the 2nd quarter. He missed two tackles on Westbrook that should have gone for no yardage, instead Westbrook picked up 3 and 12 yards. He also missed a tackle on Owens after a short pass. Late in the 2nd quarter, he missed Westbrook again on a screen pass that gained 22 yards. Green ought to worry more about improving his game and living up to the contract he signed with the Giants than filing grievances against his head coach with the NFLPA. Most embarrassing for the Giants is that Dhani Jones vastly out-played Green (Jones played far stronger and stouter at the point-of-attack for the Eagles than he did for the Giants).

Kevin Lewis was not real athletic in pass coverage, but he did not embarrass himself and finished the game with a team high 10 tackles and a sack. At times, he did a good job of defending the run such as when he combined with FS Brent Alexander to limit Westbrook to no gain on a 2nd-and-1. His biggest problem right now against the run is that he is susceptible to taking false steps on misdirection. This has the effect of taking him out of the play. He also struggles with playing through big blockers. There was a big 24-yard gain to TE L.J. Smith where he was left all alone. I am not sure if Reggie Torbor made the mistake here (he went after McNabb) or Lewis (who bit really hard on the play-action). Lewis got easily beaten by the fullback for a 9-yard pass reception at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Nick Greisen saw some playing time as early as the 3rd quarter but he was not impressive. He really got hung up on one blitz and badly overran an inside run and missed the tackle.

Defensive Backs: Also not good. Everyone keeps criticizing the two Wills (and I will too), but the guys who keep failing to make plays are the safeties. Shaun Williams, Omar Stoutmire, and Brent Alexander look slow, unathletic, and rarely make plays. It was hoped that Tim Lewis’ system would finally get Williams to start playing like a first rounder. It hasn’t. It’s time to face reality and accept the fact that Williams is a 1st round bust who makes far too much money. I doubt he is on the team next year. Williams, like Allen, was beaten on the pump-and-go route to Terrell Owens for the first Eagles’ touchdown of the game. Williams got suckered completely by McNabb’s play-action fake in the 3rd quarter on the play where Owens got wide open for his final touchdown. Williams was supposed to be on Owens on this play and he didn’t stick with him. Williams was beat by TE Chad Lewis for 15 yards on 3rd-and-3 in the 4th quarter too. The only positive I saw from him was his sure tackle of McNabb on a quarterback draw on 3rd-and-7 (Williams was blitzing on the play).

Brent Alexander saw more playing time than Stoutmire and did not deliver. He missed a sack on a safety blitz on the first Eagle possession of the game. He also got faked out of his shoes by Westbrook on the latter’s 50-yard run. Late in the game, Alexander did break up a pass to the fullback over the middle, preventing a 1st down. Yea! A Giants’ safety made a play on the ball! (sarcasm off)

Stoutmire was very late getting over to help out Will Peterson on the absolutely crucial 53-yard pass to WR Todd Pinkston on 3rd-and-10. This play was a true momentum shifter and Stoutmire should have been there to knock the ball away or smash the receiver.

Let us hope that Will Allen is suffering from rust (rust from not practicing and rust from still recovering from foot/knee injuries). Of course, the worry here is that last season’s serious foot injury may have permanent affected him. As to be expected, with all the practice time missed, Allen was not sharp. Worse, he was the guy called upon to stay with Owens. Owens put on a great move on his 20-yard touchdown reception, completely selling the shorter route. Both Allen and Williams bit on this. Allen got beat for another touchdown in the 2nd quarter by TE L.J. Smith – that play was more personally upsetting to me. Worse, early in the 3rd quarter, Allen missed a tackle on Westbrook on 2nd-and-1. Instead of being a run for no gain, Westbrook picked up 13 yards. Then, on the same drive, on 3rd-and-5, Allen missed a tackle on Westbrook that would have kept him shy of the 1st down marker. Instead, the Eagles picked up the 1st down.

Will Peterson had excellent coverage on Pinkston on the 53-yard reception, but Peterson failed to play the ball in the air. Peterson got beat by Pinkston for 17 yards on a crossing pattern on 2nd-and-15. This was a big play on the final Eagles’ scoring drive. Peterson had one good run force that led to a 3-yard loss.

Nickel back Terry Cousin got beat very badly on a crucial 3rd-and-3 play that picked up 22 yards and led to another Eagle touchdown (though he was picked on the play – a penalty probably should have been called). On the very next play, he got beat by TE Chad Lewis for nine yards. In the 3rd quarter, he and the Giants were VERY fortunate that Cousin was not flagged with an obvious pass interference penalty in the end zone against Owens that would have made the score even worse. Cousin’s biggest problem on this play is that he never looked back for the football…a stupid, rookie mistake. Two plays later, Cousin got beat over the middle for what should have been a 1st down, but the receiver dropped the ball (and Cousin had the gall to act like he forced the incompletion).

Special Teams: The most positive aspect of the special teams play was PK Steve Christie nailing a 53-yard field goal near the end of the 2nd quarter. Christie’s kick-offs landed at the Philly 2, 3, and 15-yard lines. The first two kick-offs were encouraging, the latter was not.

Kickoff coverage was lackluster. Wes Mallard could not bring down the returner on the first return, helping to contribute to a 27-yard return (David Tyree on the tackle). The next return went for 25 yards (Omar Stoutmire, David Tyree) while the final return was brought back 15 yards (Jack Brewer). The Giants failed to recover an onsides kick late in the 4th quarter.

Jeff Feagles only had an OK day for him and punt coverage was not good at all. Feagles averaged 42.6 yards on 5 punts, but his net was poor (28.6 yards). On the Eagles’ second punt return, they got away with an obvious block-in-the-back penalty that contributed to a 25-yard return (Tyree on the tackle). Feagles was supposed to angle one punt towards the sidelines, but it drifted inside and led to a misplay by Tyree in trying to down the ball. Instead of the Eagles starting a drive inside the 5-yard line, they started at the 20-yard line and went on to score. The next return picked up 19 yards (Kevin Lewis). The final Eagle return went for 6 yards (Ryan Kuehl).

Willie Ponder returned 5 kick-offs for a 23.8 yards-per-return average, with a long of 33 yards.

Mark Jones only returned one punt for eight yards.

The Giants did come darn close to blocking a punt late in the game.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 12, 2004)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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