New York Giants 27 – Philadelphia Eagles 17
Game Overview: This was a bit of an odd game. Aside from the dramatics of the blocked punt and the ensuing 1-yard drive, the first half was largely a ho-hum affair where neither team executed very well on offense. But in the second half, both teams exchanged body blows and momentum, with the Giants finally pulling away for good with less than six minutes to go in the game.
It was not pretty, but it was absolutely an essential game for the Giants to win.
Quarterback: Eli Manning (17-of-26 for 218 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) played much better this week. There were a few rough moments, but his three touchdown throws (all excellent passes) were decisive. The Giants attempted to take some shots deep in the first half, but the protection did not hold up. Manning’s stats at halftime were not impressive (8-of-13 for 69 yards). There were seven offensive possessions for the Giants in the first half. The first ended prematurely when WR Amani Toomer dropped a 3rd-and-6 pass. The second ended when three straight runs by HB Tiki Barber could not pick up a first down. The third resulted in a short field goal. On this drive, the Giants were fortunate to receive a 47-yard pass interference call against the safety. Three plays later, Manning hit Toomer over the middle for a first down on 3rd-and-14. But Manning messed up two plays later when he attempted to force the ball to WR Plaxico Burress in the end zone despite double coverage. The ball fell incomplete. On this play, Toomer was breaking free for an easy touchdown just to the left of Burress. The fourth drive was a disaster as the Giants quickly found themselves in a 4th-and-42 situation. On the first play, the Giants tried another deep pass, but Manning could find no one open. He danced up into the pocket and was stripped of the football, leading to a 24-yard loss – this was a bad play by Manning as he has to protect the ball better when the play breaks down.
The fifth drive started off with a 15-yard completion to TE Visanthe Shiancoe and a 9-yard pass to Toomer. But Manning was under heavy pressure on the next two incomplete passes and he was responsible for a delay-of-game penalty on 3rd-and-10. His 3rd-and-15 pass was a very nice deep sideline pass that hit Burress right in the hands, but the receiver could not get both of his feet inbounds. After the blocked punt and three straight failed rushing attempts from the 1-yard line, Manning threw a perfect play-action pass to Toomer at the back of the end zone for a 10-0 lead (Manning had the perfect touch and trajectory on this throw). The last drive of the half ended with a sack with less than 10 seconds to go.
In the second half, the passing game was more productive. Not surprisingly, much of this had to do with better pass protection. The Giants had the ball five times in the second half (not counting the final kneel down) and scored on three of these possessions. On the first drive, Manning did a good job of looking off the defense before finding Toomer over the middle for a 17-yard completion. Then Manning did a great job of connecting with Burress despite a blitzing linebacker flying right at him. However, this possession ended prematurely as Burress dropped an intermediate pass over the middle for what should have been a big first down on 3rd-and-5. The second drive resulted in a field goal after a long 55-yard run by Barber. But a 3-yard loss on a running play, a tipped pass, and an 11-yard pass to Toomer on 3rd-and-13 forced the field goal.
The next two drives resulted in touchdowns. Manning threw an excellent pass to Burress for 17 yards on 3rd-and-8. He then found Burress for 14 more yards and scrambled for an additional seven on his own. Manning tried to get the ball to Toomer on 3rd-and-11 from the Philly 19. The ball fell incomplete but the Eagles were flagged with a ticky-tack pass interference call, thus giving the Giants a first down on the Philadelphia 1-yard line. On the very next snap, Manning tossed a perfect low pass to Shockey, who was well-covered by FS Brian Dawkins. Manning put the ball in a spot where only Shockey could make a play on it. Arguably the biggest play in the game came on 3rd-and-2 on the next possession. The Eagles had just cut the score to 20-17 and there was still over five and a half minutes on the clock. Manning made a pump fake in the direction of Burress. The corner bit on the fake, allowing Burress to get separation behind the defender for what became a 61-yard touchdown. It was a great play.
Wide Receivers: As Burress (6 catches for 113 yards, 1 touchdown) and TE Jeremy Shockey continue to draw attention, Toomer (6 catches for 56 yards, 1 touchdown) is seeing more passes thrown his way. Toomer dropped an early 3rd-and-6 pass, forcing the Giants to punt. But he did pick up a key first down on a 3rd-and-14 pass over the middle on the first field goal drive. Of course, Toomer came up huge with his 4th-and-goal reception at the back of the end zone, beating safety Michael Lewis. Toomer had two big pass interference penalties called against him – one leading to a 47-yard gain and a field goal; the other an 18-yard gain and a first down on the 1-yard line on 3rd-and-11 (resulting in a touchdown).
Burress only caught one pass for four yards in the first half. He had a chance to bring down a deep sideline pass on 3rd-and-15, but just missed getting both feet inbounds – it was a good effort. In the second half, things did not start off right as Burress dropped what would have been at least a 22-yard completion down to the Eagle 26-yard line on 3rd-and-5, forcing a punt. But Burress was a big factor on both touchdown drives in the second half. First he caught a 17-yard pass on 3rd-and-8 from Manning to keep one drive alive and had a 14 yard reception two plays later. On the next possession came the 61-yard back-breaker where Burress and Manning combined to fake out the corner. Burress showed surprising speed on this play as he outran the defender to the end zone.
Tight Ends: I think Shockey’s chest was bothering him. There was one running play where DE Trent Cole just tossed Shockey aside – that’s not like him. Shockey did make a good block on a Barber run that picked up six yards later in the first quarter and has a decent backside block on Barber’s 55-yard run in the second half. Shockey only had one catch on the day for one yard, but it was a big one – a touchdown catch on a deliberately low-thrown ball from Manning.
Visanthe Shiancoe looked good on one 15-yard pass reception where he ran a crossing route from the left tight end position and caught the ball near the right sideline off of a bootleg pass.
Running Backs: It was tough sledding for Barber in the first half as he only gained 33 yards on 11 carries (a 3.0 yards-per-carry average). His carries went for 0, 6, 2, 0, 5, 6, -4, 4, 4, 9, and 1 yard. The Giants tried to burn the Eagles with a couple of third-down draw plays with no success. The 4-yard loss came on a misdirection toss that did not fool the rookie right end. Tiki did have a couple of nice efforts with cutbacks to the middle of the field. Barber started the game off with a nice 15-yard screen pass (with good blocks from Chris Snee and Shaun O’Hara).
In the second half, the highlight was obviously Barber’s 55-yard cutback run. The other nine carries in the second half picked up only 24 yards (2.7 yards per carry) – runs of 1, -3, 2, 7, 4, -1, 6, 0, and 8 yards. The better runs came when running to the right-side of the offensive line.
Both of the times Derrick Ward (2 carries for –4 yards) touched the ball, the blocking disappeared all together.
Brandon Jacobs (3 carries for 0 yards) could not get into the end zone on his three chances from the 1-yard line. He almost made it on his first carry, had little chance on his second, and should have slid to his right and tried to run over the safety on his third carry.
Jim Finn had a couple of nice blocks on runs by Barber, but he also whiffed pretty badly on one blitz pick-up on the deep sideline play where Burress couldn’t get his feet inbounds. I was really impressed with Finn’s effort on his 11-yard reception where he made one Eagle defender miss and ran over a second.
Offensive Line: The run blocking just has not been as good as hoped this year. I expected the Giants to become a more physical offensive line with the addition of Kareem McKenzie next to Chris Snee. But the line still appears to use more of a positional-blocking scheme. The Giants ran for 32 yards on 15 carries in the first half (that’s just a little over two yards a carry). In the second half, the Giants ran for 83 yards, but 55 of those yards came on one play. The Giants were able to run to the right a few times for respectable gains. While reserve LT Bob Whitfield (as did LG David Diehl) made a good block on Barber’s 55-yard run to a defender, he also whiffed on another run by Barber, leading to only a 1-yard gain.
Pass protection was shaky against a quality opponent, especially in the first half. Diehl gave up a pressure on the 3rd-and-6 pass to Toomer that was dropped. Manning took a big hit to the knees when LT Luke Petitgout was beat to the inside on a deep pass effort to Toomer. On the very next snap, McKenzie was beat cleanly to the outside by DE Jevon Kearse for a sack as Manning was stripped of the football. On the next possession, Manning took a coverage sack and was stripped of the football, leading to a 24-yard loss. Two plays later, both Petitgout and O’Hara were beat, leading to a 7-yard sack. On the next drive, Diehl did not pick up the defensive end who slid down the line of scrimmage, leading to another pressure that helped to cause an incompletion. McKenzie did not do a good enough job of holding up Kearse on a screen in Kearse’s direction and the ball was batted away. On the last play before halftime, McKenzie was beaten to the inside by Kearse for another sack.
In the second half, the Giants only gave up one sack (a coverage sack when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock). Whitfield got away with a couple of holds (and needed some help), but he did a decent job in place of Petitgout (still Whitfield does not look all that athletic to me for a left tackle and I worry about Petitgout missing time). Kudos too to Jason Whittle for filling in at center for the injured Shaun O’Hara.
Defensive Line: The defensive line was not as strong this week. There were no sacks and the pass pressure was two infrequent without blitzes. The run defense in the first half was outstanding (25 yards), but the Eagles did manage to pick up 81 additional yards in the second half. Strahan (7 tackles, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble) played a good game against the run and had a few pass pressures. One of his biggest plays was knocking away a screen pass that looked poised to pick up big yardage on 3rd-and-9 early in the game. Strahan also almost came up with an interception on a poorly-thrown ball on a zone blitz. Strahan was flagged with an illegal block on Gibril Wilson’s interception return.
Osi Umenyiora (5 tackles) had one of his quietest games in weeks. He got a little bit of pressure late in the game and saw some double-teams, but he really wasn’t much of a factor on the pass rush. Umenyiora was pretty strong at the point-of-attack against the run, but he did get burned for a 16-yard gain on a misdirection toss to his side of the field on 3rd-and-1.
When Strahan was injured, Justin Tuck was forced to play on the strongside. Tuck was effectively blocked at the point-of-attack on HB Brian Westbrook’s 14-yard run down to the Giants’ 1-yard line.
The Giants continue to use more 3-man defensive line formations with Osi playing linebacker in certain situations. On Sunday, Strahan, Kenderick Allen (1 tackle), and Fred Robbins formed the down linemen in these sets. Robbins (3 tackles) was pretty stout against the run (including causing a 1-yard loss on one play) and made some noise early on the pass rush. But he had QB Mike McMahon all but wrapped up on the latter’s 12-yard scamper for a key first down on 3rd-and-8 (Kenderick Allen missed a tackle here too). This was a really bad play as it enabled the Eagles to score a touchdown to cut the lead to three points again. Kendrick Clancy (4 tackles) badly beat the center to nail the running back for a 4-yard loss. Robbins and Clancy did a good job of shutting down a QB draw on 3rd-and-4 late in the game.
Linebackers: SLB Carlos Emmons (4 tackles) looked surprisingly effective, especially early. He stopped a couple of runs in their tracks and flashed on a couple of blitzes.
MLB Antonio Pierce (7 tackles) creamed McMahon early in the game with a big hit on QB scramble. He also disrupted a screen pass and looked sharp on one blitz where he smacked McMahon again. Late in the second half, right before the blocked punt, Pierce made a big, big play when he did not bite on the misdirection end around to WR Greg Lewis, holding the gain to five yards on 3rd-and-11. If Pierce doesn’t make this tackle (and he had to avoid two blockers to do so), the Eagles likely pick up the first down and the blocked punt does not happen. In the second half, Pierce tackled Westbrook for a 1-yard loss, but also got faked out by McMahon on his 12-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8.
Nick Greisen (8 tackles, 1 pass defense) was active. He was involved in a couple of 1-yard losses by Westbrook and a 2-yard loss by HB Lamar Gordon. He also knocked down one pass and got good pressure on one blitz, but also missed a tackle on one play and was effectively blocked on Westbrook’s 14-yard run down to the 1-yard line.
Defensive Backs: It was a tale of two halves as the Giants only gave up 81 yards passing in the first half, but 217 yards in the second half. Some of the latter came when the Giants were playing a loose zone defense late in the game (there were easy completions of 19 and 18 yards on the Eagles’ last drive for example).
In the first half, CB Curtis Deloatch (3 tackles) quickly found out that he was going to be the guy the Eagles were going to target. Keep in mind that this is Deloatch’s first year starting and he is learning on the job. On the second Eagles’ drive of the game, Deloatch had good position on WR Greg Lewis on a sideline route, but he did not make a play on the football and a 25-yard completion was the result on 3rd-and-9. On the next possession, the Eagles went deep on Deloatch, but this time he had good coverage and the pass fell incomplete. But right before halftime, Deloatch got beat by Lewis again on 3rd-and-9. Worse, he didn’t make the tackle and the Eagles picked up 34 yards on the catch-and-run. The second half got worse for Deloatch. He was flagged with two pass interference penalties, the first keeping alive a touchdown-scoring drive on 3rd-and-8. Then he gave up the actual touchdown on a 22-yard pass as he just missed tipping away the ball (Deloatch’s hips got turned on this play). The second interference penalty was called because Deloatch had his left arm wrapped around the receiver. Had Curtis kept this arm off of the receiver, it would have been superb coverage. Deloatch had problems getting off a downfield block on Westbrook’s 14-yard run down to the 1-yard line.
CB Will Allen (5 tackles, 2 pass defenses) played one of his better games. He knocked away a slant pass early in the game and later had a huge breakup on TE L.J. Smith in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal, saving a touchdown. But Allen got abused by a wide receiver blocking him down field on a 19-yard carry on 2nd-and-20 (safety James Butler also badly missed a tackle on this run).
CB Corey Webster got beat badly on a double-move for a 44-yard gain on 3rd-and-12. This was a terrible play on his part.
The safety play was mixed. Gibril Wilson (8 tackles, 1 interception) picked off a badly overthrown ball and looked sharp on the blitz and in run defense. But he got beat pretty badly by Westbrook on a sideline pass for 32 yards on the Eagles’ first touchdown drive of the game. Brent Alexander was late in getting over to help Deloatch on the 22-yard pass to WR Reggie Brown. He also failed to wrap up on his attempted sideline tackle of Brown on the latter’s 44-yard reception. And Alexander was extremely fortunate not to get flagged with an obvious pass interference penalty in the end zone on the tight end. Alexander did have good coverage on the Eagles’ 4th-and-2 play to Greg Lewis that fell incomplete and helped to cause an incompletion late in the game with a big hit along the sideline.
Special Teams: Obviously, David Tyree’s blocked punt was one of the game’s biggest plays, leading to a 10-0 halftime lead. Tyree got such a good jump on his rush that he would have blocked it even if the punter fielded the ball cleanly.
Jeff Feagles did not have a good day, averaging only 39 yards per punt on his six punts. He wasn’t helped by the holding call against Derrick Ward that erased a 46-yard punt that was downed on the 1-yard line by Tyree. The penalty ended up costing the Giants 18 yards in field position. Punt coverage was OK, though the Eagles did return one ball for 12 yards. Brian Westbrook returned two punts and could not break one. Making tackles on punt returns were Ryan Kuehl, Chase Blackburn (3), Curtis Deloatch, and Alonzo Jackson. Blackburn nailed Westbrook for a 2-yard loss on one punt coming off the goal line – this was a big play.
PK Jay Feely hit both his short field goals, but his kickoffs were dreadful. For some reason, he squibbed three of them and another went out of bounds. Is Feely hurt? Eagle returns went for 22 (Will Allen on the tackle), 29 (Blackburn and Jackson), 18 (Blackburn), and 17 yards (Eric Moore).
Chad Morton only managed one punt return of eight yards and only averaged 22 yards on his three kickoff returns. Jackson was flagged with a holding penalty on one kick return. Blackburn made a foolish play by fielding one bad punt instead of letting it continue to bounce back towards the Eagles’ side of the field (and it was a risky decision too as he is not used to handling the football).
Give Blackburn credit however. He was in on five special teams tackles. That is a huge number for one game.