Dec 142005
 
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New York Giants 26 – Philadelphia Eagles 23 (OT)

Game Overview: The Giants are extremely fortunate to have won this game. Had they lost it, with teams such as the Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Falcons winning, the Giants would have been in a far more precarious playoff situation.

The Giants survived another rocky outing by QB Eli Manning. What was not expected was to see an injury-depleted Eagle offense put up 23 points on what had been a stingy Giants’ defense. There is no excuse for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that the Giants swept the Eagles and are still in first place in the NFC East. But the Giants have to start playing better right now if they are going to make the playoffs and make some noise in the post-season. If the team continues to sputter along like this, it’s going to cost them dearly.

The real bad news coming out of the game were the injures to MLB Antonio Pierce (high ankle sprain), DT William Joseph (high ankle sprain), LT Luke Petitgout (chronic back problems), and RT Kareem McKenzie (hamstring). Losing Pierce or Petitgout for any length of time would be particularly damaging.

Coaching: I don’t agree at all with Coughlin’s decisions to accept a holding penalty instead of a 7-yard sack by Michael Strahan. This didn’t hurt the Giants, but it was a strange decision. I also did not agree with Coughlin’s decision to not accept the offensive pass interference penalty right before David Akers 42-yard field goal – which he made.

Officiating: Dreadful once again. HB Brandon Jacobs was clearly in the end zone on one and perhaps both of his goal line runs. CB Will Allen was clearly clipped at the point-of-attack on HB Ryan Moats’ 40-yard touchdown run. RG Chris Snee had his helmet ripped off his head, but no penalty was called. MLB Antonio Pierce was injured on a play where an Eagle blocker wrapped his arms around his neck and was twisted to the ground – again no penalty. And I spotted a number of running plays where the Eagles got away with flagrant holds. TE Jeremy Shockey was mugged much of the day. And while the officiating favored the Eagles, the officials also helped the Giants such as when HB Tiki Barber was carried into the end zone by OC Shaun O’Hara. How can the League defend such ineptitude week in and week out?

Offense: The most glaring deficiency was being forced to settle for three short field goals instead of touchdowns. It’s not so much the play-calling, but the lack of execution. On the first effort, there was a penalty, pass pressure, and a dropped pass. On the second, Tiki lost a yard, Manning threw a fade too soon to Shockey, and an Eagle defender made a nice play on a fade to WR Plaxico Burress. On the third effort, Barber was stuffed on 3rd-and-2 as the Giants’ center was pushed backwards. While the Giants rushed for 138 yards against a tough defense, the Eagles stymied the Giants on a number of key short-yardage efforts.

Quarterback: The impression that the media, many fans, and even the quarterback himself have of Manning’s game was that he played alright for three and a half quarters, then made some mistakes. I don’t really agree with that assessment. I think Manning got lucky in the first half of the game as there were three throws that could have been picked off and returned for touchdowns. If you take away those three plays, then I would have been left with a more positive feeling. On the flip side, the last interception Manning threw, the one in overtime, was not his fault as he was hit as he released the football.

It’s frustrating watching Manning right now because you see glimpses of excellent play, followed by costly mistakes. Everyone would like to somehow accelerate the learning curve, but that isn’t really possible. Probably a year or two from now, many of us will forget he was even like this. Many fans correctly observe that if Manning was playing at a much higher level, the Giants would have a decent shot at the Super Bowl. But one can’t manufacture experience. That only comes with playing and learning.

Manning finished the game 28-of-44 for 312 yards, one touchdown rushing, one touchdown passing, and three interceptions. He did a very good job of completing passes on third down to keep drives alive. The Giants scored on their first drive of the game as Manning completed 6-of-8 passes to four different receivers (none of them wide receivers). He read the blitz well and called out blocking adjustments. Manning also got rid of the ball quickly when he had to. Aside from the almost interceptions in the first half, his biggest mistake was taking a 13-yard sack on 3rd-and-13 from the Eagles’ 25-yard line. This put the Giants outside of field goal range and forced a punt.

One thing that I have noticed about Manning is that he has a bit of chuck-and-duck in his play. Unlike Phil Simms, he would stand in there and get creamed when delivering the football, Manning looks to protect himself if he sees a free rusher coming at him. This almost hurt him in the first half as he tossed up a floater to Shockey that was almost picked off. The inaccuracy also remains a cause for concern. Manning really makes his receivers fight for the football at times.

Manning played well on the Giants’ first drive of the second half, completing five passes in a row. However, his fade to Shockey in the end zone was thrown too soon and the defensive back made a nice play on his second fade to Burress (which was a well-thrown ball).

The memory that sticks with many is the three late interceptions. Leading by three points with 3:35 to go in the game, Manning badly missed WR Amani Toomer on a throw down the field where it appeared that Shockey ran the wrong route and was in the same area. “Amani ended up being open. I threw it a little behind him and high. Just a bad throw and a bad decision,” Manning said. “In that situation, if something is not wide open, if something is not a clear lane, that’s when you take a sack or throw it away.” The turnover provided the Eagles with a short field to set up the game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime.

The Giants got the ball back with 1:52 left on the clock. Manning completed four straight passes and had his fifth one dropped. Facing 2nd-and-10 from the Eagle 46-yard line with 37 seconds left, Manning badly overthrew an open Shockey down the middle of the field and the pass was intercepted. “I made the right read,” Manning said. “He had a step on him. I just threw it a little high. Just a bad throw.” The last interception, the one in overtime, was not Manning’s fault as he was hit as he threw and errant pass was the result. Earlier on this drive, Manning made a great play by somehow avoiding the free blitzer, stepping up into the pocket, and hitting Shockey for a 12-yard pass on 3rd-and-7.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress was surprisingly quiet (two catches for 37 yards). He caught one big pass for 27 yards on 3rd-and-6 on the field goal drive in the second quarter. Amani Toomer was more active with six catches for 54 yards, but his longest reception was only 14 yards. Tim Carter had one catch for 14 yards and picked up four yards on an end around.

Tight End: Shockey had his second 10-catch, 100+ yards game in three weeks. What’s even more amazing is that 20 of Manning’s 44 throws were in Shockey’s direction. His longest catch was a 28 yarder on the opening drive, coming on 3rd-and-4. Shockey also came up big late in the 4th quarter and in overtime when the Giants were trying to get into field goal range with four catches for 38 yards. The negatives were that he did drop two passes and should have attacked the football on the pass that Manning floated that was almost picked off. Shockey’s blocking was good. He got a good block on Barber’s 26-yard run down to the 1-yard line of the Eagles.

Visanthe Shiancoe doubled his season pass total with two receptions for 15 yards. However, he was flagged with a false start.

Running Backs: If it were not for Tiki Barber, the Giants would have easily lost this game. He gained 195 yards rushing and receiving on the day (32 carries for 124 yards and five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown). Quietly, he’s having another big season. Barber had two big plays on Sunday. The first was a 26-yard run down to the 1-yard line of the Eagles. On this play, Tiki broke two tackles and carried two more defenders, including FS Brian Dawkins, for extra yardage. The second was a 32-yard gain after a short pass from Manning. After the catch, Barber cut across the field, and avoided two tacklers, setting up a field goal. Barber also had a 16-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10 screen pass that helped to set up a short field goal. Barber had an amazing 5-yard run late in the 4th quarter where he should have been tackled for no gain, but cut back through heavy traffic. Barber was tasked with blocking the defensive end on the play where Manning was intercepted in overtime, but he did not make the block and his man caused the errant throw.

Brandon Jacobs carried the ball twice down on the goal line on 2nd- and 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Both times he was ruled stopped short of the end zone. However, I thought he scored on both, and was sure he scored on the second attempt.

Derrick Ward had one carry for two yards; he also dropped a pass inside the red zone.

The Giants continue to use FB Jim Finn more and more as a safety valve receiver. He had a key 7-yard reception on 3rd-and-6 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Finn blocked well.

Offensive Line: The good news is that despite losing both starting tackles in the first half of the game, the Giants still managed to field a starting front five that did a reasonable job against a notoriously aggressive and confusing defensive scheme to block. After Luke Petitgout (back) and Kareem McKenzie (hamstring) left the game, the new look line had Bob Whitfield at left tackle, Jason Whittle at left guard, Shaun O’Hara at center, Chris Snee at right guard, and David Diehl at right tackle. In other words, only two guys were left standing at their original positions. With this line, the Giants rushed for over 100 yards and no sacks (the one sack came on a safety blitz where no one was responsible for the safety).

The bad news was that Whitfield was very shaky at times at left tackle. He was flagged with three false starts and one illegal use of hands penalty. The latter was particularly costly as it moved the Giants back from the Eagle 7-yard line to the 17 and helped to cause the Giants to settle for a field goal. Whitfield also had issues in pass protection at times, and probably got away with a couple of holding calls.

McKenzie was having a good game before he got hurt, particularly with his run blocking. Diehl started off a little shaky at left guard with a couple of missed blocks on Barber carries and a pass pressure. But he also got a good pulling block on Barber’s 26-yard run. Where Diehl really saved the day was with his very solid work at right tackle. He gave up a couple of pressures on the Giants’ first field goal drive of the second half, but he did a good job against a quality opponent in DE Jevon Kearse.

Chris Snee played very well. I only saw three negative plays by Whittle: one false start, one holding penalty, and one play where he was not able to knock the middle linebacker out of the hole on a Barber carry that was stuffed. Shaun O’Hara was just OK. He got pushed back and allowed penetration on a few running plays (including the 3rd-and-2 play from the Eagle 9-yard line) and had he blocked someone on Barber’s 3rd-and-10 screen pass from the Philly 23-yard line, Barber probably would have scored. Instead, the Giants settled for a field goal.

Defense: The defense really kept this game closer than it should have been. The Giants scored on three of their first four possessions. The Philly crowd was quiet to start the game and ready to turn on the home team. But the defense allowed the Eagles to score 17 first half points and gave the opposing team and fans something dangerous – hope. That is dreadful when you consider who was missing from the Eagle offense. The Giants did not play inspired defense, even before Pierce was hurt. The Eagles rushed for 175 yards. 175 yards!!!

Defensive Line: Late-game heroics do not erase the fact that the defensive line did not play all that well. The Eagles were able to run in the direction of DE Osi Umenyiora (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble). He was effectively blocked on the 40-yard touchdown run and the 18-yard touchdown run by Moats. Right before the latter score, Umenyiora got to McMahon, but could not bring the quarterback down on a play where McMahon completed a 19-yard pass. Given the fact that he was playing against a back-up left tackle, more was expected. Umenyiora played much better in the second half and overtime against the run, but he also was blocked on the 11-yard run that helped to set up the game-tying field goal late in the 4th quarter. In overtime, Osi got a pass pressure that forced an incomplete pass and made the biggest play of the game on defense when he stripped McMahon of the football, setting up the game-winning field goal.

Michael Strahan (3 tackles, 3 sacks – one erased when the Giants accepted a holding penalty) was too quiet early in the first half, but really stepped it up in the second half. Strahan ran over his old adversary Jon Runyan in the third quarter for a 7-yard sack, but Coughlin accepted the holding penalty on the fullback instead. Strahan got pressure on the very next play when DT Fred Robbins sacked McMahon. On the Eagles’ first field goal scoring drive in the second half, Strahan pressured McMahon again and then picked up a coverage sack on the following play. He also hit McMahon on the very next play despite a 35-yard completion. On the Eagles’ first drive in overtime, Strahan came up huge as he pressured McMahon on a play where he was sacked by SS Gibril Wilson. Then two plays later, Strahan beat Runyan and chased down McMahon across the field for an 8-yard sack on 3rd-and-12, forcing a punt.

William Joseph was lost very early due to a high ankle sprain. Kendrick Clancy (1 tackle), Fred Robbins (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks), and Kenderick Allen (0 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) all played a lot. As he has been for the last couple of games, Justin Tuck (1 tackle) also saw some time at defensive tackle. Robbins had the best game as his 1.5 sacks would indicate. He split a sack with Umenyiora early in the second quarter and was unblocked on his full sack in the third quarter. At times, he looked good against the run and flashed good hustle. But he also missed a tackle on a key 8-yard run on the Eagles’ first field goal drive of the second half. He did help to force a holding penalty on the last Eagles’ possession before overtime. Clancy and Allen did not play well. Clancy did cause a holding penalty three plays before the Eagle turnover in overtime. Allen did recover the fumble in overtime that set up the game-winning kick.

Tuck was up and down. He flashed good pursuit on one running play and caused a holding penalty on a passing play. He also got good pressure on McMahon on a play where a 20-yard completion was the result. But he was effectively blocked at the point-of-attack on Moats’ 20-yard run On the drive right before overtime, he got killed from the defensive tackle position on a running play and then missed the back on a critical 6-yard gain a few plays later.

Linebackers: Not a good game. I was most disappointed with Carlos Emmons (3 tackles) who got effectively blocked on too many big plays, including the 40-yard touchdown run, the 18-yard touchdown run, and an 11-yard run on the drive that tied the game late. He also missed a couple of tackles, including a costly one on a 12-yard gain by the back after a short pass right before the 42-yard field goal before halftime (Emmons was also blocked on the 9-yard run on the running play before this).

Before he was injured, Pierce got beat on a 22-yard completion to TE L.J. Smith on the Eagles’ first touchdown drive. Nick Greisen (4 tackles, 1 pass defense) was far too quiet inside as Pierce’s replacement. He did cause a holding penalty by the fullback on the play where Strahan’s sack was erased. He also knocked away a pass on the play before Ackers’ successful 50-yard field goal that tied the game late.

Reggie Torbor (1 tackle) was practically invisible. He got blocked on the 20-yard gain by Moats on the second Eagles’ touchdown drive.

Defensive Backs: My biggest problem with the defensive backs was not their pass defense (coverage was mostly solid), but their run defense. Too often, defensive backs were effectively blocked on running plays or nowhere to be seen. For example, SS Gibril Wilson got crushed on Moats’ 40-yard touchdown run. And CB Curtis Deloatch got blocked at the point-of-attack on Moats’ 11-yard run on the drive that tied the game late in the 4th quarter.

CB Will Allen (1 tackle, 3 pass defenses) knocked away a few passes, including an intermediate strike into the endzone that saved a touchdown. But he did get beat by WR Reggie Brown on a 19-yard gain on the play before the Eagles’ second touchdown run. Allen was flagged with a defensive holding penalty.

CB Curtis Deloatch (3 tackles, 2 pass defenses) played far better than when these two teams last met. He got flagged with a somewhat questionable 11-yard pass interference penalty. Deloatch should have intercepted an errant throw by McMahon two plays before the Eagles’ first field goal in the 4th quarter.

CB Corey Webster (5 tackles) got beat for seven yards on a 3rd-and-5 play in the third quarter. In the 4th quarter, he had excellent coverage on a 3rd-and-10 pass down the right sideline, but he did not intercept or knock the ball away and a 35-yard completion was the result. This was a big play in the ball game as it allowed the Eagles to cut the Giants’ lead to three points late in the game.

Wilson (5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass defenses) caused one incompletion on a 3rd-and-9 play with a big hit. However, Wilson did get beat by WR Billy McMullen for a 34-yard gain down the middle of the field in the 3rd quarter. He knocked away another pass intended for McMullen later in the quarter. After an initial pressure by Strahan, Wilson also flew up in a hurry to dump McMahon for a big sack in overtime.

FS Brent Alexander (6 tackles, 3 pass defenses) almost came down with an interception on a pass down the middle in the third quarter. Alexander’s biggest play of the game was his sure tackle for no gain on a screen pass right before the Eagles turned the ball over in overtime.

Special Teams: PK Jay Feely was 4-for-4. Granted that the first three were short field goals (24, 21, and 27 yards), but the 36-yarder in overtime was a pressure kick. His kickoffs were pretty good too, with three reaching the end zone (two touchbacks).

Jeff Feagles punted twice for a 35 yards-per-punt average. The first was a sub-par 26-yarder that went out of bounds at the Eagle 12-yard line. The second was a 44-yarder that got returned 28 yards and set up a tying field goal right before halftime. Poor coverage.

Kickoff coverage was OK, allowing 24.4 yards per return.

The Giants’ kickoffs were not good. Willie Ponder averaged only 19 yards on five returns and did not look sharp. Sean Berton was flagged with a holding penalty on one return.

Chad Morton returned two punts – one for 12 yards and one for 7 yards.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 11, 2005)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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