Dec 102008
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Philadelphia Eagles 20 – New York Giants 14

Summary: Ugly isn’t just a word to describe the auto industry, the stock market, our economy and anyone who ever dumped you, it’s now applicable to the winds at the Meadowlands and the Giants’ passing game in Week 14.  After a brilliant performance in rain soaked Washington, Eli Manning and the Giants’ passing game were off kilter all day long and as a result were soundly beaten by a surging Philadelphia Eagles’ team.

Anyone looking for excuses, answers, reasons or solutions need look no further than #36 in Eagle green and white.  Brian Westbrook was quite simply the best player on the field and the Giants had no answer for him.  After 39 touches, Westbrook had racked up 203 total yards and the only two offensive touchdowns of the day after inexplicably being covered by Giants’ MLB Antonio Pierce.  After solving the Westbrook equation in their first encounter with him, Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his charges should all be in a corner with dunce caps on after their latest run in.  For all of his creativity and genius over the past two seasons, Spags was soundly beaten at the Meadowlands by the one player he had to stop.  Need more proof?  With the Eagles up 10-7 late in the 3rd quarter the Eagles turned into the Brian Westbrook show.  Two drives land ten points later, the Eagles had run off 25 total plays and TWENTY…TWENTY of them were to Brian Westbrook.  On the Eagles’ 11 play, 86 yard TD drive, 66 of the yards came via Westrbrook and eight of the plays went to him!!!!  Then Westbrook touched the ball on 11 of 14 plays on a 46 yard 4th quarter drive that gave the Eagles a 20-7 cushion and effectively ended the game.  Twenty out of twenty-five plays go to ONE player and you don’t do ANYTHING but cover him with Antonio Pierce??????  Disgusting.

To compound matters, Eli Manning and the offense managed just 211 total yards, and were only able to keep the ball for 25 minutes while eeking out 7 offensive points in garbage time.  No doubt the winds had an effect on both QBs as neither Eli nor Donovan McNabb looked particularly sharp throwing the ball, but Eagle defenders were all over the Giants’ routes and seemed a step quicker all day long.  Facing a lot of Cover 2, Eli and the offense were forced to move methodically down the field against a defense that was ready to stop yards-after-the-catch and prevent the big play.  Three times the Giants turned the ball over on downs on makeable conversions inside Eagles’ territory.  The Eagles forced the Giants to be patient on a windy day, and the strategy worked to perfection as the Eagles made the plays when they had to and the Giants failed to.

Author’s Commentary on the Season: After this loss, I’ve seen media outlets declaring us finished without Plaxico Burress, and seen fans call us flat, unprepared, unmotivated…the list goes on.  I felt compelled to comment with the homestretch upon us.  For all of the “Giants were flat” debaters, know this: football is a game that has an emotional component that fuels the physical output of each player and it will ebb and flow from week to week.  It’s not an indication of not caring, not being prepared or not being ready, it’s simple human nature.  All season long this team has ebbed and flowed from week to week, but an 11-1 record has made it seem as if they’ve cruised along.  A brilliant performance against the Rams was followed up by an OT squeaker against an over-matched Bengals team.  The next week, the Giants came out on fire and torched the Seahawks 44-6, then fell flat on their faces against a bad Browns team the following week for their first loss of the season.  A so-so performance against an awful 49er team was followed by a squeaker against the Steelers then a blowout against an undermanned Cowboy team.  Another tight game against Philly, then the Giants responded with a thumping of the Ravens, another tight game against the Cardinals then a drubbing of divisional foe Washington.  Against the Redskins, the Giants’ passing game and defense played an outstanding game and after seven grueling weeks, the Giants just did not have their “A” game.  It’s not a let down, it’s not a failure, it’s a loss in the NFL against a team that played exceptionally well, nothing more nothing less.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning was as bad this week as he was good last week, and yes the wind played a part, but give credit to Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Johnson who had his team play a lot of cover 2 and sit on the Giants’ routes underneath and prevent the big play over the top.  On the Giants’ first drive, Eli had his team on the move from the opening kickoff until a failed 4th and 4 ended the drive.  Manning went 3 for 4 on the drive for 24 yards, but his most important pass fell incomplete on 4th down.  The next two drives were total busts for Mr. Citizen Eco-Drive, as #10 went 1 for 2 for zero yards with a Domenik Hixon bubble screen being snuffed out immediately on 3rd and 8 and the ensuing drive was 3 runs and a punt.

His next time out, Eli threw a perfect post to Domenik Hixon on first down, which was just flat out dropped and would have resulted in a one play TD.  On the drive, Eli went 1-4 for 13 yards with one big drop, a bounce off the hands of Madison Hedgecock and a failed 3rd down pass to Amani Toomer.  Eli then went a miserable 0-2 on another 3 and out, then followed it up with an 0-3 and another turnover on downs at the Eagle 42.  After a 5-15 start, the Giants’ next possession was 5 straight runs for 21 yards and yes another miss by Manning on 3rd and 3 at the Giants’ 45.  Not happy with just two failed 4th down conversions, Eli made it a lucky 3 by going 2-5 for 29 yards and failing to convert a 4th and 1 at the Philly 38 with the Giants down 10.  With the game pretty much salted away, Eli stood at 7 of 21 for 66 yards until going 6 for his last 6 for 57 yards and a one yard TD by TE Darcy Johnson.

QB David Carr didn’t play but Mrs. Joey thinks he looks totally cute with his “fuzzy Giants’ hat on”.

Running Backs: The good news is RB Brandon Jacobs averaged 5.2 yards per carry.  The bad news?  He had 10 carries and was dinged up and out the game early.  Jacobs is becoming like that great party guest who everyone loves but by 10pm he’s had too much to drink and just passes out before the party gets going.  Before putting a lampshade on his head and grabbing every woman’s butt, Jacobs threw down with a 23 yard run down the right sideline in which he blew by the line of scrimmage and again looked terrifying nimble for a 265lb RB.  After setting up the Giants with a 3rd and 1 after 2 tough runs for 9 yards, the big fella came up limping again and was forced to sit out the remainder of the second half.  His backup, Derrick Ward again filled in well, but only picked up 41 total yards and was not anywhere near the weapon he was in the passing game last week as he was held to 2 yards on one catch.  I finally figured out the allure of Ahmad Bradshaw.  He’s like golfing or fishing, all it takes is one good shot or a few solid bites and you’ll hang around for hours waiting, hoping something exciting happens.  Much like golfing and fishing though, more often than not those moments are far outnumbered by the empty hooks and slices into the woods.  Bradshaw dazzled us once this year and other than a stint in prison hasn’t done anything consistently all year.  The booted from UVa RB finished with 9 whole yards on 5 carries.

Wide Receivers: Domenik Hixon’s chance to shine did not end this week, and in the coming weeks he will have to make some plays to make up for the absence of Senor Gunshot.  Hixon’s drop of a sure fire TD early in the game is the only thing that will be recalled, and it is the type of play he will have to make if the Giants expect to weather the long term absence of Plaxico Burress.  After a great week against the Redskins, WR Amani Toomer also flubbed this week to the tune of 25 yards on just two catches, both coming on the Giants’ lone TD with the game’s outcome pretty much determined.  Steve Smith led the Giants with 47 yards receiving on 4 catches, but just like Toomer he did 29 yards of his damage in garbage time.  Prior to the Giants’ lone scoring drive, the team had amassed a whopping 66 yards through the air; so in all honesty, none of the WRs did much to be proud of.  Something to be ashamed of though, was the reverse run by rookie WR Mario Manningham who was tossed back for a 12 yard loss on the Giants’ opening possession which turned a makeable 2nd and 5 into a daunting 3rd and 17.  Awful play call, awful execution, awful timing and awful field awareness by Manningham.

Tight Ends: Kevin Boss was a non factor all afternoon as well, nabbing only one catch for 5 yards.  Boss’ blocking was fair for the most part, but without Plaxico Burress, it will be incumbent upon Boss to pressure the seams of any cover 2 the Giants face and make safeties respect the passing game over the middle.  Without that vertical threat down the middle, safeties are free to cheat outside to cover deep, walk up in run support and generally jam up the short middle of the field and make moving the ball that much more difficult.  Interestingly, Boss came in short motion on a 9 yard run by Ward and acted as the second pulling guard on a variant of the counter trey we’ve seen in recent weeks.  Darcy Johnson had his second TD of the year on another 1-yard scoring strike from Eli Manning, but just like Eli and the WRs, his success arrived too late to matter so it’s nothing more than window dressing.

O-Line: After a virtuoso performance against the Ravens with 206 yards on the ground, the Giants’ OL has been fairly average with 87 against the Cardinals, 108 vs. the Skins and now a mere 88 against the Eagles.  Most troubling though is the 3.7 yard per carry average and the inability to keep a smallish Eagle defense off the field with the running game.  The big guys only paved the way for 211 TOTAL yards against the Eagles, though Eli Manning was not sacked in the game.  With all of the yardage these guys have escorted their backs to over the past few years in the Coughlin regime, you have to assume they will get the kinks worked out and get back to the steady, ball control group they had been earlier in the year.

Giant backs only had two runs of over 10 yards for the game, a 23 yarder by Jacobs and a 15 yarder by Ward.  By design, this running game seeks to establish some zone blocking principles by getting their opponents moving laterally, while getting OL to the second level to seal off cut back lanes and giving their ball carriers room to get upfield.  Those lanes have been smaller and smaller in recent weeks with each opponent dedicating and 8th and sometimes 9th man in the box to prevent those cut back lanes from opening and limiting the big play.  That might explain the early end around to Manningham, in an effort to keep the defense from attacking running lanes too quickly but the real answer is that Eli Manning and the passing game have to make teams pay for stacking the box.  A balanced attack is the only way to loosen up running lanes and while it’s a stretch to say the OL has not played well, they certainly have not played AS well as previously in the season.

Front 7: Author’s Note: Given the varied fronts and personnel packages the Giants use under Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, I’ll be looking at the front 7 as a whole initially rather than separating the D-line and Linebackers.  Hybrid roles such as LBs playing in a 3 point stance make analyzing the front 7 as one unit more cohesive.  It may change as we move forward or from game to game.

Tough game up front for everyone as the Eagles gashed the Giants’ run defense to the tune of 140 yards.  It did take 42 rushing plays (3.3 yards per carry) to get that amount but much of it came in the second half when the Eagles just pounded the ball and ate up clock.  That is NOT supposed to happen with a sub 200lb scat back and this vaunted front, but happen it did.  For the first time all year, DTs Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield and Jay Alford did NOT control the line of scrimmage and the Eagles were able to pound out the ball for 140 yards rushing and keep possession for nearly 35 minutes.  Big Fred had a great stop early, dumping Brian Westbrook for a 5 yard loss, and again, in the 4th quarter, Robbins shot through to nail Westbrook for a 3 yard loss.  Despite the few nice plays, Robbins was unable to hold the POA for most of the afternoon and when it mattered most, unable to anchor his d-line and get the ball back.

With the exception of the Eagles’ second drive of the day, things were not much better on the edges for Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka as the duo was shut out in the sack department.  Tuck however single handedly ruined the Eagles’ second possession with two great outside pressures that forced McNabb to throw on the run and one inside pressure on a looping stunt up the “A” gap that again forced a McNabb mistake and a 3 and out.  The duo did combine for 12 tackles, but when you’re on the field for 72 plays, someone has to make some stops.  Kiwi did make a great stop on DeSean Jackson’s -7 yard end around but I’m not really in the mood to hand out atta boys this week.  Speaking of making stops, MLB Antonio Pierce racked up 15, but was a step slow on most plays and about 5 steps slow covering Brian…(gah I cannot write his name again for it haunts my dreams) whatshisname on a 40 yard scoot for a TD that effectively sealed the door on the Giants’ hopes of victory.  His buddies didn’t fare much better, as L.J. Smith abused Danny Clark to the tune of 6 catches for 44 yards.  If it doesn’t seem that obscene, consider that coming into the game Smith had pulled in a whopping 22 grabs on the year and has been nothing but a disappointment this year for the Eagles’ offense.  I realize Clark wasn’t manned up on Smith all day, but the SAM’s job is to slow down the TE and Clark did nothing of the sort all game long.  Again, Clark had 7 stops and Chase Blackburn had 7 as well for a fantastic stat line day for the LBs (27 stops combined) but most of the stops were down field and again…72 plays on defense, someone’s stats are going up.

Despite the Browns game, this was by far the front 7’s most disappointing game as they were shoved around all day as Bri…gah played patty cake with Giant defenders all game long as Donovan McFatt smiled all day long.  (I’m generally against the awful play on names or team’s names, but he’s just so fat and doughy now I can’t help it.  I can’t stand the fat fork anymore.  McFatt = H8)

Defensive Backs: Oh who cares at this point?  They stunk just like everyone else did.  Kenny Phillips again led the DBs with 7 tackles but missed a key open field tackle on LJ Smith on a big 3rd down play midway through the 4th quarter that could have given Eli and the offense one more possession to score.  Phillips miss on Smith was about the sum of the Giants’ day though, a step slow, a second behind and just generally off.  Coverage wise the DBs fared well, with only a 32 yard completion to Kevin Curtis that really stood out but the inability to stop you know who on his 30 yard TD run and 40 yard reception TD just typified the day.

The Curtis reception was yet another example of a breakdown on the day.  Aaron Ross, playing cover 2 (when a CB funnels a WR inside, he’s most likely in cover 2 funneling the player to the safeties and the MLB), did a great job of re-routing Curtis inside, who then bent his route toward the sideline and S James Butler was late covering over the top.  Most of the time, that play has little chance against our pass rush to develop and even less once Butler gets over but no pass rush and a late cover by Butler and 32 yards later, you give up a big completion.

Special Teams: It’s like they read this and just HAVE to prove me wrong the next week.  Ok fine I get it special teams are great, yippee!  Without special teams, this team is shut out for the first half and is never even in the game but thanks to Justin Tuck (who else) blocking a FG at the end of the first half and Kevin Dockery returning it, the Giants had some hope.  P Jeff Feagles did an outstanding job of pinning dangerous return man DeSean Jackson down and keeping to 24 yards on three returns.

The return teams did nothing to inspire or help with field position as KR Sinorice Moss only averaged 21 per return and Domenik Hixon almost coughed up one punt return on his way to a -3 yard average (with a long of -2!!!!!).

Coaching: Spags, Spags, Spags, you let it happen.  You decided that despite the “22 eyes on Brian Westbrook”, you would put the two slowest feet on him when he left the backfield.  When one player gets 39 touches and doesn’t leave the field in a crumpled mess, the Giants’ defense did NOT do its job.  In their first meeting, that’s all Spags did was attack Westbrook on every play but for some reason that was not the goal or did not appear to be this week.  If you want to pin this game on any one person, point it at Steve Spagnuolo.  How on earth he did NOTHING to defend Brian Westbrook in the second half is beyond me.

Kevin Gilbride put the dunce cap on early on with an ill-fated end around to rookie WR Mario Manningham when the flow of the game had yet to be established.  Ordinarily this would work against the Eagles’ blitz happy defense, but Jim Johnson and company played plenty of cover 2 to stuff the run and prevent the big play down field and caught Gilbride by surprise with it early.

JPog (Joey’s Player of the Game) – If I don’t give out a JBoG when we win, I won’t give out a JPoG when we lose.  Not one player on this team deserves accolades after this shoddy performance.  There were dropped passes, bad passes, silly play calls, bad defensive calls, just over 200 yards of offense and a drive in which Brian Westbrook ran right over the defense.  I also refuse to give it to an Eagles’ player because quite frankly, I hate them, and so do all of you, and an honor such as this is not worth tarnishing in that way.

JBog (Joey’s Bum of the Game) – Take your pick.  Eli, Hixon, Spags, Pierce (despite his 15 tackles)…who do you choose?  Since the Giants are the ultimate “team” and they win and lose as such I pick everyone.  That’s right, the entire 53-man roster gets the JBoG because you got run over by the Eagles and looked awful doing it.  For your failures this week, you all get a pair of baggy sweatpants with an oversized wallet holder built in and expertly marks-manned hole in the right leg just so you can all remember what distracted you this week.

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 7, 2008)
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Joe Triano

Joe Triano, aka Joey in VA, is an original BBI member and rabble-rouser who was born in New Jersey, but migrated to Virginia. Joey’s passion for writing, the game of football, and the Giants has spurred him to write insightful and entertaining game reviews for BBI in his spare time.

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