By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 13, 2009: The victory against the Cowboys makes everyone feel better. It not only was an absolutely critical game in terms of the playoff hunt, but it was an exciting game against a bitter division rival. And the Giants finally showed some mental toughness and passion once again.
But let’s not lose overall perspective. The Giants are still 2-5 in their last seven games and that dismal performance has put them in the very difficult situation of probably having to win three of their last four games in order to make the playoffs. There is virtually no room for error. A loss against Philadelphia on Sunday will quickly change the mood of fans. Worse, the Giants playoff hopes may be all but extinguished. On the flip side, a win against the Eagles will put the Giants in a much sounder position and give them a 4-1 record in the division.
How should the Giants approach this game? Just like I said last week – one snap at a time. Every snap – on offense, defense, and special teams – may mean the ball game. Just look at last week. Do the Giants win without Brandon Jacobs’ 74-yard catch-and-run? Or the forced fumble by Mathias Kiwanuka? Or the 79-yard punt return by Domenik Hixon? Every snap may decide this game. Give your best effort Giants on each and every play!
Giants on Offense: If Eli Manning is to play well, the offensive line, tight ends, and backs have to do a much, much better job in pass protection than they have lately. And the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL at rushing the passer. The Eagles do a good job of confusing teams, including the Giants. The last time these two teams met, the Eagles did not blitz all that much. Should the Giants expect the same treatment on Sunday night? I wouldn’t. The Eagles always give you something different. Expect the unexpected. Unfortunately, that is not something the Giants have been good at this year.
Kevin Boss has struggled of late as both a pass and run blocker. He needs to get better fast. The backs have to be very aware of potential blitzes by linebackers and defensive backs. DE Trent Cole is always a tough matchup for LT David Diehl. The Eagles’ defensive tackles – Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley – are not big, but they are quick and disruptive. And we do not know how healthy RG Chris Snee (knee) will be. The best thing the Giants can do to help their cause is run the football straight ahead at the Eagles. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to run wide. I would pound the smaller but quicker defensive line by running right at them, like the Giants did against Dallas. The Giants need another tough, physical effort from Brandon Jacobs. He will have to create some yards on his own and punish the defense. Ahmad Bradshaw flashed some of his pre-injury ability last week. If he’s getting healthier, look out. Both have to protect the ball however.
The Giants have not had one outstanding, single-game rushing effort this year against a quality opponent. This would be a great time to finally breakout. It’s December at the Meadowlands. It’s an NFC East game. Run the football! Prove you are the tougher team!
The Eagles bring out the best and worst of Eli Manning. Obviously, the Giants need him at his best on Sunday. No turnovers Eli! Don’t throw the football up for grabs! Throw it away when necessary or take the sack. And hold onto the football when being sacked. Turnovers in all games are killers, but especially division games. In the passing game, I’d like to see the Giants focus on getting the ball to the backs, Kevin Boss, and Hakeem Nicks. As I have been harping on, the passes to the backs are there as Jacobs demonstrated last week. Good things happen when Eli throws to Boss and Nicks.
Giants on Defense: The last time these two teams faced each other, the game quickly got out of hand. The Eagles went up 16-0. When the Giants cut it to 16-7, the Eagles tacked on another 14 points late in the second quarter. The game was over at halftime. To me, one of the biggest keys to this game is the defense surviving the early storm. The Eagles are going to try to go for the throat early and demoralize the Giants. I would. This is where Andy Reid and his offensive staff will pull out their bag of tricks and hit the Giants with something unexpected. Bill Sheridan has not had his defensive players prepared well for the unexpected this year. That has to change this week or the Giants will be in deep trouble.
Assuming Brian Westbrook (concussion) does not play, the Eagles remain very young but very explosive at the skill positions. At wide receiver, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are quick, fast, explosive, and dangerous. But both are dinged up. Jackson is coming off a concussion and Maclin has a foot injury. Punish these two. Smack the hell out of them. The way to treat smaller, explosive receivers is to beat up on them. The West Coast Offense is a quick, timing-based offense. Be physical with the receivers at the line to disrupt that timing. But also be careful because if you miss that jam, a disastrous big play can result. Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson, and Aaron Ross have to be physical, but they also have to be technically sound. No mistakes! Once these guys make the catch, blow them up. Make sure tackles, but knock the shit out of them.
The one guy who has really been hurting teams lately, including the Giants, is FB Leonard Weaver – both as a runner and pass receiver. West Coast Offenses love to throw to the fullback. They also love to throw to the tight end and Brent Celek is having a big year with 56 catches and 6 touchdowns already. The Giants have not done a good job against opposing tight ends.
Yet another young explosive player is HB LeSean McCoy. He can break the big play. The Giants have to make the Eagles one dimensional by taking away the running game completely or they are toast. Andy Reid often abandons the run, but for some reason, he doesn’t do this regularly against the Giants.
My game plan? I wouldn’t blitz like crazy. I think the key is to NOT give up the cheap, big play – the long touchdown pass to Jackson, Maclin, or one of the other wide receivers. I would keep Michael Boley in coverage and use a three-safety look (with Aaron Ross being one of the safeties) quite a bit. I think matching up Boley and Ross on the underneath targets (tight end and backs) will be a huge advantage the Giants did not enjoy the first time these two teams played. The Giants desperately need their best efforts from Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas. And the Eagles WILL go after the Giants’ safeties. They are going to try to expose Aaron Rouse, Michael Johnson, and C.C. Brown in coverage. The play of Johnson – one way or the other – may be decisive in this game. He is coming off a groin injury but seems to think he will play.
Just as important, if not most import, the down four linemen MUST, MUST, MUST get heat on Donovan McNabb consistently throughout the ball game. The best way to mess up a West Coast quarterback is to get heat on him immediately up the gut. That has to come from the defensive tackles. But the rush also must maintain disciplined pass rush lanes in order to prevent McNabb from picking up a key first down or two with his feet.
Giants on Special Teams: In close games against the Eagles, special teams always seem to be decisive for one team or the other. David Akers doesn’t kick well at the Meadowlands. But the Eagles have explosive kick and punt return games. We know what Domenik Hixon can do. One of my predictions for this game is that a special teams play or two will decide this game.
Prediction: Sorry folks, but I don’t trust this team. The blowout losses to the Saints, Eagles, and Broncos really stick in my craw. Yes the Giants played much, much better last week, but I can easily see them lay an egg again. The Eagles are good and well-coached, but they are very beatable. But for some reason, they have the Giants’ number right now. If the Giants are going to beat them on Sunday night, they need their very best effort on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching, including Tom Coughlin, Bill Sheridan, and Kevin Gilbride. Do you see that happening?