Nov 242010
 
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Philadelphia Eagles 27 (7-4) – New York Giants 17 (6-4)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: What a difference a couple of weeks make.  Before taking the field against a wounded and demoralized Dallas team at home two weeks ago, the Giants were not only in first place in their division but held the overall first seed in the NFC.

Two weeks later, after two error filled performances, not only are the Giants looking up at the Eagles in the NFC East, they no longer hold a playoff spot.  Such is the 2010 season for the New York Giants.  As Eric From BBI likes to say, “You’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad, either…the truth is somewhere in between.”  Hopefully that’s the case and the Giants are able to recover enough to find 4 more wins out of the 6 games left on their schedule and make the playoffs.  Unfortunately, at the rate Giants offense players are falling by the wayside, it may not be possible.

The Giants made a litany of mistakes throughout the game, but still had an opportunity to win it at the end.  New York held the lead with less than 5 minutes to go and had the Eagles on the ropes facing a 4th and 1.  In a flash, however, it was over as within the next 3 minutes Philadelphia scored 11 points and the Giants turned the ball over 3 times.

To be fair, Philadelphia also made a host of mistakes, yet they were able to tighten up and made less at the end than the Giants did.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin put a lot of the blame on a “callous disregard for the ball” by the Giants on Sunday night, and it would be hard to disagree.  Five more turnovers have now put the Giants at 30 on the year.  That’s nearly 3 times as many as they had all season just 2 years ago.  Clearly, if this continues, it really doesn’t matter if the Giants make the playoffs because there’s no way they’ll overcome those in the playoffs.  There will be no Carolina’s, Detroit’s, or Houston’s in the playoffs.

For the second time this year, the Giants were dominated on the stat sheet.  Philadelphia rolled up nearly 200 more yards than the Giants, ran 15 more offensive plays, and chewed up nearly 9 more minutes of clock.

Folks, it’s that time of year again.  The optimist can look at what transpired on Sunday and see a bounce back game from the defense against a potent offense.  The pessimist can look at what transpired and see a Giants offense that’s only been able to muster 17 points against middle of the road defenses.  Special teams issues remain.  Turnovers are a huge problem.  Injuries have gotten to the point of the absurd.  It truly may rest on the defense’s shoulders as to whether this team will be able to muster enough to make it to the playoffs.

Offense: What do you get when you take two Pro Bowl offensive linemen, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, and another WR who’s playing at a Pro Bowl level out of an offense?  Well, when you start a left tackle who needed an epidural just to get on the field, a left guard who came off the PUP list just couple weeks ago, put a man in the slot receiver position after signing him off the street earlier in the week – you get the mess that was the Giants offense on Sunday night.

Too many errors and turnovers destroyed any chance for continuity on the night, especially early and late.  Too many dropped balls by the likes of Duke Calhoun, Kevin Boss and Brandon Jacobs.  The Giants were unable to sustain any sort of running game, completely abandoning running to the left.

Inexplicably, with two starting receivers out and Nicks hobbled for much of the second half, the Giants completely abandoned going to the backs on flairs, screens and wheel routes.

On the day, the Giants only mustered two drives of more than 6 plays, and they were the only two that lasted for more than 2:45.  After the Eagles’ first touchdown, the Giants responded with a 14 play drive that ate more than 8 minutes of clock, but they were forced to settle for a field goal after getting to a first and goal situation.  On second down, Jacobs followed a pulling Chris Snee and Kevin Boothe to his right.  Snee came around end but whiffed completely on the MIKE linebacker who filled the hole and dropped Jacobs for no gain.  On the next play, Boss was interfered with in the end zone (and at the least there was illegal contact), but the ball was thrown so far behind Boss it may have been ruled uncatchable.

The second “sustained” drive of 6 plays was really a matter of good fortune for the Giants as on 3rd down and 14 Manning forced a deep ball into double coverage to Manningham in which SS Quinten Mikell misplayed the ball and interfered with the receiver.

The Quarterback: QB Eli Manning easily had his worst night of the season.  Easy E seemed to be in a funk from the very beginning and it got worse as the game went on.  It appeared he was going to come back from it when early in the 4th quarter he converted two quick passes for the go ahead touchdown.  Unfortunately, Eli could not sustain the momentum.

With 10:18 to go, Manning took over and after a short Bradshaw run and an incomplete pass on 2nd down, he converted a 3rd and 8 pass to Nicks that gave the Giants a 1st down at their 47 yard line.  Manning didn’t make another play the rest of the game, completing just 1 more pass, throwing 2 interceptions, and making the fateful fumble on the final drive of any consequence.  It’s very unusual to see Eli melt down in the 4th quarter.  Following that 3rd down conversion to Nicks, with just under 9 minutes to go with the lead, one has to feel confident that it’s Eli Time.

On the day, Manning completed 20 of 33 passes for just 147 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a fumble.  In an unbelievable bit of déjà vu, Manning for the second time in two years, against the same team, fumbled a ball in which he decided to dive head first, untouched, instead of sliding.

The Running Backs: None of the Giants running backs were able to get into any type of groove on Sunday night.  HB Ahmad Bradshaw rushed just 12 times for 29 yards, a 2.4 ypc average.  Take out his long of 17 yards, and his average dropped to just 1.1 yard per carry.  Bradshaw also had a costly fumble that was turned into a Philadelphia field goal and nearly had another after a catch for -7 yards where he was fortunate that his forearm was down before he lost the ball.

Bradshaw has now had as many touches on offense threw the first 10 games of 2010 as he had in the previous 32.  His yards per carry average has fallen like a rock the past three games, but it’s not completely his fault as the offensive line has been reshuffled mercilessly.  This correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but there is some evidence that it has.  It may be a combination of the two variables or it may be one or the other.  At any rate, something is wrong with the running game.

Brandon Jacobs had a rough night as well, only carrying 5 times for 10 yards.  The Giants were held to a season low 61 rushing yards, 22 of them from Eli Manning.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Going into the season, the Giants had such a glut of wide receivers, they allowed one of their better special teams players, Derek Hagan, go.  Since that time, the Giants have lost Sinorice Moss, Domenik Hixon, Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden to IR.  They also have lost Steve Smith for an undetermined amount of time.  Apparently, the BBI Giant of the Year curse has extended to the entire wide receiving corps and half the offensive line.  Seriously, what else could it be?  At any rate, a team strength has become a barren wasteland in just a few weeks.  As such, the Giants welcomed back Derek Hagan to take Barden’s place.

The Giants wide receivers, despite all the injuries, got a full work load on Sunday, as they were targeted on 23 of 33 passing plays.  If you consider that Eli dumped off three passes to his backs, you could make the argument that Manning was trying to get to his wide receivers on at least 26 passing plays.  The Eagles played a lot of cover two and single high safety and rotated to double Hakeem Nicks for most of the game.  Nicks caught 6 of 9 passes thrown his way for just 68 yards.  As Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger pointed out in his review, it looked like Nicks had possession of the long pass thrown on the third play of the game as his right foot was on the ground when he caught the ball, but was out on the second step with the right foot.  After reviewing from a very good NBC camera angle, which probably wasn’t available to the coaches up in the booth, it is clear that Nicks had his right foot down in bounds with clear possession.  Many people on over at The Corner Forum have been on Nicks for a lack of discipline and ‘lazy’ play.  Granted, the big WR needs to realize that the ball must be protected and stop carrying it so far from his body.  His fumble could have been a killer but thankfully the Giant recovered it.  People need to remember that Nicks, in just his second year, is performing at a Pro Bowl level and to expect much more for him at this very early stage in his career is not wise.

To add injury to injury, Nicks himself will miss three weeks with a ‘compartment injury’ to his lower leg that required a procedure to release pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the area.  Now Derek Hagan (3 catches on 9 targets for 10 yards and 1 TD), who was asked to play the slot despite not practicing much with the Giants since training camp, must step up that much further and possible become the number two for a few weeks until Nicks (hopefully) can make it back.  Hagan didn’t play poorly, but there was an obvious lack of timing between him and Eli, which should be able to be worked out rather quickly.

The person everyone expected to step up in this game, Mario Manningham, was nearly nonexistent as he was thrown to just 3 times, catching them all for just 24 yards.  Once again, Manningham failed on one of his catches to get beyond the sticks on a 3rd and 8 play in the first quarter.  Manningham ran a quick hook but instead of extending the play beyond the sticks before he cut, he cut right at the line and came back for a 5 yard catch and was dropped in his tracks.

Duke Calhoun.  He was on the field, and that’s about the best thing that can be said about him.  He turned a bubble screen – that was set up fairly well – too far inside after the catch and only gained 4 yards.  The only other pass thrown his way was a quick out that he dropped, and in fact, nearly tipped it into the defenders’ hands.

One thing that can’t be stressed enough is how much the Giants miss Steve Smith’s blocking in the running game and from the slot on the smoke screens.  The Giants’ running game is suffering because the receivers are not getting involved.

New York started the game in a very curious formation.  The Giants gave a two TE look on the first two running plays of the game, but who the TEs were was the puzzling part.  Bear Pascoe was covering Kareem McKenzie and Will Beatty was covering Shawn Andrews.  Interestingly, Kevin Boss was not on the field.  For the most part, the tight ends were not much of the game plan.  Boss caught 2 of 4 balls thrown his way with 2 drops, though one wasn’t entirely his fault because he was hit early (end zone throw on the field goal drive).

Offensive Line: There is going to be a lot of churn in The Corner Forum with what I’m about to write about the offensive line and Shawn Andrews in particular.

First the good news: The offensive line had a very good day in pass protection, as they did not allow a sack for the 3rd straight game and once again Eli was not credited with a hit against though he was under pressure at times.  That’s the first time the Giants have gone three games without giving up a sack since 1972.  Manning does help out the line by getting rid of the ball quickly when pressure does come, he also has two backs that excel at blitz pickup, and Manning has become very adept at ‘feeling’ the pocket as he’s done a terrific job of moving with the flow of the line.  That’s not to take anything away from the line.  They really have done well with their protection against some very good fronts.

Now the bad:  The Giants run blocking was absolutely horrible on Sunday night.  To illustrate the point, see the breakdown of the 2nd and goal run I mentioned above where Chris Snee missed his block.  That is happening with regularity.  Shawn Andrews, for all his worth in pass protection and neutralizing Giant killer DE Trent Cole, is a liability right now in the run game.  On the Bradshaw fumble, the Giants attempted to run left and had what appeared to be a perfect call on.  Kevin Boothe did a great job of taking the DT inside allowing Seubert to get to the second level and get a helmet on the inside linebacker.  Pascoe hit the hole and neutralized the outside backer.  Unfortunately, Andrews whiffed on the DE who crashed down and forced Bradshaw to cut back across the grain right into the teeth of where the rest of the line were blocking their men.  The result was a one on three battle and they ripped the ball from him.  This was just one example of Andrews missing his block.  The Giants completely abandoned running left, which had been a strength of this team.  They ran left just twice all game, for no yardage and Shawn Andrews held on one of those plays (one of two Andrews holds on the day).

No one on the line had a very good day.  On the first two plays of the game, third string center Rich Seubert failed both times to stay with his block, allowing no room for Bradshaw to get going.  Once was off right guard, the second was off left guard.

The Giants really, really need their two Pro Bowl linemen back and back soon.  The running game has digressed for three straight weeks and must get untracked if they expect any receivers to get open.  The Eagles were able to completely shut down the running game without committing and 8th man in the box.

Defense: Though there was a good fortune cast their way as the Eagles made as many, if not more, mistakes than the Giants made, the defense played an inspired game Sunday against a very dynamic offense that’s put up a ton of points against the Giants in recent games and had just hung a 50 spot on a decent Washington defense.  Though the overall yardage looks significant, the final stats are misleading. 90 yards of offense came on two plays within the final 4 minutes of the game on the back breaking 50 yard 4th down touchdown run and another 40 yard scamper on the drive following Eli’s fumble.  Before those two runs, the Giants had held the Eagles to just 50 yards rushing, and 34 of those had come from Michael Vick.

The Giants also continued to do a good job on 3rd downs, holding the Eagles to a conversion rate of 21% (3 of 14).  The problem was, they allowed two 4th down conversions, and the Eagles scored 10 points off those drives.

New York did a masterful job of keeping the game close early, holding the Eagles to 1 for 5 in the Green Zone.  In what could’ve been a rout early, the Eagles were up just 13 points before the Giants mounted their comeback.

The most impressive part of the defense was their ability to get to Vick.  On the day, he was sacked 3 times and hit in the pocket another 3 times.  That’s a bit misleading, however, as Vick was also hammered a number of times but since he had committed to the run they’re not counted as hits.  By my count, however, Vick was hit approximately 14 times on Sunday night.  There is no doubt Vick spent time in the cold tub on Monday morning.  The Giants jarred the ball loose twice, but were only able to recover the fumble once.

Front 7: After a tough game against Dallas, the Giants front seven played one of their better games of the season against probably the best one-two punch QB in the league.  Justin Tuck, after going off with an injury early, played a monster of a game registering 7 tackles, 3 sacks, another QB hit, 2 forced fumbles, 2 tackles of McCoy behind the line of scrimmage and another QB hit.

The rest of the defensive line had very good games as well.  DTs Chris Canty and Barry Cofield and Rocky Bernard shut down the interior and got tremendous push in the pass rush helping to force Vick to his right.  Cofield’s fumble recovery set up the Giants’ go ahead touchdown.  Osi Umenyiora had a great night against the run, but wasn’t a huge factor in the pass rush.  He just missed swiping the ball away from Vick on the 50 yard go ahead touchdown run by McCoy.  Had he gotten there a split second earlier, this review would probably be a victory review.

One negative, however, was when the Giants just sent four against Vick he had seemingly all day to look for his receivers down field.  While Philadelphia wasn’t in max protect often, the Giants played a lot of nickel and some dime packages that obviously were designed to get Vick to throw into coverage.   Once the Giants decided to throw all caution to the wind and attack Vick from the defensive right side with overload, corner, and safety blitzes, the sustained push in the middle and Tuck’s relentless pursuit from the other side caused Vick a lot of headaches.  The DTs also did a tremendous job of reading and reacting to the Eagles’ potent screen game, which had one decent gain all night.

Continuing a somewhat disturbing trend of late, the New York linebacking corps of Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff and Keith Bulluck did very little on Sunday.  Relegating to dropping into coverage, no one stood out (no passes defensed, no QB hits, no sacks, no turnovers created) and no one made a game changing play.  Even Deon Grant did very little from his hybrid spot.

Jonathan Goff may be hitting some sort of wall, as he’s not playing with the authority and decisiveness he was playing with just a few weeks ago.  Since this is his first full year as a starter, it could be that he’s becoming fatigued.

Defensive Backs: The Giants’ strategy for most of the second half of the game (and for those that say the Giants don’t adjust, this is a prime example of how they DID adjust) was to send a safety or nickel back in from Vick’s left side and force him to either move to his right or get the ball out quick.  Due to this, the Giants’ cornerbacks allowed a ton of cushion to WRs Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.  It was obvious the Giants were determined not to get burned deep.  The Giants played single high safety for most of the night, but did show a cover two shell on occasion.  The strategy worked, as the Giants shut Vick down well in the second half.  Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster (and to an extent Aaron Ross) gave up receptions but for the most part sure tackling limited them to short gains on the outside.  Only when the Giants sent four guys in on Vick did the Eagles convert their intermediate crossing passes.  With the speed and athleticism of the Eagles’ receivers, if you give them 4+ seconds to get open, they will.  No CB in the league can stick with Jackson and Maclin for that long.

Antrel Rolle had a very solid game for the Giants as he by hook or by crook made desperation dashes to get to Vick and throw off his timing on the pass rush.  Rolle is credited with just one QB hit, but he caused at least half a dozen plays to be broken and either tackled Vick as he ran or chased him in to another defender.  In the rematch, look for the Eagles to try and take Rolle out of the game by applying special attention to him.  Rolle was an absolute pest to the Eagles on Sunday.

Kenny Phillips had several big plays from his safety spot as well.  He blew up one screen and made a couple sure tackles in the secondary.  Phillips nearly came down with an interception on a deep pass to Maclin, as well.

Special Teams: Does anyone want to read anything more about Matt Dodge?  I’m just going to say that he continues to be a liability.  He punts the ball 67 yards into the endzone when he needs to punt it 25 and out of bounds.  When he’s deep in his own territory and a 67 yarder is in order, he shanks them for 25.  And he has now dropped three snaps.  The guy is not doing a damned thing to help this team.  The only positive in the whole mess was that Jackson was only able to return one punt for 9 yards.  Granted, the first punt was the equivalent of a 40 yard return due to Dodge’s ineptness, but hey, Jackson didn’t get credited with the yards.

Kickoffs and kickoff coverages were very good and could have been considered awesome had Tynes not inexplicably kicked a ball off out of bounds.  It’s like this unit cannot stand a little success.

The return games continue to be fair to poor at best, and Will Blackmon nearly cost the Giants big time when he tried to pick up a bouncing ball with three Eagles bearing down on him just yards away.  The ensuing fumble, thankfully, was recovered by the Giants.

If you want to see the return game at its futile best, watch a replay of the Eagles’ first punt.  When Blackmon catches it at the 12 yard line, wait two seconds and pause your DVR.  Count how many Eagles you see in the picture.  If you got 6, good for you!  Now count the Giants.  If you count 1, Will Blackmon, again good for you!  Seriously, all you can do is shake your head and laugh.  How after 10 games they can’t get this corrected is beyond silly.

One bright spot was the blocked punt just before the half.  Even that was eventually turned into a mistake as Webster was caught by holder Sav Rocca (who tackled him by the facemask and went unpenalized for it) and didn’t have the wherewithal to lateral to Aaron Ross who was right behind him.

Coaching: There is a lot of talk over in The Corner Forum that HC Tom Coughlin should have taken a time out before the Eagles’ final FG attempt of the first half with around 30 seconds to go.  While it turns out it may have been the smart play, you can’t anticipate a blocked field goal attempt nor do you necessarily want to try to set up a kick return when the Eagles will most likely pooch it to a player more prone than the deep backs to fumbling.

Perry Fewell made some very good in game adjustments to dial up pressure to Vick’s left and nearly pulled this game out of the fire.

Offensive Player of the Game: There wasn’t a ton to like from the offensive side of the ball, but Rich Seubert did get downfield 18 yards to recover Hakeem Nicks’ fumble and he also recovered the Samuels fumble following his interception.  So even though he only played a fair game at center, he gets the game ball.

Defensive Player of the Game: Although Antrel Rolle set up a lot of what happened to Vick with his relentless pursuit from his FS position, Justin Tuck gets the nod for his tenacious game.  Tuck played his best game of the year.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, November 21, 2010)
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