Sep 282011
 
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New York Giants 29 (2-1) – Philadelphia Eagles 16 (1-2)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: Finally, the streak is over.  After losing 6 straight games (including a playoff game) to the hated Eagles, the injury-riddled New York Giants stormed the Linc and came away with a hard-earned victory that very few people, myself included, expected them to get.  The Eagles were favored by 8 points in this game, and it’s no wonder when you look at all the injuries and questions that the Giants were dealing with.

There were several story lines heading in to this game that seemed to bode well for Philadelphia.  They had their elusive and electrifying QB Michael Vick returning from a “mild” concussion.  They had WRs Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson licking their chops, anticipating wide open routes against the suspect Giants secondary.  Ex-Giant WR Steve Smith, named an Eagles captain for the day, had a bit of a score to settle with his former team.  The Eagles also didn’t have to worry about WR Mario Manningham (concussion) and his replacement WR Dominek Hixon (torn ACL), as the  Giants were forced to start the little experienced and somewhat untrustworthy Victor Cruz on the outside and the emergency street free agent pickup Brandon Stokely in the slot.

With all the story lines going against the Giants, many people expected the Eagles to pass at will on offense and then stack the box with 7 or 8 men and dare New York to beat them through the air.

The thing is, however, the Eagles did not pass at will. In fact, the Eagles ran the ball 40 times (33 by backs/receivers, 7 times by Vick) for 177 total yards, which may be a record in the Andy Reid era.  At one point in the second quarter, the Eagles ran 8 straight times.  The Eagles only attempted 30 passes on the day, completing 20.

It may be that the Giants had decided that they weren’t going to let the Eagles beat them through the air.  HB LeSean McCoy stated after the game that the Eagles expected the Giants to blitz more than they did (the Giants did not blitz often on Sunday).  Amazingly, he thought they didn’t blitz because they were ‘scared’.  That’s an interesting observation.

At any rate, the Giants did give up a ton of yards on the ground.  McCoy and Vick did most of the damage.  Many times the Giants had a bead on McCoy but couldn’t make the play in the backfield or within the first couple of yards of the line of scrimmage.  McCoy is quickly establishing himself as one of the most elusive backs in the league and at times he shook tackles that appeared to have him stopped cold.

The other thing is that the Giants were able to get huge yards out of their passing game despite only throwing the ball 23 times.  The Giants averaged an astounding 15.9 yards gained per completion.  Call it opportunistic, call it fortunate, call it whatever you want.  The Giants had 6 of their 16 completions go for more than 15 yards (15, 18, 26, 28, 40 and 74).  Four of those completions were touchdowns.

As we all know, the only statistic that matters is the one at the final gun, and on Sunday it read Giants 29 Eagles 16.  Other than that, the Giants didn’t win many statistical battles.  As HC Tom Coughlin has always said, you have to keep the game close and give yourself a chance to win in the fourth quarter.  And that, folks, is exactly what the Giants did on Sunday.  Take a look at these stats:

Total first downs:  Eagles 25 Giants 14
Total offensive plays: Eagles 72 Giants 51
Total rushing plays:  Eagles 40 Giants 25
Rushing yards: Eagles 177 Giants 102
First half time of possession:  Eagles 21:43 Giants 8:17
Total time of possession: Eagles 36:51 Giants 23:09

Other statistics were relatively close, as the Eagles outgained the Giants by only 42 total yards as the Giants outgained the Eagles 254 – 211 through the air, both teams had third down conversion rates in the 40 – 45% range, and neither kick return game was especially effective.

Now let’s look at a few other game statistics that really show why the Giants won:

Average gain per offensive play:  Giants 6.5 Eagles 5.2
Penalties:  Eagles 7 for 36 yards Giants 4 for 21 yards
Turnovers:  Eagles 3 Giants 0
Green zone efficiency:  Giants 1-1 100% Eagles 1-5 20%
Goal to go efficiency:  Giants 0-0 Eagles 0-2
Fourth quarter time of possession:  Giants 10:27 Eagles 4:33
Fourth quarter scoring:  Giants 15 Eagles 0

Win the fourth quarter, indeed!  The last time the Giants played the Eagles, New York held a 21 point lead with about 8 minutes to go in the game.  Everyone knows what happened.  A furious 28 points later, the Eagles won and doomed the Giants’ season.  For this game, however, the roles were reversed.  With just over 8 minutes left in the contest on Sunday the Eagles held a 2 point lead but the Giants dominated the rest of the quarter, scoring the final 15 points of the game.

Offense: The Giants amassed just 5 first downs on 22 first half offensive plays on Sunday, but they made the most of them.  After an initial 3 and out in which they didn’t gain a yard, the Giants had a 6 play 73 yard drive that culminated with a 40 yard touchdown pass, a 3 play 82 yard drive which culminated in a 74 yard touchdown pass, and a 7 play 51 yard drive that should have yielded points but was cut short on a failed 4th and 3 attempt that should have been converted.

The Giants had just four drives expending just about 8 minutes of game clock, covering 19 plays and 77 yards from the time they scored their second touchdown with about a minute left in the first quarter until they punted with 14 minutes and 20 seconds left in the game.  During that time frame, Philadelphia had gained the lead and had all the momentum and it appeared that it was just a matter of time until the Eagles finally put the game away.

It didn’t happen that way, however, as the final two Giants drives of consequence covered 17 plays, chewed up nearly 8 minutes of the 4th quarter, and resulted in two touchdowns and a 2 point conversion.

The Giants ran a balanced attack on Sunday, rushing 25 times and dropping back to pass on 26 snaps.  There was a lot of discussion in The Corner Forum last week about short yardage situations for the Giants last week.  Though there were several key failures, the Giants did convert in 8 short yardage situations.  This week they were even better, but there was still the critical failure on a 4th and 3 yard play.  Nevertheless, the Giants converted on 6 of 8 short yardage plays.  Bradshaw converted three 2nd and 1 situations and a 3rd and 1 situation.  Brandon Jacobs converted a 3rd and 1 situation and Eli Manning completed passes on a 3rd and 2.

Another note about the offense is that they are now 5 of 6 in converting Green Zone opportunities into touchdowns.  That’s 83.3% success, which leads the league, but the Giants are getting 2 Green Zone chances on average per week.  Several other teams are averaging more than 4 and some 5 opportunities a week.

Quarterback: Eli Manning had a big day, and it could have been even bigger.  Manning put on a clinic Sunday, showing how to manage a game and take what was being given to him.  Again, he did not put the ball in harms’ way and took sacks instead of trying to force the issue.  That trait, trying to make something out of nothing, has haunted Eli against the Eagles in the past.  No interceptions or fumbles against the Eagles is huge, especially on the road.

On the day, Eli finished 16 out of 23 (nearly 70%) for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns and a QBR of 145.7.  On the year now, Eli is ranked 5th in the league with a 104.3 QBR.

Last season, ESPN introduced a statistic called “Total QBR” which is an attempt to improve on the original and outdated method for rating quarterbacks.  It can be read about here.  As with any statistic, there are flaws in its premise but it’s another measure we can look at.  The scale is from 0-100, with a score of 50 indicating an ‘average’ QB.  According to ESPN, this week Eli had the third highest TQBR in football at 81.2.  On the year, Eli ranks 10th in the league at 64.9.

Where Manning did best on Sunday was in clutch situations. Eli completed 6 of 7 passes for 114 yards with two touchdowns on 3rd downs.  Even more impressive was that he also completed 6 of 7 passes and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

As mentioned, it could have been better.  Manning had Victor Cruz all alone behind the defense for what could have been a 73 touchdown pass but slightly overthrew him.  Later in the drive, he did complete the 40 yard touchdown to Jacobs, so the opportunity lost was not harmful to the team.  Later, Manning nearly completed a long touchdown to WR Hakeem Nicks with a nice pass into the end zone that Nicks couldn’t quite catch up to.

Manning also continues to be careful with the ball and take sacks.  Eli absorbed 3 more sacks to up his total to 10 on the year.  To put that number in perspective, Manning is on pace to be sacked 53 times this year.  He was sacked only 16 times the entire 2010 season.

Running Backs: HB Ahmad Bradshaw had one of his most productive days as a New York Giant.  Bradshaw handled the ball 20 times on Sunday, 15 rushing and 5 in the receiving game.  Bradshaw ended up rushing 15 times for 86 yards and had the team high 5 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.  Bradshaw got the bulk of his yards on a 37 yard jaunt on a 3rd and 5 carry midway through the 2nd quarter.  At the time, the Giants led 14-0 and it seemed like that play would be a tone setter for the rest of the day.

On the play, the Giants lined up with Manning in the shotgun with Bradshaw split to his right on the weak side and Hakeem Nicks lined up wide outside.  On the strong side, TE Travis Beckum lined up in the backfield about two yards off the line of scrimmage to the left of T Will Beatty.  WR Brandon Stokley was in the slot and Victor Cruz was wide to the left.  The Eagles were lined up with tight coverage on the outside men as well as on Stokley in the slot.  They brought four down linemen, and had two linebackers on the field.  They were in a single high safety look with the nickel corner, Nate Allen, down just outside the box overtop Bradshaw.  On the snap, the Giants ran a counter inside handoff with the line influencing the linebackers to head towards the weak side.  William Beatty stepped back and rolled to take out and seal DE Trent Cole to the outside while Beckum came across his face and crashed down on the outside linebacker, driving him out of the play and into the line.  Bradshaw had a hole a mile wide to run through, and when Brandon Stokley walled off CB Dom Rogers-Cromartie, he was off to the races.  After ten yards, SS Jarrad Page attempted a feeble tackle that Bradshaw went right through.  Allen made a great effort to cross the entire field and attempt to make a play on Bradshaw 22 yards down field, but Bradshaw moved the ball from his right to his left arm and then with one hand lifted and threw Allen out of his way, gaining an extra 15 yards before Cromartie finally tracked him down and tackled him.  It was a play that reminded every Giants fan who saw it of the uppercut thrown by OJ Anderson in Super Bowl 25 against the Bills.  Just a scintillating, exciting play.

Bradshaw had most of his success in the first half, gaining just 30 yards on 11 carries in the second half.  What’s important, however, is that he was able to convert 2 huge short yardage plays on the final two touchdown drives.  What yardage he wasn’t able to gain on the ground, however, he produced through the air.  Two of his biggest receptions came in the second half, especially on his touchdown when the Giants caught the Eagles in the perfect coverage to execute a screen.

On the play, a 3rd and 11 from the 19 yard line, the Giants lined up with the TE on the right of Eli who was in shotgun with Bradshaw offset to his left on the weak side.  Brandon Stokley came across the formation in motion to the slot on the strong side with Victor Cruz wide right and Nicks wide left.

The Eagles showed an 8 man front on the line of scrimmage with one on one coverage on the receivers.  On the snap Beatty, Diehl and Bass released their men into the backfield and Bradshaw chipped on the safety then settled in for the reception.  Diehl and Baas walled off the only defender who had any chance of making a play.  It was so wide open Beatty had no one to block.  Down field, Hakeem Nicks put a decent block on CB Nnamdi Asomugha and that was all she wrote as Bradshaw skipped in for the final score of the day.

Big Brandon Jacobs wasn’t much of a factor in the running game, gaining just 19 yards on 7 carries.  Jacobs caught 2 passes, and none bigger than his first of the game.  The play was designed to get Jacobs one on one with rookie linebacker Casey Matthews, who in the middle of the week was moved to the weak side (or strong side in the Eagles’ defense) after ineffective play at the MIKE.  The play was a jumbo set (double TE) with two receivers to Eli’s left and Jacobs in an offset I.  On the snap, the two receivers cleared the left side by slanting over the middle and Eli faked the handoff to Jacobs.  Matthews was completely sucked in by the play action and Jacobs simply wheeled out to the left and kept going down the field where Eli hit him in stride.  Jacobs waltzed in for the 40 yard touchdown untouched.

Henry Hynoski really didn’t see a lot of the field on Sunday, but when he did he was successful both run blocking and the pass blocking.  On the bomb to Victor Cruz, he led Jacobs on play action and completely stoned Matthews.  He sold that play as a run, and got flow to his side.  On the next play, his block sprung Bradshaw for 15 yards.  He also stopped a blitz on the play that Manning almost hit Nicks for the long touchdown.  Hynoski is tenacious.  Once Hynoski engages, he doesn’t quit on the block.  The problem has been initial leverage, and on Sunday he was much better at staying lower and keeping his legs moving.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Many people thought that the Giants were in big trouble after losing Domenik Hixon for the year and losing Mario Manningham for the game on Sunday.  Victor Cruz, who’s had a tough go of it through the preseason and the first two games, was pressed into service as the number 2 WR opposite Hakeem Nicks with Brandon Stokley playing the 3rd WR.  Stokley has had just two weeks to come up to speed and with the strong corners of the Eagles facing them down it sure appeared the matchup favored Philadelphia.

So much for that theory! As noted the Giants did not throw as often to their wideouts as they normally do, but they were effective when they did.  Victor Cruz was targeted 5 times and caught 3 balls for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The first came on a very well designed rub route in the face of a safety blitz.  Cruz was in the slot on a 3rd and 2 play with Nicks outside.  On the snap, the safety covering over Cruz blitzed Manning as Nicks slanted in and took the corner with him.  Cruz flanked out underneath Nicks and was wide open for the catch about 6 yards downfield.  FS Kurt Coleman went high trying to tackle Cruz but was shrugged off.  Victor was off to the races.  Another 10 yards downfield, feeble tackle attempt by CB Asomugha only resulted in him knocking Coleman further out of the play and 74 yards later the Giants were up by 14 points.

Cruz’s second touchdown was, dare I say it, Plaxico-esque.  On the 2nd and 8 play, Manning play actioned to Jacobs and had good initial time in the pocket (partly due to a nice chip from Hynoski), but as it broke down he threw the ball up for Cruz to make a play.  And make a play the kid did.  At the goal line he posted up basketball style and out-jumped Asomugha and Page, caught the ball, then leaned over the line for the touchdown that gave the Giants back the lead.

Cruz did have a simple out pattern clang off his hands about 10 yards into the air, but luckily there was no Eagle around to pick off the deflection.

Hakeem Nicks also caught 3 balls on the day for just 25 yards.  With the solid corner play for the Eagles, the Giants simply attacked them in the middle against their suspect safeties and short on the edges against their suspect linebackers.

The only other wideout that saw action was Stokley, who was in the game often.  He only caught 1 ball for 7 yards.  Stokley looks like he can play the slot and as he gets comfortable with the offense and Manning, he may develop into a true weapon.

The TEs were not targeted much in this game.  Jake Ballard had a crucial 15 yard catch and run on the final touchdown drive that got them into field goal range.  Travis Beckum had 1 catch as well, but drew the ire of his QB when on a 4th and 3 attempt he literally fell after catching a ball all alone in the flat, a yard short of the needed 3 yards.  By the time Beckum reacted to the fact that he was short of the first down yardage, he was touched down.  At the time this appeared to be the huge momentum change that the Eagles were looking for, and they dominated the game for the next 2 quarters while scoring 16 unanswered points.  It’s safe to assume that if the Giants had lost, this play would have been looked at as one of the big turning points.  Earlier in the drive, Travis was instrumental on Bradshaw’s 37 yard run, delivering the seal block that sprung Ahmad.  Beckum didn’t see much of the field until late in the game after that failed 4th down play.  As for Ballard, he continues to grind it out as a blocking TE and although he is improving he’s still not a prototypical mauler out there.  In double TE sets the Giants used reserve OT Stacey Andrews, who actually started the game.

Offensive Line: The O-line continued to mature and develop into a cohesive unit on Sunday.  How about no false starts or holding calls in a huge divisional game in Philadelphia?  In fact, there were no penalties at all on the offense this week.

While the running game did pop a couple of long runs, much of the day was spent plodding for 2-4 yards and a cloud of dust.  It wasn’t pretty early, but it was effective and moved the chains in the 4th quarter.

LT William Beatty got to match up with perennial Giant killer Trent Cole and did a very good job of neutralizing him.  Beatty occasionally got help from Ballard and Pascoe and Jacobs also ‘chipped’ on him a couple of times but the fact is Cole got just 1 sack and was in on just 5 tackles.

The overall pass blocking is getting the job done, but Manning is taking hits at an alarming rate compared to last season.  Part of the issue is that Manning isn’t taking the big risk and instead is eating the ball.  Part is that the line is still coming together and they don’t have the best blocking TEs and FB in football.  So far, the Giants are 26th in the league in sacks allowed, giving up 10.  Manning has also been hit 15 times, which is 13th in the league.  That alone sums up the theory that if Manning doesn’t see a play to make downfield, he’s going to eat the ball.  Manning was hit just 52 times all last season.

One thing the Giants are clearly using to their advantage is misdirection plays.  The line is influencing the defense one way while the TE, FB and WRs are being asked to create gaps long enough for the backs to exploit.  The Giants also seem to like running behind RG Chris Snee more than they did last season.

Defense: On Sunday, the Giants came out with a game plan on defense that on its face just didn’t seem right to any long time Giants fan.  Right off the bat, the Giants were showing that they weren’t going to blitz which let Philadelphia know that they were going to be able to run the ball.  And run it, run it, and run it some more they did for a total of 177 yards on 40 carries (4.4 ypc average).   Frankly, Giants fans are not used to seeing their team gashed for so much yardage.  When they do, it usually translates to a horrible loss. What the Giants were really doing was going after Vick with essentially four down linemen and daring the Eagles to throw deep.  The interesting thing is that even so, they played the big nickel look only a little more than half the time.

When the Giants did blitz, they were effective.  Their first full blitz of the night, sending both linebackers Jacquian Williams and Michael Boley attacked and Williams applied the pressure that caused Vick to hurry his throw and it ended up being intercepted off the hands of WR Steve Smith by CB Aaron Ross.

If you believe in the concept of a bend but don’t break defense, then the Giants showed the classic blueprint on how to execute it on Sunday.  Philadelphia was not held to a 3 and out or worse all day except on their second to last drive in which backup QB Mike Kafka came in cold and threw an interception on the first play of the drive.  The Eagles also gained at least one first down on every drive save the one mentioned.  As would be expected, through the first 3 quarters the Eagles dominated the time of possession.

The Giants forced 3 interceptions, 1 in the green zone.  Michael Boley and Kenny Phillips also had opportunities to make interceptions.  New York also forced 1 fumble and had opportunity to recover 2 other Vick fumbled snaps but on each Philadelphia had fortunate bounces go their way.

The most important stat of the day from a defensive perspective was keeping the Eagles out of the end zone once they got into the green zone.  Five times Philadelphia got deep into Giants territory but only scored 1 touchdown, settling for 3 field goals and suffering the 1 turnover.

The key drive of the game was the Eagles’ second drive of the third quarter, trailing the Giants by a point but again dominating time of possession and owning all the momentum following the Giants’ opening salvos in the first quarter.  Beginning from their own 10 yard line, the Eagles sustained a marathon 14 play 88 yard drive that produced 5 first downs and ate 8:52 off the clock.

Set up with a 1st and goal at the 2 yard line by a Jason Avant catch, the Eagles tried to go smash mouth and the Giants answered in kind.

First and goal – Eagles line up in double I formation with one WR on the weak side and try to sneak the FB off left tackle.  Kenny Phillips, Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson shut it down for a 1 yard gain.

Second and goal – Eagles with a bunch formation, no receiver look.  Vick tries a QB keeper but is hit hard and stuffed by Michael Boley coming over the top as the rest of the line hunkers down and gives no ground.  Penalty on S Deon Grant keeps it second and goal.

Second and Goal – From the same formation, the Eagles again sneak with Vick, but again Michael Boley flies over the top and this time his thighs/knees hit Vick in the head and drive him back as the interior of the line gives no ground whatsoever.  Finally, DT James Kennedy wraps up Vick as the whistle blows.

Third and Goal – From a bunch formation in an offset I, the Eagles tried to trap the Giants by pulling LT Jason Peters and leading the FB through the hole.  It was well blocked, but DT Rocky Bernard blew right through the Eagles center and somehow was able to wrap his arms around the legs of the FB and hold him long enough for the cavalry to arrive and finish him off.

Fourth and Goal – Eagles settle for FG, shifting all the momentum back to the Giants.

Again, holding the Eagles to a 1 for 5 effort in the green zone was huge.  On the year, the Giants have now given up just 5 touchdowns on 13 opponent green zone possessions.

Front 7: If the word wasn’t already out on DE Jason Pierre-Paul, it certainly is now after his third straight solid game.  In 3 games, he already has 17 tackles, a forced fumble and 4.5 sacks.  That puts him a half a sack behind DeMarcus Ware for the sack lead.  Extrapolated out, he’s on pace for 24 sacks and 90 plus tackles.  Those are huge numbers from the DE position.  On Sunday, JPP had 7 solo tackles and 2 sacks.  The first sack was very interesting to watch, as JPP had Vick dead in his sights but Vick juked him and JPP tumbled to the ground.  Undaunted, Paul got up and attacked from the other side of the field and managed to get back to and sack Vick.  Just a beautiful athletic play.

DE Justin Tuck continues to play through pain in his neck but wasn’t much of a factor as he was in on just 1 tackle.  Tuck apparently injured a groin muscle in the game as well.

Dave Tollefson saw a lot of minutes but was not in on any tackles Sunday.

If there is a concern, it’s that there really isn’t a lot of depth at the DE position meaning the Giants sorely need Osi Umenyiora to come back soon and give these guys a breather.

The DTs were their usual stout selves.  The goal line stand was illustrated above, but not mentioned were the fact that Linval Joseph, Chris Canty along with Kennedy and Bernard did a great job all day collapsing the middle and not allowing Vick to improvise up the middle of the field.

The linebackers are really coming into their own, especially Michael Boley who is playing by far the best ball he’s played as a Giant and the newcomer Jacquian Williams who is shining brightly on the strong side.  Williams had the initial pressure on Vick that lead to the first interception.  Several other times, Williams had his man lined up but lost the angle.  That will change when he gets used to the speed of the game.  What’s interesting is that even when he does lose the angle, he manages to get himself back into the play.  On Sunday he led the Giants with 9 solo tackles.  Another thing, on two occasions Williams had to take on a ball carrier near the first down marker in open field and on both occasions he was able to stop the man short of the first down.

Boley nearly picked off Vick on one occasion and on another he had deep responsibility on the TE about 20 yards downfield and covered him like a blanket.  It’s the type of play you usually see completed against the Giants but Vick had no place to go with the ball and overshot the receiver apparently on purpose.

Mathais Kiwanuka’s name doesn’t show up in the stat sheet very often but he’s done a good job on early downs of maintaining gap discipline and forcing the backs or receivers to alter their paths.  Just because he’s not in on the tackle doesn’t mean he didn’t influence the play by funneling the ball carrier into another Giant’s path and ultimate tackle.

The man who seemed to be missing and may be losing his spot to Williams was Greg Jones.  He was in on one tackle but didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the game.

Much like last year, the Giants seem to be trying to find combinations that work well against specific matchups.  Boley was in the middle as was Williams at times with safeties Tyler Sash or Deon Grant playing the big nickel or third linebacker spot.  Also, the Giants deployed safety Antrel Rolle either on or just behind the line of scrimmage quite a bit on Sunday.

Secondary: Most people thought that the Eagles vaunted air attack would feast on the Giants’ secondary while the Eagles secondary would shut down the lame Eli Manning and his patchwork receiving corps.  As it turned out, most people got it ass backwards (including myself).

CB Aaron Ross seemed to benefit from an early gift interception and gain his confidence back much the same way CB Corey Webster did after his interception against Tampa in the playoffs in 2007.  Following that interception, Ross played an outstanding game and made a great play to intercept another pass in the 4th quarter when he elevated to corral an errant throw by QB Mike Kafka.  That interception led to the clinching touchdown drive.  Ross ended up with 3 passes defensed on the day against the highly respected Eagles passing attack.

Corey Webster almost single handedly shut down WR DeSean Jackson, limiting the mercurial receiver to just 2 catches on 6 thrown to him for just 30 yards.  That sounds like the definition of a shutdown corner.

Antrel Rolle was more a part of the Front 7 than he was as part of the secondary, but he also covered well when asked.  As for Deon Grant, he had one of his best games in a while recording 6 solo tackles and taking the brunt of the work as the 3rd corner in the big nickel package.

Kenny Phillips missed a golden opportunity to end an Eagles field goal drive in the end zone but dropped one of the easiest interceptions he’ll ever get the chance to make.  He did make up for it by intercepting Kafka with less than 2 minutes to go while playing center field.  On the flip side, Phillips still seems, at times, to be tentative to initiate or get into contact, especially in run support.  That said, he did a great job chasing down Michael Vick and stripping him of the football after losing him initially in the play.

Twenty-three times the Eagles tried to attack the Giants with their wide receiver foursome of Jason Avant, Steve Smith, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.  The only completed 13 for 159 yards and no touchdowns.

Special Teams: It’s hard to believe, but the Giants have yet to kick a field goal in 2011 through three games.  They have had one blocked and they had another taken off the board this Sunday due to an offsides call on the Eagles due to a hard count from Carr as well as some nifty squeezing of the football by long snapper Zak DeOssie.

Lawrence Tynes hit 4 of 5 kickoffs into the end zone, 3 resulting in touchbacks.  The kickoff return team did well, holding the long for Philadelphia to 25 yards.

P Steve Weatherford bounced back from an atrocious kick in the second quarter that went out of bounds in Giants territory after traveling just 27 yards.  Again, this could’ve been a huge momentum shifter but the Giants defense bailed him out, limiting the Eagles to a field goal before the half.  The punt coverage teams were good.  Desean Jackson was able to return just 1 for 13 yards.

As for the Giants return teams, they were fairly nonexistent on the day.  PR Aaron Ross didn’t return a punt, opting for fair catches or letting it bounce.  Devin Thomas did return one kickoff for 33 yards.

Coaching: In hindsight, it’s easy to see what the Giants wanted to do on Sunday.  First on offense, they wanted to run the ball, deliver the ball underneath and use the blitz happy Eagles’ scheme against him, and take a shot here and there deep.  Thankfully, it worked to perfection as the Giants used mismatches in the passing game most of the day and ran enough to keep the Eagles honest and the defensive line at home.

On defense, it appears the Giants opted to do everything they could to prevent the big play and let the Eagles try to beat them on the ground.  As we saw in Indianapolis last season, that doesn’t always work.  You can die by a thousand paper cuts or one or two hacks to the neck with a machete.  Fortunately, the plan worked and when the Eagles were forced to pass late in the game they were completely ineffective.

All in all, great planning and execution of the plans.

Final Thoughts: I called this game 41-13 Eagles.  After the last two games and losing two more offensive weapons, I just could not see a way as to how the Giants could go into Philadelphia in their home opener and get a win.  I could not have been more wrong.  The Giants came together through the adversity and I forgot cardinal rule #1:

Anything can happen in an NFC East showdown.

At any rate, the Giants are now 2-1 and tied atop the NFC East with the Cowboys and the Redskins.  The entire season is still there for the taking, and the walking wounded are still making their way back.  If the Giants can go on a mini streak and win a few of these next games, going into the bye week New York could be in great position.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 25, 2011)
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