Nov 232011
 
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Philadelphia Eagles 17 (4-6) – New York Giants 10 (6-4)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

In yet another baffling display of ineptitude in a home game of incredible magnitude, the New York Giants lost in convincing fashion to an Eagles team that was on the ropes and ready to be taken out for the season.  This time was even more disgusting from the mere stand point that the Eagles were missing QB Michael Vick and WR Jeremy Maclin, arguably two of their best offensive players, for this game.

How does this happen?  It’s impossible to explain, but New York did not match Philadelphia in intensity, resolve, nor urgency.  At home.  Against a hated division opponent.  Knowing the Cowboys had already won their game.  With so much on the line.

This was essentially a playoff game.  With no more room for error, the Giants needed this one to stay one game up on the Cowboys in the NFC East.  For the Eagles, the stakes were even higher as a loss would all but have destroyed the “Dream Team’s” chances to fight their way back into playoff contention.

New York was thumped in every meaningful statistical category except turnovers, but on Sunday night they were unable to turn three QB Vince Young interceptions into any points, and once again a mind boggling decision to kick the ball to PR/WR Desean Jackson with a minute and a half left in the 2nd quarter which was returned to the Giants’ 14 yard line hurt them badly.  One play later, to add insult to injury, ex-Giant WR Steve Smith scored a touchdown to give Philadelphia a 10-0 lead.

What’s lost in the incredibly bad rushing stats (17 total rushes for 29 yards), the Giants had 20 yards on their first 5 carries.  That’s right.  After their first 3 drives in the first quarter, the Giants ran 12 times for just 9 total yards.  As has been mentioned in many stories and over in The Corner Forum, it was the worst rushing performance ever by the Giants under HC Tom Coughlin and it’s the worst rushing team, to this point in the season, in 58 years.

And this came against one of the worst rushing defenses this season coming into the game.  New York converted just one 3rd down rushing the football.  They converted two via penalty!

New York held the ball for just 23:42 despite shutting down the Philadelphia rushing game for most of the night.  They allowed the Eagles to chew up an astounding 11:51 of clock in the 4th quarter.

Offense

Where do you start with this?  There was very little offense on Sunday night.  Except for a few ad lib plays that Eli was able to hit, there were very few successfully executed plays all night.  Just look at the stats.  New York ran just 55 plays, gained just 264 net yards, converted just 5 of 14 3rd downs, and only made 12 1st downs all night.  The running game produced an average of just 1.7 yards per carry.  New York never got into the Philadelphia green zone.  When you consider that the Giants completed 18 passes, they still had only 10 plays cover 10 yards or more.  Only four were of a distance greater than 20 yards.  On the night, the Giants ran just 17 plays that gained four yards or more.  The Giants never led in the game.

The Giants never got into any sort of rhythm in this game.  Five of their first seven drives ended in three and out and a sixth was ended with an interception after three plays.  The other drive was only five plays.  New York punted six times in the first half, in addition to the turnover.  Their longest drive of the day, in terms of plays, was their final drive of the first half which was eight plays and ended in a field goal.  The second half wasn’t much better as they punted three straight times to start the 3rd quarter before finally scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the 4th quarter.  It appeared New York might tie the game late in the 4th but after getting to a 1st and 10 from the Philadelphia 21 yard line, QB Eli Manning’s fumble sealed their fate.

Quarterback

When you see the kinds of stats mentioned above, one would immediately assume the QB had a horrible night.  That wasn’t particularly the case on Sunday as QB Eli Manning did everything he could to keep the Giants in the game despite horrid offensive line play and four blatant drops by his receiving corps.  Manning finished 18 for 35 gaining 264 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  Unfortunately for Manning, he was under intense pressure all night and on the final drive he was strip sacked on 1st down at the Eagles 21 yard line.  When the Eagles recovered the fumble, it once again ended their hopes to try and force overtime with a furious comeback.

Manning was hurried 18 times, hit 10, and sacked 3 times. Frankly it’s amazing Manning came out of this game in one piece.

Manning’s interception was a very strange play.  It looked like the Giants might get going on their second drive after Manning hit Cruz for a quick 18 yard pick up down to the Eagle 45 yard line, but after HB Brandon Jacobs was stuffed for a 2 yard loss on the next play, the Giants were in 2nd and 12.  Manning took a shotgun snap and it looked like DE Juqua Parker was going to beat TE Jake Ballard for a sack and Eli saw it coming.  In fact, Ballard did a good job spinning Parker around but Manning got happy feet and just chucked it downfield where Cruz was wide open.  Unfortunately, Eli somehow didn’t see MIKE linebacker Jamar Chaney floating into the zone and Manning threw it right to him.

Manning also didn’t sense the pressure coming back at him on the sack/fumble and moved right into the spot where DE Jason Babin could get to him.

As usual, Manning was at his best at the end of each half.  In the first with just 1:22 left on the clock, he engineered a 50 yard drive that resulted in a field goal.  At the end of the 4th, he overcame two penalties, the first pinning the Giants on their own 9 yard line and the second an intentional grounding call that put the Giants in a 2nd and 20 to drive New York down to the Eagles 21 before the fateful fumble occurred.  As Manning said in the post game press conference, the Giants have to play better early.  Manning is only human and as seen in the past two games, it’s asking too much of him to have to come back time and again on the last drive of the game to either win or tie the game.

One quick note about the play that resulted in an interception.  Manning was blasted after the whistle by two Eagles which resulted in an unnecessary roughness call on the Eagles.  HC Tom Coughlin and others said they didn’t think the Giants came to Eli’s aid, but if you watch the replay RG Chris Snee went after one of the Eagles at a full sprint while Brandon Jacobs took on three other Eagles before a scrum resulted.  Coughlin wasn’t happy that the Giants gave up the 15 yards, but frankly it would have been sickening if the Giants hadn’t gone after the Eagles after Eli was illegally hit.

Running Backs

Speaking of Brandon Jacobs, he had an extremely rough night, carrying 12 times for just 21 yards.  And that’s with a long of 9.  Many people in The Corner Forum are debating whether Jacobs is done or not.  It doesn’t seem that there is any way to make that assessment when one considers the fact that the offensive line, tight ends and fullback are not opening any holes.  Jacobs had nowhere to run.  Granted, a case can be made that with the woes of the offensive line, the running game needs to employ a faster, quicker, shiftier back in order to take advantage of cutbacks and any other crevice that might be available.  Jacobs is not that kind of back.  He needs to get a head of steam and hit the hole with impunity and make contact at the second level to be effective.  In the current state of the Giants offensive line, there is no room for Jacobs to get to the second level.

To illustrate this point, the Giants had a 3rd and less than 1 from their own 31 yard line with 10:34 left in the 2nd quarter.  New York lined up in double TE formation with Michael Clayton in the slot on the weak side and Hakeem Nicks split wide on the left side and Jacobs lined up in the I.  TE Bear Pascoe shifted to the FB position to Eli’s right.  The Eagles were lined up with 7 in the box, 4 down linemen and 3 linebackers in a base formation.  On the snap, Baas engaged the RT, neutralizing him while Snee engage the LT and pushed him back.  McKenzie got up field and pushed the MIKE linebacker back and on the outside, Ballard did an outstanding job on the LT.  Pascoe got upfield and took out a safety coming into the box.  The only player who didn’t do his job was LG David Diehl, who pulled into the hole and ran right by the SAM linebacker who filled the hole and stuffed Jacobs in the backfield.  It’s a very simple lead play and Diehl didn’t do his job, as instead of attacking the backer in the A gap he went to the second level and helped on the WILL linebacker.

RB Da’Rel Scott had two runs for 11 yards, his longest an 8 yard gain.  Though he was ruled down on that play, the ball came loose and one has to wonder if that played into the fact that he got only one more chance following that run.  Scott caught one pass and Jacobs caught three.

D.J. Ware had -3 yards on three carries and also had no room to run.  Ware also caught two passes.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

WR Victor Cruz had another stellar performance despite one crucial drop which would have kept a drive alive.  Cruz is now obviously Eli’s number 1 target amongst his wideouts.  Victor was targeted a team high 10 times for a team high 6 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Cruz nearly brought the Giants all the way back with a critical 3rd down catch and run for 47 yards on the final drive setting up the Giants with great field position to go for the tie.  Cruz now leads the Giants (tied for 8th in the league) with 800 yards and touchdowns with 5.

Hakeem Nicks was doubled again for much of the game and managed just 3 catches on 7 looks for 69 yards.  Nicks had an opportunity to change the game early but was unable to hold the ball going to the ground on the drive following the Eagles’ field goal drive in the 2nd quarter.  Had Nicks held the ball, it would have been 47 yard gain and a 1st and 10 at the Eagles 31 yard line.  That was one of several potentially big plays that could have swung momentum to the Giants sideline but went for naught.

Mario Manningham was nearly invisible catching just one ball for 4 yards.

TE Jake Ballard had a tough game.  On the second play from scrimmage for New York, Manning threw a perfect pass his way which would have gone for a 20+ yard gain and a 1st down near midfield, but Ballard dropped the ball.  Again, another big play possibility early that could have put the Eagles on their heels.  Ballard dropped another later in the game and ended up with just one catch on seven balls thrown his way.  Ballard also hurt his elbow and apparently had swelling in his knee following the game.  It was due for Ballard to come back to earth a little, but if he’s going to see that many looks he has to come down with the ball.

Offensive Line

There isn’t much more that can written about how bad the Giants offensive line was that hasn’t already been written.  In a word, they were horrible.  The middle of the line got zero push in the running game and the ends could barely contain the outside rush from Philadelphia.

All three guards (Snee, Diehl, Boothe) had terrible games.  Combined with C David Baas, they were unable to open any holes for the running backs and were pushed back into the pocket all night long.  William Beatty, who was up until Sunday progressing quite nicely, had his hands full against perennial Giant killer Trent Cole and was abused often.  RT Kareem McKenzie isn’t having a good year.  Considering that he graded out with a Pro Bowl caliber season last year, the drop off is very dramatic.

It may be time to make some changes on the line.  Kevin Boothe deserves a chance to show whether he can step in at left guard as Diehl has been a complete bust returning to his old stomping grounds.  Maybe give Diehl an opportunity to showcase for the right tackle job and give McKenzie a seat, too.

Defense

Once again the defense, though they faltered in the end, played well enough to deserve a win.  At this point, one cannot discount how badly injuries are taking their toll.  CB Michael Coe injured his shoulder in the loss and now the Giants are playing without 5 CBs who are out and on Injured Reserve.  Justin Tuck says he is about 65% healthy.  They have others like Michael Boley and Aaron Ross going in and out of the lineup.  It’s a lot to ask of any defense to continue to take the hits that the Giants are taking and not lose a beat.  At one point on Sunday night, due to Mathais Kiwanuka having to go out for a few plays, New York employed three rookie linebackers, two of whom were 6th round draft choices and the third being an undrafted free agent.  To compound things, rookie first round draft pick CB Prince Amukamara was playing his first snaps of the year as well.

The Giants had a rough time getting off the field on third down late in the game, but early on they did well.  Overall, Philadelphia converted nine of 17 third downs, but six of them came on the final Eagles touchdown drive.

Even with all the adversity and lineup changes, the Giants defense essentially gave up 10 points.  After they allowed Philadelphia to convert one first down on their initial drive, the Giants forced an interception on a two play drive and then two three and outs.  It was the fifth Eagle drive of the game where the issues of third down began to crop up.  The critical play was a 3rd and 10 from their own 30 yard line.  Following an incomplete pass and  run by McCoy for no gain, the Giants came with just a three man rush against max protection (Philly kept 7 players in to block on the play) and Desean Jackson beat the zone in between Webster and Phillips for a 32 yard gain.  Young had all day to survey the field and still made a poor throw that Jackson made a sensational catch on.  That drive resulted in an Eagles field goal.

The defense played well into the 4th quarter, forcing two punts and creating another turnover.  Philadelphia’s third drive of the second half was an uneventful 6 play drive that did feature another long 3rd down conversion of 7 yards.

The fateful drive was the final touchdown drive in which the Giants simply could not get off the field.  After running just 15 plays on their previous 3 drives of the half, the Eagles mounted a staggering 18 play drive of nearly 9 minutes in which they converted those six 3rd downs.  It’s not like the Giants didn’t have chances to get off the field.  Philadelphia overcame 2nd and 12, 3rd and 10, 2nd and 16, a 3rd and 4 in which Webster failed to bring Jackson down short of the sticks with a clean shot to do so, and the final 3rd and 8 which resulted in the touchdown.

Front 7

Apparently the game plan for Sunday night was to stymie the Eagles rushing attack and make Vince Young beat them through the air.  Unfortunately, both happened.  While New York was outstanding against the run until the last Eagles drive when they gained 67 of their 136 total yards on the ground, the Giants were unable to keep Young in check in the latter stages of the game.  The defensive line got extremely little pressure on Young, and after settling in following a shaky start he completed 15 of 18 for 169 yards in the second half.  On the night, the Giants managed just one sack and one QB hit, both from Jason Pierre-Paul.  Both Linval Joseph and Chris Canty played very well against the run.  Canty had 3 solo tackles for losses in the running game.  Unfortunately, neither could muster sustained push in the passing game.  Speaking of pressure, it’s obvious that Justin Tuck is not even close to 100%.  Although he was in on 5 tackles on the night, he didn’t get a sniff of Young.  Tuck played a lot at DT, leaving Pierre-Paul the duties of coming from the outside.  It didn’t help, as Tuck just couldn’t get into the backfield at all.  On the other side, Osi Umenyiora was effectively taken out of the game by LT Jason Peters. Towards the end of the game, Umenyiora was simply engaging at the line and not even getting up field. It was easily one of Osi’s worst games in his career.

The linebacking corps was missing Michael Boley, leaving rookie Mark Herzlich the opportunity to get his first start as well as his first significant playing time on defense as a professional.  Herzlich did an admirable job against the run, and nearly got home on a blitz.  Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams also saw significant playing time with the odd man out being Greg Jones.  While all three did well in the running game along with Mathais Kiwanuka, who also had 3 tackles for loss and 7 total (leading the Giants).   The problem was in the passing game where not a single linebacker broke up a pass.  A rookie mistake by Herzlich allowed Riley Cooper, who hadn’t caught a pass all year, get deep in the end zone for the deciding touchdown.  On the play, which was a 3rd and goal from the New York 8 yard line, New York was in a base defense after S Antrel Rolle reset the linebackers putting Herzlich in the middle.  On the play, the Eagles sent four receivers into the pattern.  It appeared the Giants were in the perfect set up as the outside receivers were covered.  Riley Cooper was in the slot, being covered by Rolle.  At the snap, TE Brent Celek released into the pattern and hooked over the middle right into Kiwanuka’s zone, but Herzlich, instead of drifting back into his zone, came forward and gave him a quick jam.  That was all the Eagles needed as Cooper slipped into the vacated spot and took a perfect pass from Young for the touchdown.  Herzlich’s reaction said it all, he had blown his assignment.  As Carl Banks said the next day, it’s a rookie mistake and they happen.  Both safeties, Phillips and Grant, were playing towards the outside receivers and the vacated area was wide open.

Secondary

While not getting a lot of help from the linebackers, the secondary played fairly well.  Corey Webster didn’t have his best game as he was charged with staying with Desean Jackson.  His critical miss on Jackson against the sideline on the 3rd and 4 play from the New York 20 yard line set up the final touchdown.  He had a golden opportunity to drop Jackson about 3 yards short of the sticks and whiffed.  Jackson ended up catching 6 of 8 balls thrown to him.  Aaron Ross was solid.  His hit dislodged the ball from TE Clay Harbor, knocking it up into the air where Kenny Phillips picked it off.  Later, Ross kept points off the board for Philadelphia when he went high in the air in the end zone to intercept an intended fade route.  Ross also made 5 solo tackles and 2 passes defensed despite missing time in the game with injuries.

Prince Amukamara played in his first game as a pro, and he was sensational.  He intercepted the very first pass thrown his way, and though the pass was under thrown, he made a great play on the ball to make the pick.  Prince also defensed two other passes thrown his way and made 5 solo tackles.  Amukamara’s hunger was evident when he ran down McCoy on the last drive saving a touchdown.

The safeties weren’t much of a factor in the game, but Kenny Phillips was once again involved in a lot of tackles and did come down with an easy interception off a deflection.  Interestingly, Antrel Rolle was very quiet in the game Sunday, registering just 2 tackles.  Rolle did not play as much near the line of scrimmage and didn’t blitz at all if memory serves.

Special Teams

Sean Weatherford was called on to punt 9 times in this game for a total of 463 yards.  He placed four of them inside the 20 and for the most part kept the potent Eagles return game at bay.  But there’s always a but against the Eagles though, isn’t there?  With just over a minute and a half remaining in the first half, Weatherford punted 50 yards to the Giants 35 yard line.  It was just outside the numbers and Desean Jackson made the Giants pay by returning it to the New York 14 yard line.  Weatherford saved a touchdown for the moment, but replays showed that Jackson may have been inbounds.  Other than that very significant but, the Giants allowed just 12 return yards on the other 8 punts.

The Giants did absolutely nothing in the return game either on kickoffs or punts.  Rookie Da’Rel Scott returned 3 kick offs but was unable to gain any significant yardage.  He did have one good 29 yard return to the New York 25 yard line on the final Giants drive but a holding penalty on Greg Jones pushed New York back to their own 9 yard line.

Coaching

Once again the heat is on OC Kevin Gilbride in The Corner Forum for lacking imagination in his play calling duties.  It’s hard to imagine how much different the Giants could have called this game when the offensive line slept walked through the entire game in both run blocking and pass protection.  As Bob Papa said on Sirius NFL Radio Monday morning, there was plenty of culpability to go around as Eli Manning has several options, both running and passing, on every play sent in to the huddle.  No one knows how many of Gilbride’s calls were changed at the line of scrimmage, and everyone knows that the offensive line did absolutely nothing to help in either phase of the game.  Gilbride didn’t drop four perfectly thrown passes nor fumble on the last drive of the game, either.

Perry Fewell also takes some blame for this loss for not being able to adjust his scheme to get more pressure on Young.  Again, the players must be able to perform but it was a little odd that Fewell didn’t try to rattle Young with some overload blitzes and he gave him way too much time when sending just three men in on him.

It’s also stunning how badly the Giants were out-hustled by Philadelphia on Sunday night.  How a team with absolutely everything to play for can come out with so little fire at home on a big stage is very disconcerting and falls squarely on HC Tom Coughlin.  There simply isn’t any excuse to not be able to match or elevate beyond the intensity of the Eagles in a game of this magnitude.

Final Thoughts

It’s down to a six game season.  Stating the obvious, it’s now or never for the Giants.  With New Orleans, Green Bay, Dallas twice, the Jets and the Redskins remaining, there really is no fat left on the schedule.  The Giants will suffer a lot of changes if they continue this apparent second half swoon for the fourth straight year.  Time will tell if they will right the ship and sail into the playoffs or sink into mediocrity and miss them for a third straight year.  History isn’t on the side of this team.

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 20, 2011)
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