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Philadelphia Eagles 19 (3-1) – New York Giants 17 (2-2)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary:

The Philadelphia Eagles continued their mind boggling ownership of the New York Giants on Sunday night, beating New York for the 8th time in their last nine meetings by a score of 19-17 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Many of these losses are hard to take and come down to the final few plays. Sunday was no different. This time, New York took their only lead 17-16 with just 6:45 to go in the game but the defense wasn’t able to hold the Eagles. Starting from their own 17 yard line, the Eagles drove to the New York two before settling for a 25 go ahead field goal from the eight yard line with 1:49 left.

The Giants got another big return from rookie RB/KR David Wilson to begin their march to a game winning score from their own 35 yard line. This is generally a tailor made situation for Eli Manning and the Giants offense. We’ve seen it before and not one of us thought that New York wasn’t going to pull this one out. Even with no timeouts, the Giants only had to go approximately forty yards to the Eagles 25 yard line for the opportunity to set up K Lawrence Tynes for a game winning kick.

The Giants accomplished most of that feat after a strange drive that included a snap that was bowled to Manning, a dropped pass by WR Ramses Barden, and two interference calls on the Eagles. New York was set up on a 1st and 10 from the Eagles 27 yard line with 49 seconds to go and the clock stopped. Things looked good, and on first down the Giants ran Bradshaw on a draw play that gained just one yard to the 26. The play looked like it was going to get more, which I’ll detail later, but even so you have to figure one more play into the line for a few yards and on comes Tynes.

It didn’t happen. Instead, Eli Manning who completed just one pass out of six attempts on the drive not including the two interference calls on Barden, took a shot at the end zone when he saw that he had Barden in single coverage against CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha routed Barden outside against the sideline and could have been called for pass interference, but at the end of the play Barden thought Asomugha had a shot at an interception and mugged him, drawing the flag on himself. The ten yard penalty put the Giants back on the Eagle 36 yard line with only 21 seconds left. Again, the Giants had an opportunity to try to run for a few yards and get their kicker a better opportunity but in the face of a blitz Eli threw deep and incomplete for WR Dominak Hixon.

With just 15 seconds left, New York decided to try the 54 yard field goal attempt instead of taking a chance of not being able to get another play off, and Tynes missed wide left but got a reprieve when HC Andy Reid was given a time out he probably shouldn’t have gotten. The Giants stayed with their plan, letting Tynes get another shot. Tynes hit the next one straight and true, and I know every Giants fan on BBI just like me, thought he nailed it. It wasn’t to be, as it fell just short of the crossbar. Turn out the lights, thanks for coming, drive home safely, another loss to the Eagles.

The last drive wasn’t the only place New York faltered on Sunday night. The game was a defensive stalemate until the last Eagles drive of the first half. After that, both teams went up and down the field trading scores seemingly at will. After forcing the Eagles to punt on their first four possessions, New York didn’t stop the Eagles again all game. It’s impossible to understand how the Giants defense can completely throttle LeSean McCoy and hold him to just two yards on six carries in the first half then allow him to run for 121 on 17 carries in the second half. I have no answer to how that happens. Philadelphia ran for an astounding 172 second half yards.

On offense, New York punted their first five possessions and never again. After nine straight possessions ended in punts to start the game, there wasn’t a punt in the rest of the game by either team. New York had no sustained running game to speak of, gaining just 57 yards on the ground. Believe it or not, New York was out rushing Philadelphia in the first half.

With the teams playing so close with one another, the dagger in the heart was the Eli Manning interception in the end zone from the Eagle 10 yard line on the first play of the 4th quarter. More incredibly, it was on a first down play. Manning’s pass never had a prayer. The pass was behind and short of the intended receiver. It was a poor pass and it was a questionable decision given the situation.

On the night, and mostly due to the second half, New York was beaten in every statistical category of meaning, including being overwhelmed in the time of possession battle. New York held the ball for just 11:06 of the second half and just over 4 and a half minutes in the fourth quarter alone. New York had to settle for a field goal after getting to the Philadelphia six yard line and turned the ball over from the Philadelphia 10 yard line. On the plus side, New York forced Philadelphia into three field goals from inside the green zone and held them out of the end zone on two separate goal-to-go situations.

Quarterback:

QB Eli Manning did not have his best game on Sunday night. Though Manning wasn’t sacked, he was under duress most of the game and he reverted to some old habits passing off his back foot while ducking out of the pressure. As mentioned, Manning completed only one pass on his last drive. Admittedly, he did have to deal with a bad snap (three on the night), a dropped pass that would have put the Giants at the Eagles 24 with 51 seconds left, and he did draw two pass interference penalties. However, his sideline pass to Barden wasn’t well placed and when Barden lost position it could have been intercepted if Barden hadn’t interfered.

On the night, Manning completed 24 of 42 passes for 309 yards, two touchdowns and the one costly interception. Manning’s passer rating was 86.3 and his QBR was just 55.8. Manning got hot on the last drive of the first half, completing seven of nine passes to lead the Giants to the field goal before the half. Manning stayed hot to start the second half, completing all seven of his third quarter passes including the daring 30 yarder on 4th-and-1 to end the third quarter. After the ill-timed interception broke his streak and kept the Giants off the scoreboard, Manning completed three more in a row on the touchdown drive that put the Giants ahead. Unfortunately Manning couldn’t keep up the torrid pace on the final drive.

Running Backs:

The New York rushing attack had a poor game on Sunday. HB Ahmad Bradshaw returned to the starting lineup after missing a game with a bulging disk in his neck. Bradshaw couldn’t get anything started all game and finished with 13 carries for just 39 yards. His longest, and the Giants’ longest, run of the game was nine yards. The only drive the Giants were able to muster anything significant on the ground was their first touchdown drive in which they gained 25 of their 57 yards. Bradshaw carried three times in a row for 18 yards. Bradshaw was unable to convert a third and one on the play before the fourth down completion to Cruz. Bradshaw saw the field for the vast majority of the game and was in on every single third down call. That is probably because of his pass blocking ability. Bradshaw did catch three of four passes thrown his way for 38 yards including the most successful and well executed screen we’ve seen from the Giants in some time. The play resulted in a 20 yard gain.

The problem with Bradshaw is that he still seems to be missing holes. As has been pointed out in The Corner Forum, Bradshaw had an excellent opportunity to put the Giants in solid field goal position on their first down play from the Eagles 27 with 49 seconds left. The Giants had the perfect play call on and caught the Eagles in a dime defense with only two linebackers in the box. Bradshaw had a huge cut back lane to the right, but kept it to the left and when LG Kevin Boothe couldn’t maintain his block, Bradshaw was dropped for only a one yard gain.

HB Andre Brown only played 9 snaps on Sunday after his stellar game against Carolina last week, carrying just 5 times for 14 yards. Brown also caught 1 pass for 4 yards. HB David Wilson didn’t get a single carry but dropped a well-designed shovel pass that looked poised to pick up good yardage. If Wilson had held on to that pass he may have scored.

FB Henry Hynoski was asked to chip a lot and got one carry for 4 yards.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

WR Hakeem Nicks missed his second game this season, pressing WR Domenik Hixon into the starting role. The move was a little surprising considering the solid performance turned in by WR Ramses Barden last week against Carolina. Hixon was targeted 11 times, catching six balls for 114 yards. It’s possible that Hixon saw more time than Barden because of the type of ball the Eagles secondary likes to play, which is physical bump and run on the outside receivers. The knock on Barden his entire career has been his questionable ability to get a clean release off of physical receivers. Hixon caught two long passes, with a 41 yarder setting up the Giants go-ahead touchdown. To his credit, Hixon played big in a physical matchup with the Eagles CBs. He didn’t back down and sent Nnamdi Asomugha out of the game for a while when he accidentally poked him in the eye when Asomugha came up high off the line at him.

WR Victor Cruz had an excellent night, catching 9 of 13 balls including an electrifying 4th-and-1 pass in which he ran a quick in-route that broke the ankles of the defender as he faked outside then came in. After the catch, he broke several tackles down to the 10 yard line. Cruz also had a touchdown.

Ramses Barden had an eventful last drive in which he was involved in four pivotal plays. Ramses wasn’t thrown to even one time in the first half, and had caught the only two passes thrown to him up to that last drive, one being a nice 31 yard catch on the go ahead touchdown drive. Had he been able to run through the catch (the ball was just a bit overthrown), he might have scored. So despite seeing so little action, in the last minute and a half, Barden had 5 passes thrown his way. The first was essentially a throw away due to the bad snap. The next drew a pass interference call when he got behind the defense and set the Giants up with 1st and 10 from the Eagle 35 yard line. The third may have been the most costly play of the game for the Giants. Barden ran a quick in-route and caught the ball at the 25 yard line and as he was tackled he lost the ball. It was a ball he should have held on to. Instead of 1st and 10 at the 24 with 58 seconds left, the Giants still had a hill to climb. The fourth play came on the very next play when he drew another interference penalty that was a little questionable. The more valid call would have been a personal foul call against Eagle LB Ken Coleman who launched himself at the head of the defenseless Barden. Finally, after the Bradshaw 1 yard run, Barden committed the pass interference penalty that cost the Giants 10 yards of field position and the chance at a much more makeable field goal. Barden didn’t cost the Giants the game. There were many things the Giants did to shoot themselves in the feet, that was just the last shot of the evening.

With the constant pressure being exerted on the outside receivers, it was a little surprising the Giants didn’t try to get the ball to the middle of the field and Martellus Bennett more often. Bennett was asked to pass block and double team a ton on Sunday, but when he was sent out on routes, he seemed to be open. Early on he had a 38 yard reception called back due to a hold and ended up with just 1 catch for 2 yards. Bear Pascoe also had one catch for a touchdown in which he simply slipped off the line and into the end zone where he was all alone for Eli to deliver the pass.

Offensive Line:

The Giants offensive line had their hands full with two of the best defensive ends in the game and it showed on Sunday. The Giants just don’t seem to have a consistent answer to the Eagles’ wide nine attack. They could not run even when there were only six Eagles in the box, and never got into any sort of rhythm. Additionally, though he wasn’t sacked, Eli was under constant pressure, particularly in the first half. Incredibly, the NFL game day stat sheet says that Manning wasn’t hit one time on Sunday night. Re-watching the game, I counted at least half a dozen times where Eli was peeling himself off the carpet. He also took a late hit to his knees by DE Trent Cole that wasn’t called. Later in the game, the Giants played a lot of max protect, keeping the TEs and FB in to chip and block on the outside. The tactic worked to a great degree. As I mentioned, Eli got very hot from late in the second quarter until the last drive of the game.

William Beatty and Sean Locklear played fairly well considering the opposition, particularly Beatty. Locklear did give up a couple early pressures before he got help his way. The interior of the line was fine in pass protection, but could not open up holes for the running game.

Defensive Front 7:

It’s hard to tell what went wrong starting with the Eagles fifth drive of the night, but New York’s defense allowed Philadelphia to score on five straight possessions not including the one play kneel down before the first half. Up to the 6:04 mark of the second period, the Giants had allowed Philadelphia just 86 yards, three first downs and no points. Then the roof fell in as on their next five drives Philadelphia drove 70, 78, 50, 74 and 75 yards – scoring on each one for 19 points. That’s 347 yards on five straight drives! On the first touchdown drive, Philadelphia converted three third downs, the final a 3rd and 9 that resulted in the 19 yard touchdown to WR DeSean Jackson. Incredibly, on the next four drives Philadelphia was stoned on all four of their third down attempts, one on each drive, but only after reaching field goal range. To their credit, New York stopped Philadelphia in close to the goal line twice to hold them to field goals but more importantly, they didn’t even get the Eagles into a third down situation at any other time during those drives.

So what happened? First and foremost, the Eagles started running with success to the right side of their line. On the first four drives the Eagles ran the ball seven times for either no gain or negative yardage. The Eagles gained just 19 net rushing yards in the half. The second half seemed to start off the same for the Eagles as the first half went as McCoy was stopped for no gain on the first play from scrimmage. McCoy then busted off two long gainers of 34 and 22 yards before the Giants made a brilliant goal line stand. McCoy was stopped twice for no gain on first and second down and lost a yard on third down, forcing Philadelphia to settle for a field goal. Then on their next drive, McCoy was again stopped twice first for one yard and then for no gain. The damage on the ground on that drive was an 18 yard scramble by Vick. After that, there was no stopping the Eagle running game. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles ran (with one scramble) 13 times for 95 yards, a 7.3 ypc clip. The two drives ate up 10:20 of clock. Most maddening about the runs was that the Giants were gashed twice in a row on the same play where FB Stanley Havili took the handoff and ran unencumbered through the line for big plays. In fact, the Eagles rarely use a fullback. On Sunday, however, they changed tactics in the second half and McCoy rushed 12 times for 88 yards when Havili was on the field. The execution was simple. RT Todd Herremans took on Justin Tuck to the outside and Havili led McCoy through the hole. On the back-to-back long runs, Havili took out LB Mathais Kiwanuka on the first and CB Prince Amukamara on the second.

The DEs began the game playing well, with Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul all active at the line of scrimmage and helping to stop the run. Combined, they were in on 10 tackles in the game.. Additionally, it appeared that JPP was going to have a career night early against third string LT Demetress Bell and Herremans, but both seemed to play better as the game wore on. Bell and Herremans both gave up heavy pressures to the three Giant DEs, but even so the Giants only sacked QB Michael Vick twice (one by MLB Chase Blackburn, cleaning up a Tuck pressure) and hit him fewer times. The problems came later when they had absolutely no answer for the cut back running of McCoy and the scrambling ability of Vick. None of the DEs seemed willing to just do their jobs and maintain containment on the outside when the play was going away from them. This included the linebackers, too. Osi Umenyiora had some of his best plays and some of his worst on the season, and naturally the worst stand out. On just one drive, he jumped the snap and the ensuing off sides penalty resulted in a Philadelphia first down. Then he lost contain on Vick who scrambled for another first down. Finally, he lost contain on the outside and McCoy beat him to the corner and turned a sure loss into a two yard gain. Later in the game, Osi was in alone on Vick after Herremans blew his assignment (according to Andy Reid) but allowed Vick to duck out of the way and roll to an 18 yard gain on the scramble. Osi did stop McCoy for no gain twice and once for a loss as well as being credited with his second sack of the season when Vick rolled out on a designed play from the Giants two yard line. When Vick saw he had nowhere to go he tucked and ducked at the eight yard line, setting up Philadelphia’s last points of the day.

To date, the vaunted DEs have just 3.5 sacks between them of the eight total the Giants have recorded. DEs Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard have 1 apiece with MLB Chase Blackburn tied with Osi and leading the team with 2. Michael Boley has the other half sack. It’s safe to say that against three suspect offensive lines to date, much more was expected from the defensive line in the passing game.

For some reason, Blackburn was much maligned over in The Corner Forum on Monday and I’m not sure why. Blackburn led the team in tackles with 10, recorded a sack, recorded another tackle behind the line of scrimmage and defensed two passes. Yes, Blackburn isn’t the most fleet of foot middle linebacker in football but he’s always around the ball and makes more good plays than bad. His liability is in coverage, but Philadelphia did little in the middle of the field save four completions to TE Brent Celek. Vick threw 15 times to his wide receivers, six to his tight ends, four times to McCoy and two times to Havili. Blackburn played well. The rest of the linebacking corps was missing in action most of the night. Only Michael Boley seemed to stand out, and most of his tackles were after a catch by a back or tight end. Boley did sniff out and stuff an end around by WR Damaris Johnson for a one yard loss. The team sorely misses Keith Rivers and needs him back. Mathais Kiwanuka is getting limited snaps and is not rotating onto the defensive line.

Secondary:

CB Corey Webster had another rough game against an opposing #1 wide receiver as DeSean Jackson beat him several times on his way to six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was one that shouldn’t have happened. On the play, Jackson lined up in the slot left in a three receiver set and ran down field inside the hash marks and then broke to the corner of the end zone. When Jackson broke inside the hash, Webster peeked into the backfield to look for the ball. Jackson left Webster still running in the middle of the field while Antrel Rolle tried to pick up Jackson but it was too late and the touchdown was easily converted.

The Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips in the first quarter to a sprained right knee leaving the majority of the defensive snaps to Stevie Brown. Brown played a very solid game in the box and made a stellar play on a swing pass to McCoy that looked like it was going to be a big gainer. The textbook tackle – in which Brown made up significant yardage to get to the back – dropped McCoy for just a one yard gain. Brown made two plays behind the line of scrimmage and had one QB hit on Vick. Antrel Rolle, who was the leading tackler on the Giants a year ago, had just 2 tackles. S Will Hill played well when he saw the field.

CB Prince Amukamara had a solid game, limiting WR Jeremy Maclin to just one catch late in the game. Prince also lined up against Jackson and seemed to be giving him a little too much cushion at times. The good thing is that there is measurable improvement in Amukamara’s game.

Special Teams:

The Giants were in comfortable field position for most of the night due to the stellar blocking and runbacks from the Giants return team. Spencer Paysinger was called for a hold on one of KR David Wilson’s long returns. The fact that it was after Wilson was already past the play was upsetting, but it was the only penalty on the specials on a good night. Wilson had 217 yards on 6 returns with a long of 53. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t convert the short fields into many points.

The Giants kick coverage teams played well. The Eagles had just 53 yards on one punt (three yards) and three kickoff returns. P Steve Weatherford didn’t have his best game, hitting a couple of line drives and suffering two touchbacks. K Lawrence Tynes was excellent on his kickoffs and made his first field goal. Unfortunately, Tynes wasn’t able to convert the 54 yarder on the final drive when it fell a couple of yards short. Tynes may have been compensating for his wide left kick a moment earlier, but the snap and hold were not ideal either. It was Tynes’ first miss of the season.

Coaching:

The Philadelphia Eagles did a masterful job of adjusting after the half to employ their fullback in the running game, both with and without the ball, and pummeled the Giants on the ground in the second half. New York did nothing to counter and when they got desperate they lost contain on the edges and were burned. Yes, the Giants are missing some key players in the secondary along with Keith Rivers, but there should be no excuse for the front seven to get gashed for over seven yards a carry in the second half.

HC Tom Coughlin deserves to be second guessed for not keeping the ball on the ground with the Giants in field goal position with 29 seconds to go in the game. OC Kevin Gilbride and Coughlin like to attack deep and believed they had the right call on for the throw to the sidelines to Barden. On that play Manning was not pressured and threw the ball with authority, but it was not a good pass and Barden was never open on the play. The execution was poor. The Giants believe in “next man up” and do not try to deviate from what they like to do when understudies are in the game. On that play, discretion may have been the better part of valor as even a run for no gain sets up Tynes with a makeable 44 yard field goal attempt to win the game. It’s a tough one for the fans to swallow.

Final Thoughts:

Looking at the NFC East, I still can’t see a way that the Giants don’t win it. Dallas is not a good team, plain and simply. They can win, but they are inconsistent and have their own set of problems to contend with. They have absolutely no discipline as a football team and play like a bunch of individuals.

The Eagles have a solid defense, but frankly their offense isn’t that good. They are extremely fortunate not only to have won on Sunday night, but to have won at all this season. Last year, the breaks never went their way early and they lost a ton of games. This season they’ve been getting the breaks and if Reid has stumbled on a winning running formula they can be formidable on offense. The issue is Andy Reid. He probably won’t be able to help himself and will still pass too often, eventually getting Vick hurt. Their offensive line is still their weak link.

The Redskins has had devastating season ending injuries to a very sound defense that brings that unit back to the pack. They will give up a lot of points to good teams now. As for their offense, it’s certainly better with the addition of Robert Griffen and the emergence of RB Alfred Morris but their receivers after Garcon are average. They continue to have problems on the offensive line.

The Giants are getting most of their injured players back and have to tread water until they do so. They have proven they can win without some of their big guns as evidenced in Carolina. The key will be getting Canty, Rivers and Phillips back. If the Giants can get healthy, possibly pass the baton from RB Ahmad Bradshaw to Andre Brown, and find a way to light a fire under the defensive ends, New York will win a lot of games.

The Giants blew it on Sunday night, which doesn’t happen often. It’s a lesson I’m sure Tom Coughlin will not let go by the wayside. Frankly, that loss may well be the best thing that’s happened to the Giants all season. They now know they will be handed nothing and must not beat themselves.


(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 30, 2012)
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