New York Giants 28 – Philadelphia Eagles 23
This was an incredibly important victory for the New York Giants franchise. Not only did it improve the team’s overall record to a respectable 5-3 with eight games to go, but it improved the division record to 2-1. Perhaps just as significantly, it began removing a huge mental barrier that this team cannot beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles out-gained the Giants in most offensive categories. And the turnover battle was equal. The difference in this game was Philadelphia leaving 12 points off of the score board with one blocked field goal and three failed 4th-down conversion attempts in field-goal range.
It wasn’t a pretty win and it should not have been as tight as it was late in the game, but a win over the Eagles is always a beautiful thing. Enjoy it.
Giants on Offense
It was really hit or miss for the Giants offensively on Sunday. The good news is the Giants reached their highest single-game point total of the season (28) with four touchdown passes. They converted both of the Eagles early turnovers into touchdowns off of the short field. The Giants had six plays of 25 yards or more.
The problems were the Giants had only two drives of more than 31 yards. New York was limited to 16 first downs, 302 total net yards, and 54 net yards rushing. The Giants were 4-of-13 (31 percent) on third down and 0-of-1 on 4th down. While the team was perfect in the red zone, it only reached the red zone once.
What I was most impressed with was that the two times the Eagles scored momentum-shifting touchdowns that cut the Giants lead to four points, the Giants responded with long touchdown drives. That was huge.
When your starting quarterback throws four touchdown passes, it’s a good day. And both of Eli’s interceptions were fluky. What I liked most about Elis performance was he seemed far less distracted about the rush. He subtly moved around in the pocket to buy an extra half second or so. This gave him and his receivers a chance to make plays down the field. Manning finished the game 22-of-36 for 257 yards and QB passer rating of 96.6. His worst play was missing a wide-open Odell Beckham deep on 4th-and-3 late in the 2nd quarter.
These guys simply can’t get untracked. Of the team’s 61 offensive snaps, the backs carried the ball 22 times for 58 yards (2.6 yards per carry). While Rashad Jennings (11 carries for 26 yards) continues to get his touches, what is far more interesting is the continued increase in the use of Paul Perkins (11 carries for 32 yards). Bobby Rainey and Orleans Darkwa didn’t have a single touch as a runner or receiver. Both Jennings (3 catches for 13 yards) and Perkins (3 catches for 15 yards) were involved in the passing game.
The numbers were not big, with one significant exception: touchdown catches (4). No receiver had more than four catches and no receiver had more than 46 yards. But Odell Beckham (2 touchdowns), Roger Lewis (1), and Sterling Shepard (1) all put points on the board. Beckham was targeted 10 times, but only had four receptions. Yet the two touchdown catches were both excellent plays. He also drew a pass interference penalty. Manning’s first “interception” was a perfectly-thrown ball to Beckham that was torn away from while falling to the ground. Beckham also had two drops and a false start. Lewis and and Shepard so badly beat their defenders with sweet moves that they were wide open in the end zone. Cruz was seeing reduced snaps in the game before he sprained his ankle. Lewis dropped back-to-back passes in the 2nd quarter, including one that might have gone for a 79-yard score.
Will Tye started for Larry Donnell, who was benched. Jerell Adams also continued to see his snaps increased. Tye was targeted seven times (second most after Beckham) and had four catches for 33 yards. He had a nice, physical 13-yard catch-and-run. Adams surprisingly caught 3 passes for 24 yards. He was flagged with a false start and dropped a ball after being hit. Donnell never saw an offensive snap.
Against one of the NFL’s best pass rushing teams, the Giants offensive line only allowed one sack and two QB hits. But run blocking remained a headache as the Giants backs only ran the ball for 58 yards and 2.6 yards per carry. Justin Pugh left the game with a knee injury and was replaced by Brett Jones, who did an admirable job given the circumstances. Ereck Flowers was flagged twice (holding, false start) and John Jerry once (holding). The sack was given up by the right side of the line – Bobby Hart and Jerry.
Giants on Defense
It was an up-and-down day for the defense as well. The good news is the defense set the tone early in the first quarter with two huge interceptions that set up touchdowns and a quick 14-0 advantage. The Eagles were held to 3-of-15 (20 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-4 (25 percent) on 4th down. And the three 4th-down stops occurred in or near the red zone.
The bad news is the Giants gave up way too many big plays against an offense that had been struggling to make the big play. The Eagles had six plays over 20 yards, including four plays of 30 yards or more. Philadelphia generated 443 yards of offense (347 passing, 96 rushing) with five drives over 50 yards.
The defensive line did OK. Eagles backs gained 100 yards (the quarterback had -4 rushing yards) and Carson Wentz was only sacked once and hit three times by the defensive line. What the line did do well is play disciplined football against the read-option. Olivier Vernon had 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for a loss. Jason Pierre-Paul was credited with 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 QB hits, and 1 pass defense. For years, JPP had issues with the read-option, but on Sunday he was a stud against it, including a 4th-down stop. While the Giants didn’t touch Wentz much, they did get some decent pressure on him at times up the middle.
Keenan Robinson (10 tackles, 1 pass defense) continues to stand out. Jonathan Casillas only had 3 tackles, but he did hit Wentz on a blitz and defensed a pass. Devon Kennard had 3 tackles and hit Wentz as well. Kelvin Sheppard played 20 snaps but only got in on one tackle. The good news was the Giants did a great job of defending RB Darren Sproles as receiver (3-of-9 targets for only 14 yards). But the coverage on the tight ends was not good. Zach Ertz caught all eight targets thrown his way for 97 yards. Trey Burton chipped in with three more catches for 55 yards. That’s 152 yards receiving for the tight ends! B.J. Goodson looked very stiff in the open field in coverage against the tight end.
WR Nelson Agholor was held to 4 catches for 41 yards. Jake Matthews (6 catches for 88 yards) had the more productive day. Eli Apple struggled and was benched. He gave up a 32-yard completion to TE Trey Burton on Philadelphia’s first scoring drive. Apple also lost contain on the Eagles 8-yard touchdown run that cut the score to 14-10. In the 3rd quarter, he was flagged for being offsides and then missed a tackle on a short completion that turned into a 23-yard gain down to the 3-yard line. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gave up a 33-yard completion to Matthews late in the 2nd quarter, but otherwise played well. Janoris Jenkins pretty much shut out his opponent, but he had a sure interception slip through his hands and was flagged with defensive holding.
Leon Hall was surprisingly declared inactive before the game.
Landon Collins is in the process of making quite a name for himself. He had another big game with 12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 interception, and 1 pass defense. Andrew Adams also had his best game as rookie with 9 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 pass defenses. His finger-tip deflection near the end of the 1st quarter saved a touchdown. These two set the tone early with their two picks. Nat Berhe returned from concussion, only played a few defensive snaps, and gave up a 58-yard deep pass to WR Bryce Treggs. He did make a sure tackle to prevent a 1st down on 3rd-and-8.
The play that bothered me was the incredibly soft coverage on 4th-and-9 where Matthews was left wide open for an easy 25-yard pitch-and-catch. I have no idea what the Giants were doing there.
Giants on Special Teams
The Giants special teams almost cost the Giants this game. Darren Sproles had a 66-yard punt return that was inches away from being an 81-yard touchdown. Keenan Robinson’s shoe-string tackle, and a 4th-down stand, saved seven points. Sproles’ other return went for 10 yards as Brad Wing averaged 46 yards (35 net) on seven punts. Kickoff coverage was decent with 3-of-5 kickoffs resulting in touchbacks.
The good news is the Giants blocked another field goal, with Jason Pierre-Paul firing through the middle. Janoris Jenkins recovered but almost gave the ball right back to the Eagles (Mark Herzlich recovered the loose ball). Paul Perkins almost blocked a punt too.
Dwayne Harris returned one punt for 10 yards and two kickoffs for a total of 30 yards. He made a very poor decision to return the last kickoff out of the endzone. This pinned the Giants back at the 12-yard line.