Philadelphia Eagles 24 – New York Giants 19
Three bad calls may have changed the outcome of this game. But the greater reality is that the New York Giants simply did not play well enough on offense, defense, and special teams to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants did not match the Eagles early intensity and it cost them dearly as they found themselves in a quick 14-0 hole that ultimately proved too difficult to overcome. Interceptions, shoddy pass protection, dropped passes, missed tackles/sacks, and an anemic return game all contributed to the loss.
The good news? With Tampa Bay’s 31-24 loss to New Orleans, the 10-5 New York Giants are now officially in the playoffs. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Giants on Offense
The statistics for this game are very telling. But ultimately it is the final number on the scoreboard that continues to be the major problem. The Giants are simply not scoring enough. They haven’t reached the 30-point plateau all season. In the last four games, the Giants have scored 14, 10, 17, and 19 points. They are struggling to score more than ONE touchdown per game.
The Giants ran 88 offensive plays, were 10-of-22 on 3rd down (45 percent), had a season-high 24 first downs, and held the ball for over 34 minutes. When a team surpasses the 70-play mark, they usually win. But the Giants turned the ball over three times, including one for a defensive score. And the Giants were a pathetic 1-of-5 (20 percent) in the red zone. While the Giants generated an impressive season-high 470 total net yards, 63 of their 88 offensive plays were pass plays despite the fact that the Giants averaged 4.6 yards per rush.
Five scoring drives sounds like a lot. But in 12 offensive possessions, the Giants scored only one touchdown. Four other forays into the red zone resulted in only 12 points. There were three interceptions, one turnover on downs, and three punts. The Giants had five plays of 20 yards or more, but none longer than 33 yards. Remarkably, the Giants were only penalized twice on offense despite running almost 90 offensive snaps.
I’ve talked in recent weeks about the Giants playing it safer with more of a 50/50 run-pass ratio, allowing Eli Manning to become more of “game manager.” For whatever reason – perhaps the quick 14-0 and later 21-6 deficits – the Giants got away from that formula on Thursday night. Manning threw the ball an astounding, team-record 63 times (completing 38) and had his highest yardage game (356) since he passed the 400-yard mark in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. But the aggressiveness came with increased risk which cost the Giants dearly as Eli threw three very bad interceptions, including one inexplicable throw into double-coverage that was returned for a touchdown. After the game, Eagles defenders boasted they rattled and confused Manning, and it is hard to argue against those damning claims.
We can point to good and bad throws, but ultimately you simply are not going to win games when one side of the ledger (one touchdown pass) is “balanced” with three interceptions and one defensive score. Eli was bad Thursday night and he was perhaps the major reason the Giants lost the game. Ben McAdoo was pretty blunt about it: “We need some more accurate throws, some better decision making… (on the first interception, it) looked like (Eli) may have been blind and if you’re blind you can’t pull the trigger there. We’d like to see him eat the ball there… The second interception there, he under threw it a little bit, needed to get a little bit more air under it. We’ll have to sit down and talk about the decision but he under threw it.” If Manning does not start playing smarter and tougher with better execution, the Giants are not going anywhere.
One of the tragedies of the game was that the Giants had one of their more productive ground games of the season, and the numbers would have been much higher had the run-pass ratio not been so out of whack. Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings carried the ball 24 times for 112 yards – an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. It looks like Perkins (15 carries for 68 yards) is starting to finally move ahead of Jennings (9 carries for 44 yards) even though Rashad was still on the field a bit more (41 snaps to Perkins’ 34 snaps). The Giants had a couple of longer runs with a 20-yarder by Perkins and a 19-yarder by Jennings. However, the passing plays to the backs were not productive. Jennings and Perkins caught 5-of-7 targets for a grand total of 16 yards. Bobby Rainey caught one pass for 13 yards on the last desperate drive, but he also dropped a pass.
Odell Beckham (11 catches for 150 yards), Victor Cruz (8 catches for 84 yards), and Sterling Shepard (7 catches for 61 yards) combined for 26 catches (season-high) for 295 yards. That’s the kind of productivity the Giants envisioned from these three before the season started. In fact, the catch totals were season-high numbers for both Beckham and Cruz (and Cruz’s first game with more than one catch since before the bye). But what should not be lost in those numbers are 18 other targets in the direction of those three that fell incomplete, some due to dropped passes by each receiver. Beckham claimed after the game that Manning’s deep shot into the end zone right before the final interception was a well-thrown pass, but he did not accelerate like he should have to get it. That said, the officials were letting Eagles defenders often mug the Giants receivers, including on a potentially decisive 4th-and-6 play to Shepard late in the game. The Giants threw the ball 63 times, but the Eagles were never flagged with defensive holding or pass interference. Ben McAdoo was a bit critical of the run blocking on the perimeter. Roger Lewis saw 22 snaps but only had one deep pass thrown his way.
Manning and the Giants targeted Will Tye more this week. Eight times Manning threw in Tye’s direction, completing five for only 23 yards (4.6 yards per catch). But two of those throws ended in disaster, including the first interception that returned for a touchdown and the last interception where Tye did not do enough to fight for the ball. Jerell Adams caught one pass for nine yards. That said, this was the most Adams has played this year with 40 snaps as the Giants are beginning to employ more and more two-tight end formations. Adams had some issues blocking DE Brandon Graham.
The numbers look good. The Giants averaged 4.6 yards per run as the line opened up some very good holes for Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings. Eli Manning was not sacked. However, Manning was officially hit a far, far too high 10 times and was under duress more than that, including when the Eagles were only rushing three. The right side of the offensive line – RT Bobby Hart and RG John Jerry – probably had their worst game of the season. DE Brandon Graham gave Hart fits all night. Officially, Graham had four QB hits on Manning, but it seemed like more than that. Jerry had his hands full with Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox and was flagged with a killer false start penalty on 4th-and-1 right before the 4th-and-6 incomplete pass. Justin Pugh struggled in pass protection in the second half. He was also flagged with a 10-yard holding penalty. LT Ereck Flowers held up well for the most part but did allow a pressure on the last play where Eli was intercepted.
Giants on Defense
Many will argue that the defense did enough to win this game, as they only allowed 17 points, 15 first downs, and 286 total net yards (including only 168 net yards passing). The Eagles were 4-of-12 (33 percent) on 3rd down, 0-of-1 on 4th down, and 0-of-1 in the red zone. The Eagles did not pick up one first down on six offensive possessions. The defense was sabotaged by two very questionable personal foul penalties.
But… the Eagles had two touchdown long touchdown drives (78 and 75 yards) in the first half, including the Eagles first possession where the Giants defense looked like it was sleep-walking. (This is the fifth time this year the defense has surrendered a TD on the opening drive). Another drive in the second half gained 73 yards before the Giants held with a goal line stand. While the Eagles only reached the red zone once, their two longest plays of the night were touchdowns – a 40-yard pass and 25-yard run. The Giants defense did not accrue a sack and was credited with only three quarterback hits. There were far too many missed tackles and sack opportunities. And the Eagles rushed for 118 yards, including 27 frustrating yards by the quarterback Carson Wentz.
A frustrating night for the defensive line. The Giants held feature back Ryan Mathews to 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 yards per carry). But 17 of those 46 yards came on the first play of the Eagles first touchdown drive. The always-dangerous Darren Sproles carried the ball only seven times. Six of those runs only gained 15 yards. But his far-to-easy 25-yard touchdown put the Eagles on top early. The bigger frustration was line’s inability to bring quarterback Carson Wentz down. Wentz avoided negative plays by avoiding sacks and turning those potential killer losses into positive scrambles, completions, or throwing the ball away. Wentz scrambled for nine yards on the opening touchdown drive, eight yards (with an added 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty) on the second touchdown drive, and an 11-yard gain on the field goal drive. Giants defensive ends only combined for a total of six tackles, one tackle for a 6-yard loss (by Olivier Vernon), and two quarterback hits. The defensive tackles only accrued three tackles.
Vernon played the run extremely well. But one would have to say that both Eagles offensive tackles did a fine job with Vernon and Romeo Okwara in pass protection. The 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on an incomplete 3rd-and-14 pass on Vernon was highly questionable. Okwara (50 snaps) received the bulk of the playing time over Kerry Wynn (5 snaps) and Owa Odighizuwa (2 snaps). Wynn combined with Devon Kennard to stuff Mathews on 4th-and-goal. Inside, reserve Jay Bromley (16 snaps) saw more playing time than Robert Thomas (3 snaps).
Like the defensive line, a frustrating night for the linebackers as most of the damage on the ground amounted to two running plays for 42 yards (the other 23 carries by backs picked up 44 yards) and three Carson Wentz scrambles for 28 yards. Pass coverage on the tight ends was far better than it was in the first match-up when the Giants gave up 152 yards receiving to the tight ends alone. This time, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton caught six passes for 63 yards. Mathews and Sproles caught thee passes for 39 yards.
Jonathan Casillas (knee) and Keenan Robinson (shoulder) came into the game banged up and they played less than normal as Casillas was on the field for 34 snaps and Robinson 29 snaps. Kelvin Shepard actually played more than any linebacker with 44 snaps, followed by Devon Kennard with 35 snaps. Once again, big plays were lacking as the unit as a whole was credited with just 11 tackles and one pass defense. Casillas had a chance at a pick but couldn’t make the play. Kennard helped to stuff that play on the goal line.
Minus Janoris Jenkins, the secondary held up incredibly well aside from one major exception. Unbelievably, Eagles receivers only caught five passes for 66 yards. It would have been a virtually perfect coverage performance had it not been for the 40-yard touchdown by Nelson Agholor. Apple was closest to Agholor and may have been distracted by the very questionable 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the previous play. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shut out his opponent all night and finished with an interception and two passes defensed. Trevin Wade was the primary nickel corner and may have played the best game of his Giants career, including a key tackle of Darren Sproles short of the sticks on 3rd down and an expertly-defended deep pass late in the game. Safety Landon Collins led the team with nine tackles and two tackles for losses. Andrew Adams badly missed Darren Sproles on his 25-yard touchdown run. He did tackle Mathews for a 2-yard loss late in the 3rd quarter. Coty Sensabaugh only played 11 snaps, but he did have a tackle for a 3-yard loss and a QB hit off a blitz.
Giants on Special Teams
The good news was that Robbie Gould was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal attempts with efforts from 35, 35, 29, and 41 yards. Brett Jones was flagged with a false start before one of these successful attempts. Four of Gould’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Two other kickoffs were only returned 19 yards apiece. Brad Wing punted three times, averaging 48.3 yards per punt with one kicked out of bounds at the 2-yard line. The always-dangerous Darren Sproles did not return a punt.
The bad news is the Giants could not get their own return game going. Dwayne Harris and Bobby Rainey returned four kickoffs for only 82 yards (20.5 yards per return). Harris returned three punts for -2 yards. Harris continues to make questionable decisions on his returns. He also fumbled a punt that was fortunately recovered by Trevin Wade.