Tae Crowder – © USA TODAY Sports
The 5-5 PHI Eagles, winners of 3 of their past 4, traveled up the turnpike to take on a 3-7 Giants team that hadn’t won since November 7. The division foes split their matchups against one another in 2020, both have a very unsure quarterback situation, and both can’t seem to get over the hump into credible NFC playoff contention. PHI and NYG are both removed from the basement tier of the NFL, but they also both have had a hard time putting together consistent performances on either sides of the ball. PHI entered the game on the NFC playoff bubble, while NYG was on a downward slope on a short week after getting dismantled by Tampa Bay the previous Monday night.
Without receivers Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard in addition to tight end Kyle Rudolph, the NYG offense yet again came out less than full strength. It began with a 3-and-out, but PHI responded with the same. NYG’s second drive with new play caller Freddie Kitchens (who took over after the Jason Garrett firing) resulted in 3 points. In just two short drives, one could easily notice a key difference in the Giants’ offense. They were using more pre-snap motion, a common and well-known shortcoming in the Garrett-era. Graham Gano ended the drive with a 35-yard field goal.
PHI got into NYG territory on their next drive. On the first play in the red zone, a 3rd-and-5 from the NYG 20, Jalen Hurts threw an interception over the middle to Darnay Holmes. 11 games into the 2021 season and NYG has forced at least one turnover in all of them. It was Holmes’ second interception of his young career. NYG was not able to convert the turnover into points, as Gano missed a 51-yard field goal attempt. Hurts followed that with 2 more incomplete passes, leading to another PHI 3-and-out.
Saquon Barkley opened the next NYG drive with a 32-yard run. The passing game gained 23 yards combined on the following 2 plays and NYG’s momentum was in full swing. After a Devontae Booker 6-yard run, NYG was 1st-and-10 from the PHI 26. But the ugliness of this offense reared its head yet again. A 1-yard loss on a Barkley run, a holding penalty on Andrew Thomas, a 3-yard loss on a Barkley run, and an incomplete pass to Evan Engram brought out the NYG punt unit. Another scoring opportunity down the drain.
PHI started with the ball on their own 7-yard line. They used 14 plays, just one of which was a 3rd down, to reach the NYG 1 yard line. With :08 left in the half, Hurts threw his second red-zone interception of the half into the hands of linebacker Tae Crowder. That, along with 2 holding penalties by center Nate Herbig (in for the injured Jason Kelce) put NYG on the other side of end-of-half debacles for a change. PHI went into the half scoreless much thanks to their own doing.
The PHI running game began the second half with 35 yards on 3 carries. From there, Hurts threw two poor incomplete passes with PHI just needing 2 yards for a first down. They turned it over on downs, giving NYG their first possession of the second half just 9 yards away from midfield. Jones looked crisp and sure on the drive and for the first time, NYG got inside the PHI 10-yard line. The last-ranked red zone offense in the league has been, in my opinion, the biggest issue with this offense. More than the leaky offensive line, more than the banged-up skill positions, more than the up-and-down quarterback performances. Playoff teams put points on the board when they get inside the 20. Super Bowl contenders score touchdowns the majority of their red-zone trips. NYG hasn’t been doing either at an even above average rate since 2014. That was Odell Beckham’s rookie year (arguably his best season of his career).
Thanks to a 3rd-down pass interference penalty on PHI corner Steven Nelson, NYG had a fresh set of downs from the PHI 1. 1st down play-action has been a huge benefit for this offense and that is where they turned to here. Tight end Chris Myarick, who was cut by Miami in August and signed to the NYG practice squad in September, caught a pass in the end zone after nearly dropping it to the turf. The ball missed the ground by mere inches but nonetheless, NYG had the 10-0 lead.
On the second play of the next PHI drive, Hurts tried to throw the ball downfield to Jalen Reagor. Budding star safety Xavier McKinney broke on the ball, clearly had the best track to it from the beginning, and intercepted his 5th pass of the season. He is tied for third in the NFL and for the most by a safety in that department. The PHI offense looked helpless. NYG could not capitalize, however, as their initial offensive play after the turnover was a whopping 13-yard loss on a reverse rushing attempt by Darius Slayton.
With Hurts unable to get anything going with his arm, PHI almost exclusively went with the running game. As the contest entered the 4th quarter, PHI gained all 66 yards of their drive on the ground. Hurts threw the ball once, the opening play of the drive which fell incomplete. Boston Scott ran it in for a 1-yard touchdown. Scott now has 11 career touchdowns, 7 of which have come against NYG.
The lead was just 3 points. NYG went 3-and-out and PHI had the ball back. If it wasn’t known already, this one was going to come down to NYG’s defensive performance. They had to play all 4 quarters here, not just a half. Their lone sack of the day came at the right time on a 3rd-and-4 from midfield. PHI opted to punt, giving NYG the ball back at their own 9-yard line with just over 10 minutes left.
NYG’s best drive of the game ensued. 12 plays, 7:22 of game clock, and 3 points via a 39-yard field goal by Gano was the end result. Jones completed all 6 of his initial passes on this drive, using 4 different receivers and showing precise accuracy. These were key moments, some of these throws were into tight windows, and it was when the plays counted most. Jones did throw an incomplete on the final 3rd-and-7 prior to the field goal.
PHI got the ball back twice in the closing three minutes. That first drive ended in a Scott fumble, caused by Dexter Lawrence and recovered by Julian Love. The final drive did bring them within striking distance of a game-winning touchdown. Two plays resulted in drops by 2020 first rounder Jalen Reagor, the second one being on 4th-and-10 which led to an NYG kneel down the play after.
NYG wins 13-7.
Daniel Jones: 19/30 – 202 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 94.0 RAT
Jones also added 30 yards on 9 rushing attempts. Make no mistake about it, this was another horrid offensive day for the Giants when taking a step back and looking at the big picture. 264 yards of offense, 4.6 yards per play are bottom of the barrel. There were a few things that went wrong, but I think Jones was one of the main reasons this team won. Was it a standout performance? No. But he went 11/16 in the 2nd half and a near-essential 6/7 on the final drive that resulted in points to put NYG up by more than a field goal. He made a few tough throws and stood in the pocket strong, showing awareness and toughness with quality footwork.
Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 40 yards / 4 rec – 13 yards
32 of Barkley’s 40 rushing yards came on one play. That one play is similar to why bad golfers always keep going back for another round. That one play, that one drive off the tee, somehow makes it easy to forget that pretty much every other play (or swing) was a disaster. I stand strong on the observation that his running style has changed, he has more stiffness in his lower half than I’ve ever seen since 2018, and there is too much mental hesitation that causes a lack of vision. That said, he was contacted behind the line of scrimmage on 6 of his 13 carries, 3 of which were untouched by a blocker. You can’t succeed in that environment. We still don’t know what #26 is.
-No Shepard, no Toney yet again. Shepard has missed six games this year; Toney has missed two (and two of Toney’s other nine games included less than six snaps in each). Combined, they have played under half of the team’s offensive snaps.
-Kenny Golladay led the team with 7 targets. He ended the day with 50 yards on 3 catches, all of which resulted in a 1st down. The team took 2 shots into the zone at him. Both were low-success rate, fade-type passes. I would love for NYG to get more creative with him in the red zone. Simply lofting the ball in the air and hoping he can end up on the right end of a 50/50 ball rarely works. Inside the 5, it is actually one of the lowest-success rate plays, historically speaking.
-John Ross and Darius Slayton, the two deep threats, combined for 5 catches / 68 yards. Just over 13 yards per clip which is not considered deep, at all. The issue here is the offensive line cannot be trusted to have these two run deep routes. That part of the route tree takes time to progress to and because of that, we aren’t seeing what these guys can actually offer with their skill sets.
-Chris Myarick had one career target coming into this game. He doubled that number, catching both on similar play-action plays where he had to sell the idea he was staying in to block. Both receptions were huge plays and one resulted in a touchdown. They combined for just 11 yards, but both were huge plays.
-Evan Engram had 3 catches for 37 yards and a drop. Both tight ends allowed a TFL in the running game when they were matched up against defensive ends.
-Excellent bounce back performance by Will Hernandez, a game after the worst performance of his career in Tampa Bay. It was quietly a dominant grade, as I had zero negative notes on him. Not one.
-Matt Skura and Billy Price were beat up inside. Both are poor athletes and the PHI front seven exposed their limitations. Skura allowed 2 pressures, Price allowed one. The biggest red flag was their lack of push in the running game. They were stood up and/or driven back in the power game and they (Price especially) could not reach their gap assignments on outside zone runs. It is such a deterrent to the running game.
-Andrew Thomas allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. He did allow a sack late, but I did not dock him on my personal bookkeeping because it was a play where Jones opted to take that sack to keep the clock moving. Another positive game grade for the second-year tackle.
-Nate Solder had the worst grade of the group. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL. More on this below but to sum it up, I don’t think anybody thinks Solder can play anymore. And that is a bigger indictment on Peart than it is Solder.
-Leonard Williams led the way with 4 tackles and 4 pressures. An active game for him even though he couldn’t seal the deal as a pass rusher. He hasn’t had a sack since 11/1 vs KC.
-Dexter Lawrence may be one of the more volatile players on the team. He needs to get to, and stay at, nose tackle. His lack of range showed up against the PHI outside zone running game. He also wasn’t much of a presence as a pass rusher. Lawrence did record 1 pressure and his forced fumble was an enormous play. But one can make the case that the bad is outweighing the good this season and I think at least a part of it is the fact he is out of position.
-Austin Johnson added 4 tackles and split the lone sack on the day with Julian Love. Danny Shelton was on the field for just 9 snaps and didn’t do much. He was out of position on the Darnay Holmes interception return, which led to the cornerback taking a huge hit that could have been avoided. Not a smart player and I am pretty sure that is why Bill Belichick got rid of him.
-Again, the biggest culprit in PHI’s running game success revolved around this group. They averaged 6.3 yards per carry and the success was spread out among pretty much everyone who carried the ball. In fact, if I am a PHI fan, I am most perturbed by PHI not running it even more than they did, and their ratio was basically a 50/50 split! That doesn’t happen much anymore.
-Tae Crowder had 6 tackles and an interception and Reggie Ragland had 5 tackles with a TFL. Doesn’t look like a bad day in the box score but the All-22 tape says otherwise.
-Lorenzo Carter was back on the field after missing a few games. He split duties with Quincy Roche but saw slightly more playing time. Had 1 tackle and 1 pressure. His presence when it came to setting the edge was much better than Roche, who really struggled in that department and made no impact as a pass rusher. Azeez Ojulari added 5 tackles and was active in pursuit. Things are clicking a bit better with him mentally and even though the pass-rush impact hasn’t been there in a few weeks, I am seeing encouraging signs there. I bet he has a big game soon.
-Adoree’ Jackson was lost early in the 2nd quarter with a quad injury. The story here is that it opened the door for more playing time for rookie Aaron Robinson. In my opinion, playing corner as a rookie in the NFL is one of the most difficult tasks in football. Robinson responded in a big way. He had 6 tackles, 2 PD (1 of which on 4th down), and added a pressure. He was all over the field and looked sticky short and intermediate. Now, he was the beneficiary of poor WR play from PHI on 2 occasions and he did get beat on 3rd down twice, but this was a highly-encouraging performance for a corner that, remember, NYG traded up for.
-Darnay Holmes stepped up as well. He had an interception in the red zone and provided quality deep coverage against both Devonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, both credible deep threats. I like how he showed he can play the outside and even though there are, and likely always will be, slight skill-set issues in coverage, I continue to admire the way he plays when it comes to his aggression and physical nature.
-James Bradberry had a quiet game. 3 tackles and was rarely targeted, allowing just 2 short completions.
-Xavier McKinney is the budding star, not just on this team, but in the entire league at the safety position. Watching the All-22 tape further confirmed my notion on him. He is making reads earlier than most, he is baiting quarterbacks already, and the burst to the ball is something to see. Get excited about him, NYG fans. This is real.
-Logan Ryan was out with Covid again, and Julian Love stepped in without letting the defense skip a beat. While the talent level may not be overly noteworthy, this kid is savvy and smart. When you want to teach how important gap-assignment football is, Love’s tape can be used as an example. He is where he needs to be at all times and he creates plays from it. He had 4 tackles, a half-sack, a PD, and a fumble recovery. His versatility is such a key part to the defense as a whole.
-J.R. Reed had 5 tackles and looked more comfortable in his second sizable chunk of action with NYG. He made a key stop at the goal line.
-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 35, 39; missed 51)
-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 39.2 avg – 35.6 net. Terrible game for him.
-S Xavier McKinney, DT Leonard Williams, OG Will Hernandez
-OT Nate Solder, OG Matt Skura, LB Reggie Ragland
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
(1) I labeled Jalen Hurts a career backup when he came out. He is a dangerous player because of how much he can do with his legs and there is indeed arm talent, but my notes on him centered around a lack of true feel in the pocket and very inconsistent accuracy. Hurts has only started 16 games and what he had to work with down the stretch last season was as bad as it gets. The jury is still out. Even though there are flashes, and he does have talent, I don’t see him being a guy to build around in a passing league. Ideal backup who can still win games if the #1 guy goes down, but nothing more. Carson Wentz looks good in Indy, by the way.
(2) Another draft blunder by Eagles GM Howie Roseman? Wide receiver Jalen Reagor was drafted 1 slot ahead of Justin Jefferson. How on earth did that happen? They weren’t close in my eyes. I had Jefferson stacked at #5 on the position stack and even that was probably too low. I had Reagor at #13. What a whiff that was! Reagor impressed during workouts with speed and jumping, but his tape was pretty poor all things considered when looking at 1st-round grades. His 2 drops were awful, yes. But his routes and ball tracking were even worse. This was on tape at TCU for all to see, too.
(3) Let’s not count these guys out. We’ve seen the song and dance before. They do have a couple of quality wins as of late (@ DEN, NO) and an attractive schedule coming up. But the one thing that makes me hesitate to nail their coffin shut is how effective they are on both sides of the ball when it comes to the running game. They’re 2nd in yards-per-carry and they’re 6th in yards-per-carry allowed. That fares well in December/January. I also think their pass rush can take over games when they’re clicking.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) How is Matt Peart not playing? He clearly presents more upside than Nate Solder. I say that because there is no upside with Solder. He cannot beat NFL defenders on any sort of consistent basis, and this is known across the entire league. I have a different angle here. I don’t think it is on the coaching staff, I think it is solely on Peart. He hasn’t proven enough in practice, he may not know assignments, and I don’t think he has the edge that the staff wants. I have some background on Peart and I will just say that he doesn’t have a burning desire to go in there and compete. That shows up eventually, it cannot be hidden. I think that is why we are seeing Solder instead.
(2) Let’s collectively tip our cap to the defense for getting right. PHI averaged 34.5 points over the previous 4 games. They scored 44 at DET, 24 vs LAC, 40 vs NO, and 30 @DEN. Holding a team under 10 points in the NFL is incredibly rare and to do it against an offense that came in red hot is even more impressive. Starting with the win vs CAR on October 24, NYG is averaging 15.2 points allowed per game. The best defense in the NFL allows 15.8 per game on the year. Imagine what could be if this team gets a credible pass rusher or two!
(3) NYG has another game coming up against a team that is hot. Miami started off 1-7, much thanks to a defense that wasn’t forcing turnovers at the rate they were in 2020 and a quarterback injury situation that caused a ton of disruption to the offensive flow. Lastly, they have the worst OL in football. However, they have now won 4 in a row. They have plenty of momentum, and Tua Tagovailoa is playing smart, efficient quarterback. 3 of the 4 wins in a row were against HOU, NYJ, and CAR. While that is almost as easy as it gets, they’re playing with more confidence. But NYG needs to separate themselves from teams like this. MIA is not bottom of the barrel, but they aren’t a good team either. The NYG defense won’t have any excuse here. They need to keep them under 17 points, no question. And time for these NYG skill players to get on the field and step up.