Philadelphia Eagles 27 – New York Giants 7
Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her! Or him, in this case our erstwhile NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Eli Manning. Finger points and weak threats, that’s pretty much all the Giants OL could use to stop a 3-hour long wedgie at the hands of the Eagles’ pass rush. It all started so well too, with the Giants marching down field to an early 7-0 lead thanks to Eli picking his spots underneath the Eagles Cover-2 and hitting Will Tye twice, Rueben Randle once and Larry Donnell once for first downs before dropping in a slant to Odell Beckham Jr. and an air of excitement against a team that has simply dominated the Giants lately. A quick 3-and-out forced by the injury-riddled Giants defense led to Eli and crew marching down to the Eagle 23-yard line and a quick two score lead..until TE Larry Donnell had a pass ripped from his arms. No matter, Steve Spaguolo’s troops were ready yet again, with back-to-back pass breakups by DE Kerry Wynn and S Brandon Meriweather and another 3-and-out…until DE Damontre Moore inexplicably pulled a belly-to-belly to suplex on QB Sam Bradford giving the Eagles 15 yards and a new set of downs. Just plays later the same Meriweather who looked so steady early on was beaten deep by WR Riley Cooper and the game was knotted at 7. At this point I’d like to jump into my DeLorean and hit 88MPH and never look down on this affair again but I’m a giver so let’s see where this all went from 1.21 jigowatts to a 3-3 record and the familiar feeling of, maybe we’re just not that good yet.
From that 7-7 tie, the Giants turned the ball over on downs, threw an interception returned for a TD (Exasperated Author’s Note: I just won’t use that term, I’m sick of it, along with “beast”, “hater” and any form of clever word play like Belicheat, Cowgirls, She-Gals, Foreskins…you get the point), fumbled the ball away, then proceeded to use punter Brad Wing as their own personal hand puppet as the offense just stunk the rest of the night. The Eagles on the other hand, weren’t great, they avoided a 14-0 hole when Donnell couldn’t hang on to the ball, were handed a TD drive on a platter by Damontre Moore, and a FG on a drive extended by a late hit by DT Cullen Jenkins. The teams combined for 5 Interceptions and 5 fumbles on a night both QBs wish they could have back. The difference for the Eagles though, is that a bad QB night is not a death knell as it is for the Giants. With the ability to rush the passer and move the ball on the ground, two former Coughlin staples, the Eagles can win ugly games with Sam Bradford stinking it up. With no running game to speak of (not once has this ground game reached 100 yards in 2015), if Eli isn’t Superman this team is dead in the water.
It works! It works! I finally invent something that works! Well for one and a half drives anyway, OC Ben McAdoo had invented something that worked for his QB and offense, an efficient quick strike offense that ate up the hook zones and medium middle en route to an 8-play, 80-yard drive that staked the Giants to a promising 7-0 lead. Manning was 5-of-5 for 59 yards and a TD on the game’s opening salvo, working the middle of the field with ease and at one point was 10-of-10 before Larry Donnell had the ball wrestled from his mitts. Somehow that game plan was tossed out after TE Larry Donnell’s catch-turned-interception and Eli was under siege Steven Segal-style all night. Manning made one crucial mistake on an interception-turned-TD deep inside the Giants’ own territory, but testing a fast defense on the edges instead of sticking with what was working is squarely on the play caller there. Had WR Rueben Randle not slipped on his pick attempt, the ball probably finds WR Dwayne Harris. But a play reliant on so much to go right deep in your own territory is, simply put, an awful idea. Manning did what he did could with an inconsistent running game and constant pressure from the 2nd quarter on, but he like everyone else was great for stretches and terrible in spurts.
Rashad Jennings started off strong (notice a trend here yet), picking up 16 yards on his first 3 carries and looking decisive and powerful doing so. Jennings gave way early to fellow backs Andre Williams and Shane Vereen and it looks like a big mistake in hindsight. Jennings finished with 63 yards on 13 carries and consistently imposed his will on smaller Eagle DBs. However, Jennings took a false step in following FB Nikita Whitlock on a 4th-and-1 inside Eagles territory and was stuffed for a loss. Had Jennings been more patient, he had plenty of room on the backside to cut inside and get the first down – poor run by #23 on that one. Jennings rebounded with a strong 8-yard run on another promising drive until he coughed up a screen pass that thwarted another potential scoring drive. Inconsistency in this group is really hampering this offense and Jennings’ night was a perfect example of how good and how bad this group has been at times. Andre Williams was dreadful, with 6 yards on 5 carries, consistently stuffed and looking tentative in the hole yet again. Former Patriot Shane Vereen was even worse, with 0 yards on 4 carries and 1 catch for 6 yards. Not good enough again from this group, and I’ll say it again, it may be time to shake things up and see if Orleans Darkwa can give this team a spark on the ground. With the double-coverage thrown at Beckham and teams guarding against the deep pass so fervently, this group simply has to step up for this offense to start to thrive against decent competition.
Rueben Randle took the first Manning pass on a quick slant for 8 yards and a first down and took a quick slant 15 yards for another in the 1st quarter, but only saw the ball 3 more times and finished with a ho hum 44 yards on 5 grabs. Mr. Hamstring, Odell Beckham, Jr., was like everyone else, perfect early on with a 13-yard dig route for a TD on the game’s opening drive. Beckham finished the first half with 61 yards on 7 grabs and a TD but did exactly nothing after halftime. A player that good simply cannot be erased in the second half, no matter what the Eagles threw at him. Myles White dropped his only opportunity and slot wideout Dwayne Harris failed to do much with 18 yards on two catches.
Will Tye started off like everyone else, hauling in an early first down pass on a waggle play across the Eagles defense for a 17-yard gain and pulled down a 5-yard pass on 2nd-and-4 two plays later for his second first down and then…poof, he was gone. Tye has been forced into action from the Practice Squad following Daniel Fells’ unfortunate MRSA incident and showed up pretty well so far. He just needs more opportunities as evidenced by his early impact in this one. Another wobbly game from Larry Donnell, who one week ago was the hero against the 49ers in a thrilling last-minute victory. Again, great start for the former Grambling QB as he snatched a short middle pass from Manning on a 2nd-and-4 on the game’s opening drive and rumbled 16 yards for the conversion. The game turned on Donnell’s catch-turned-interception at the Eagle 22. After that miscue, Donnell only caught one more ball and simply disappeared. Donnell had a chance to redeem himself on 2nd-and-1 late in the 1st quarter, but he dropped a perfectly-placed ball by Manning inside the ten. This ended up killing any momentum the drive had.
As with everyone else, good start with an 80-yard scoring drive, paving the way for 16 yards on 3 carries and a clean pocket for Eli to operate in. “I like this offensive line,” stammered Jon Gruden as the game began and he seemed right early on but the effusive praise would prove wrong, because this OL stumbled after the first two series and simply got man-handled up front by a quick, physical Eagle DL. Quick hitters were the balm early, but as the game wore on, the 5 up front just weren’t up to the task. RT Marshall Newhouse was out-fought all night by Connor Barwin and LG Justin Pugh had tons of trouble inside with DT Bennie Logan, killing most runs before they got started. RG Geoff Schwartz got bull-rushed by DL Vinny Curry that resulted in a sack on 3rd down on another failed drive. If there’s a positive here, and this season will test all of us to find those from time to time, it was the exceptional leadership shown by LT Ereck Flowers, the 21-year old rookie who took it upon himself to rally the troops on the sideline. This picture may not be worth 1,000 words, but superstars Odell Beckham Jr. and two-time Super Bowl MVP and team leader Eli Manning are intently listening to the rookie as he pulled his offensive teammates together. If the final tally depresses you, just look to the future of this line and offense in the towering new LT and you’ll find a little hope.
Broken record alert, the Giants DL started off strong and faded as the evening wore on. DE Kerry Wynn got an early batted ball on the Eagles’ second drive and the front four looked off to the races until Moore’s incredibly stupid late hit on Sam Bradford. That play, which extended the Eagles’ first TD drive after it had been snuffed out in 3 plays, was another game-changer when it appeared the defense had bailed out Larry Donnell. Moore later chipped in with a sack and fumble recovery, another perfect example of the Giants’ night, brilliant one moment, bone-headed the next. DT Cullen Jenkins got involved early, batting down a 3rd down pass from Bradford and forcing a punt, but it was Jenkins’ touch late hit that extended another Eagles’ drive. Another Giant mistake, another Eagle opportunity. The DL had an issue holding the edge, something this front 7 was excelling at before this game. Using an extra TE to down block negated DEs Owa Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn on several runs. Wynn and Odighizuwa simply need to get wider and hold the point-of-attack better on those plays.
I could almost hear the Bubble Boy taunting our LBs. “How you feeling now Constanza?…Not too good!” Not too good indeed Double B. This group was eaten up by a quick, aggressive running game that slowly but surely imposed its will on the Giants’ middle defenders. Uani ‘Unga led the group with 7 stops, but his MLB counterpart Jon Beason was consistently cut down and erased from the running game. Again, credit the Eagles’ offense here. They recognized that Beason hasn’t been attacking the hole as we pointed out in previous weeks and strung their plays out wide to give their OL time to get the second level and eliminate #52 from making a difference. Discussing who isn’t available seems silly but this group is much much better when Devon Kennard is healthy and able to impose his will in the running game. Jonathan Casillas gave up a gap on the game-sealing TD and looks to be better suited to coverage than run stuffing.
S Brandon Meriweather was confident early, knocking down WR Jordan Matthews to force an incompletion, but he missed a wide-open tackle on WR Josh Huff and followed that up immediately with a late cover on WR Riley Cooper who evened up the game at 7. Meriweather had not been exposed deep yet but credit Sam Bradford and Cooper with exploiting Meriweather’s trouble in deep coverage to tie the game. S Craig Dahl was somewhat impactful with 8 stops, one of which shut down an Eagle drive until Moore’s huge penalty. CB Jayron Hosley notched an early interception with the Giants only down 7 to give Eli and company some life before halftime. On the play, Hosley was playing bail technique, meaning he dropped deep at the snap, essentially acting as a two deep safety as S Landon Collins came down to cover a TE crossing the formation. Bradford’s overthrow fell right into #28’s mitts as Collins was in trail coverage. Credit CB Coach Tim Walton on that one – Hosley has jumped those routes in the past, giving up the deep seam, but he kept his depth, stayed patient and it paid off with a timely turnover. Hosley provided blanket coverage on Riley Cooper a few plays later on a 2nd-and-28, forcing an incompletion and a ridiculously long 3rd down. But he was victimized on a long pass to Cooper as the 2nd half opened. DRC launched himself into a stop on a WR screen but was otherwise not tested much by the Eagles’ offense. S Landon Collins notched his first interception of the year and was strong on the edge in run support, another glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal night.
Never mind Jon Gruden claiming K Josh Brown hadn’t missed a kick in his recent memory (Brown indeed missed an XP in Buffalo so I assume by memory Gruden means the last 15 minutes or so), Brown was perfect on his lone extra point so he’s got that goin’ for him, which is nice. S Craig Dahl helped on specials with a strong take down of the terrifying Darren Sproles on a punt return late in the first half. P Brad Wing was forced to launch 8 times with a long of 51 and 2 punts dropped inside the 20 but did hit a horrific 27-yarder in the waning moments of the first half that led to an Eagle FG. Good coverage again this week, which is notable given that it’s the Eagles and the irritating (he’s tiny and fast, it’s unnatural) Darren Sproles. The Eagles weree held to 58 yards on 6 punt and kickoff returns.
Head-scratching game from Ben McAdoo. The G-Men started off attacking the middle, hitting all 5 passes on the game’s opening drive underneath the Eagles’ safeties and just beyond the LBs. Rashad Jennings was in an early groove as well but gave way to Andre Williams and Shane Vereen on the second possession and never got the chance to keep it going despite running well most of the night. After shredding the Eagles over the middle, McAdoo then tested the edges of the speedy Eagles defense and he paid for it dearly. Eli’s first pick was an out route to Donnell that a drive earlier had been an in route, utilizing the 6’7” TE’s frame as a natural shield. Why you suddenly decide to try the other side of that with a speedy LB able to get to the point before your big TE is beyond me. Testing the edge again, Eli tossed a late out into the flat which CB Nolan Carroll returned for a TD and the rout from there was on. Inexcusable play call that deep in your own zone with reliance on a pick play working. Stupid, stupid football there.
DC Steve Spagnuolo’s group held up well early but eventually got no rest from a totally ineffective Giants’ offense and just got run over as the game wore on. Still without DE Robert Ayers, LB Devon Kennard and the recent loss of CB Prince Amukamara, Spags is working with a depleted group who hung in for over a half but eventually gave up 155 yards on the ground. Simply not good enough when they had to be.
Anatomy of a Run
We’ve heaped praise on DC Steve Spagnuolo and in particular, Jon Beason, Devon Kennard and Kerry Wynn for their stellar play vs. the run. This week, one play stood out as an example of why the Eagles right now are just a better team. With 6:19 left and the game still within reach, DeMarco Murray raced around right end for a 12-yard touchdown, doing something to this defense that no team had yet – dominate the edge. The Eagles ran a double TE BOSS (back-on-strong-safety) play to Murray in which his job was to beat the SS, in this case Brandon Meriweather. At first glance, this looked like a big mistake by #58, but his job in this formation is to one-gap outside the LT and cut down the angle on Murray and he does just that. LB Jonathan Casillas, however, does NOT maintain his depth and gets sucked up inside. Now his gap is empty and S Brandon Meriweather is forced to commit early instead of maintaining outside leverage. The defensive design is to turn Murray back inside, forcing him to deal with Casillas and Meriweather, with Collins holding the edge. Casillas abandons his post, forces Meriweather to commit and Murray strikes the final blow.
The Eagles come out in a double-TE set against a 4-3 over/under combination. [In the under, the S lines up on the line of scrimmage as the SAM as shown above and the DE lines up head up on the tackle. In this formation though, Owa (#58) is shaded outside the TE as you would see in a 4-3 over]. This is an ideal way to shut down the edge run.
At the snap, Owa does his job, attacking the gap outside of the tackle so his LB can slide in to fill the vacated gap (Jonathan Casillas #54). Casillas is in position, as indicated by an excellent red ellipse, but quickly loses depth and fails to maintain gap integrity.
Casillas loses his depth – a big no-no against a back with Murray’s ability to get outside – and takes himself out of position, forcing S Brandon Meriweather to commit early to cover Casillas’ vacated gap. Meriweather also took a false step inside and gave up outside leverage for a split second, isolating S Landon Collins to hold the edge versus TE Zach Ertz.
Cram it in your Cramhole Award
A good coach takes the blame and provides cover when his team stinks and this week. I’ll take the award in symbolic unifying fashion. I’m sure I deserve it for my lame thematic reviews and unprofessional writing style but I feel compelled to make a plea with all my loyal readers and more loyal detractors: Calm Down about the debacle this week. Yes we lost 27-7 to our hated I-95 rivals. Yes the offense hocked up loogie after loogy after opening the game so well. Yes we had untimely stupid penalties, turnovers to spare and didn’t capitalize on a dreadful game by Sam Bradford. This is a team coming off of two straight miserable campaigns with new starters across the entire OL, and without the services of Jason Pierre-Paul, Will Beatty, Victor Cruz, Robert Ayers, Prince Amukamara, Devon Kennard, and Daniel Fells. Castoffs like Craig Dahl, Brandon Meriweather, Marshall Newhouse and youngsters like Will Tye, Geremy Davis, Ereck Flowers, Owa Odighizuwa, Landon Collins, and Uani ‘Unga have all been pressed into action sooner than anyone anticipated.
We stand at 3-3 and likely won’t challenge for anything. But treat each game as just that, one game, especially in today’s NFL. My old ball coach once told us before a game that would see us finish the season undefeated, “I’ll never ask you to be the best team anywhere except between those four white lines when the lights go on every week.” It worked every week for 13 weeks and we believed we could win every week. Pardon the Al Bundy flashback, but consider the pace of this game. A mistake or fewer here or there and we could be sitting at 4-2, but it wasn’t to be. Right now the Eagles are simply better, but despite the score, the margin is not as wide as it was one year ago. We’re making progress and more to come. Don’t give up the ship and don’t hop into your DeLorean just yet and fast forward to the draft or anything but our next opponent…the hated Dallas Cowboys. New week, new chance to win. Let’s go boys (and girls if you are not asleep or have not thrown your laptop out the window after all these words).