Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles 22 – New York Giants 21
Over the past decade, there haven’t been many team-to-team match-ups that are as one-sided as NYG vs PHI. To say the Eagles have had the Giants’ number would be an understatement worthy of laughter. No matter who the quarterbacks are, no matter who the head coaches are, NYG has been seeing PHI in their nightmares. In fact, the last time the Giants beat the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles in consecutive match-ups was 2008. Brandon Jacobs led the team in rushing, Kevin Boss led the team in receiving, Antonio Pierce led the team in tackles, Corey Webster led the team in pass break ups, and Eli Manning was 27 years old. A lifetime ago. Despite that history and the fact that NYG came into this Thursday Night game with a 1-5 record, there was some hope and extra energy. The NFC East was crumbling, and the Giants were coming off a win against Washington. Had they won this one, they had a credible shot at being tied for first place in the division by the end of week 7. This had a “big-game” feel to it and the Eagles entered the night as arguably the most banged-up team in the NFL.
The aggressive Eagles’ offense had their downfield weapon and Giants killer, DeSean Jackson, back in the lineup. They went to him on the first two plays of the game as they marched down the field. They converted a 4th-and-1 attempt en route, as PHI leads the league in 4th-down attempts since Doug Pederson became their head coach in 2016. Carson Wentz powered his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run to put the home team up early.
The first blunder of the night occurred as the NYG punt team came onto the field following their initial offensive drive. They kept the offense on the field for 4th-and-3 before making the switch to punt at the last moment. PHI was scrambling as they tried to hurry and get their punt return team on the field as the defense darted off. They left the NYG gunner, Corey Ballentine, uncovered. He was, literally, all by himself with nobody between him and the first down marker. Punter Riley Dixon noticed, somehow Ballentine didn’t. The ball was snapped, and Dixon had no choice but to boot the ball back to PHI. An enormous missed opportunity! Winning teams capitalize on mistakes made by opponents. It is one of the simplest, basic, and everlasting components to the game. NYG isn’t there yet.
PHI went 3-and-out on the next drive and thanks to a 14-yard punt return, NYG began with the ball at the PHI 39. If you have paid attention to Jason Garrett’s tendencies while with DAL, this is a part of the field he loves to get aggressive on first down. On the first play, Jones threw a dime just over the head of the Eagles’ defender into the hands of Golden Tate, who made a strong catch and broke the tackle to easily jog into the end zone. NYG tied it up. The lead didn’t last long, as PHI used an inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot approach with the screen game being featured numerous times to put up another 3 points via a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott.
Daniel Jones got the Giants to midfield on the next drive, as the game plan was clearly heavy on getting the ball to Evan Engram. They were handing the ball off to him and they were throwing to him often in the passing game. On this 8-play drive, Engram was targeted four times, possibly one too many. PHI showed an aggressive double inside gap blitz on 3rd-and-7 and Jones took the shotgun snap and wanted to get rid of it in a hurry. He rifled the ball to Engram, with maybe too much juice on it, and Engram was slow to get his head around and just couldn’t grab the ball in time. It deflected off his hands and was intercepted by Jalen Mills. Turnover number 9 on the year for the second-year quarterback.
PHI failed to take advantage of the interception, as Carson Wentz threw one back to NYG on an ill-timed decision. James Bradberry came down with his third interception of the season and his second in as many games. Only two players in the league have more interceptions than Bradberry, a fantastic free agent signing for this team and maybe one of the best in the NFL this past offseason.
The two offenses traded possessions before NYG had one more shot with just under a minute left in the first half starting at their own 35. On Dion Lewis’ first touch of the game, he fumbled and gave PHI the ball at the 42. The third turnover in 5 drives reminded everyone watching what exactly the NFC East was in 2020. PHI got the ball close enough to take three shots at the end zone but had to settle on a 29-yard field goal attempt. Elliott lined up and missed it. An ugly second quarter was over with PHI up 10-7.
The two teams traded 4 straight three-and-outs to start the second half. NYG then started to take over. Daniel Jones dashed 80 yards before getting tripped by the turf. He was heading toward the end zone but lost his balance and fell. They ended up scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard Wayne Gallman run so this can now be laughed at. Even the best athletes in the world have the occasional slip up but NYG needed 4 plays and a PHI pass interference to get the 8 yards needed for the score. Had they not punched it in, this would have been the poster-play that sums up current state of the Giants organization.
NYG stopped PHI two more times as the Eagles offense was stalling. Already up 4, NYG put together a 15-play drive that began at the PHI 3-yard line after PHI failed on a 4th-and-goal attempt. PHI helped out with a 3rd-down pass interference and a too-late challenge by Pederson that would have went in their favor. Jones ended up hitting Sterling Shepard on a zip-line 2-yard pass to put NYG up 21-10 with just over 6 minutes left against an offense that looked completely broken. They were without multiple receivers, their starting running back, multiple offensive linemen, and their top two tight ends. It then took just over 1:30 for PHI to score a touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Greg Ward. A failed two-point conversion attempt maintained the NYG lead at 21-16, however. PHI would need a defensive stop and a touchdown in the final 5 minutes to win this one.
NYG gained 27 yards on their first three plays, all Gallman runs. On 3rd-and-7, Jones dropped back and threw one downfield to Engram. Many have been banging the table for more downfield passes to the gifted Engram, one of the top athletes in the NFL at the position and the most-targeted pass catcher of the night. They had the match-up and space they wanted. The throw was on the money. Engram reached out his arms and hands but dropped it. The clock stopped, it was 4th down, and NYG had to punt.
PHI needed 71 yards with just over 2:00 left. They got 53 of those yards on three plays using their third string tight end and backup running back. They were inside the NYG 10-yard line just like that. A face mask penalty pushed PHI back to the 18-yard line which may have ended up hurting the NYG defense more because they struggled to defend space. On the next play, Wentz hit Boston Scott on a top shelf throw just over the hands of Jabrill Peppers. PHI was up 22-21. They failed the two-point conversion attempt again, as NYG continued to defend short spaces well, and there was 40 seconds left but NYG didn’t have a timeout.
NYG got the ball to their own 32 on the first play but Will Hernandez was called for a hold. Instead of 2nd-and-3 from the 32, it was 1st-and-25 from the 15 and they had used 6 seconds. Two plays later Jones was sacked for the third time on the night and fumbled, giving the ball back to PHI. His third lost fumble of the season and 10th turnover.
NYG loses 22-21.
-Daniel Jones: 20-30 / 187 yards / 2 TD-1 INT / 91.9 RAT
Jones added 92 yards on 4 carries, including 80 of them on one run that will be on blooper reels for years to come. He also added a lost fumble on the final NYG offensive play. Another game, another performance where we saw some really good things and some really bad things. The Jones apologists will say that Engram should have caught the pass that was intercepted and the fumble at the end of the game didn’t matter because there was little to no chance of them advancing the ball far enough for a game-winning field goal attempt. The haters will simply add them to his massive career turnover total. This is the deal; the pass on that interception had too much on it because Jones thought pressure was coming before it was actually coming. I do think Engram could have turned his head sooner but very few, if any, players are catching that ball. I keep saying we need to see Jones make improvements with his ball security. The fumble at the end of the game, albeit it did not directly lose NYG the game, further strengthens this is an enormous problem that can prevent NYG from winning when the roster is better. He made a few nice throws, he made some athletic plays, but he isn’t putting it all together yet.
-Wayne Gallman: 10 att / 34 yards / 1 TD and 5 rec / 20 yards
Devonta Freeman suffered an ankle injury and Gallman was the one who took over in the backfield. All 10 of his carries were from the 3rd quarter on. Gallman’s stat line isn’t overly impressive but he was a big part of the NYG offensive “surge.” He ran the ball really well and gained several yards after contact. He has been a better back than advertised despite limited opportunities and unfortunate team circumstances. With Dion Lewis’ fumble and overall lack of impact here, I expect Gallman to get more and more touches in future games.
-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec / 59 yards / 1 TD
It was Shepard’s first game back since Week 2 on September 20th. He looked quick and shifty from the slot and came up with a few key grabs, including a 2-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that put NYG up by 11. It is easy to forget the gap between Shepard and his replacements until you see him back out on the field after missing a few games. He is a really explosive short-route runner who can consistently gain separation. While he is limited and can now be labeled an injury prone player, he is a key piece to this offense moving forward.
-Golden Tate had just 1 catch, which was a 39-yard touchdown. It was an impressive play on the ball but don’t let it cloud the fact he went the rest of the game without an impact. Not what you want from a starting outside receiver who has the third-highest cap number on the team. Speaking of no impact, Darius Slayton finished with 2 catches for 23 yards on 4 targets. PHI corner Darius Slay handled him well for the majority of the night.
–Evan Engram: 6 rec / 46 yards and 2 att / 3 yards
It was clear that Jason Garrett wanted to make Engram the key focus of this game. He led the team with 9 targets and the Giants continue to try to get him the ball in space via outside runs. It is hard to ignore Engram’s potential impact with his size/speed/explosion combination that very few have. However, his greatest weakness in the passing game from day one has been his inconsistent hands. He had 7 drops as a rookie and it appears to have become a mental block. This was not an issue in college, I scouted him thoroughly. He has 5 drops this year, and it is near a point where you almost have to give up on him because of it. Pass catchers can be slower than ideal, you can work around it. Pass catchers can be shorter than ideal, you can work around it. However, if you don’t catch the ball consistently you cannot be focal point in a good offense. End of discussion.
-We have seen some shaky performances from Andrew Thomas and this one may have been the worst. We can only hope that this is the low point of his rookie year. He allowed 2 sacks, 3 pressures, and a TFL. The league is attacking his inside shoulder on a weekly basis, and he needs to clean that up right now. The quickest route to the QB from the edge position is through the inside shoulder of the tackle. You have to protect that first, then protect the edge. He is over setting and playing too top heavy. He has a lot of work to do on his pass protection.
-Will Hernandez had a tough game against a really tough match-up. He allowed a TFL and a pressure and was also flagged for a hold on the final drive that really stung because of how ill-timed it was. Lateral movement just doesn’t come natural for him. Kevin Zeitler finished with his top grade of the season, which isn’t saying much. However, it was encouraging to see him play well on short rest against a tough opponent. He did allow a TFL, though.
-Cameron Fleming allowed a TFL and a sack. Not much to say here other than I still think his days are numbered as a starter. I do wonder if there is a trade market for him out there. There are a few contenders that are really thin at tackle and I did hear there was a long list of suitors who wanted him as their swing tackle prior to signing with NYG.
-Center Nick Gates was really good in this game. He has been evolving weekly and may be the best lineman on this team at the current moment. This was against a really tough PHI interior defensive line. He is the one guy who is constantly chasing the action downfield looking for a defender to pick off. Love the hustle and love the production he had in this one.
-Kyler Fackrell is now in this position group as opposed to the linebackers. It looks like he has made the full time move to the outside. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures to go along with 1 missed tackle. His ability to move inside and out is really special and rare, to be honest. There really aren’t many players in the league who can handle that kind of back-and-forth move. While we aren’t talking about an elite talent, his role is really important and hard to find. When looking at the draft prospects, I am constantly trying to find a credible skill set comparable to this and it doesn’t come around often.
-Markus Golden had a 1 sack and 1 pressure and was promptly traded to ARI the day after. Even though NYG could not afford to lose any more EDGE talent, Golden wasn’t an ideal fit and he won’t be a long-term fix. I am actually impressed that NYG netted a 6th round pick for him. The Cardinals really needed talent at that spot with the loss of Chandler Jones, though.
-Cam Brown played a career high 12 snaps and didn’t make an impact but his movement and size stand out. With the Golden trade now in the rear-view mirror, expect him to start seeing more and more snaps. That will be fun to watch.
-One thing that has bothered me is how often this group gets blown up. I think Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham is sending them on a lot of designed slants, and depending on what the play call is, they get completely washed out. The Eagles offensive line was playing multiple practice squad-caliber guys and they still held their own against a NYG line that is supposed to be the strong point of this team. The match-up just didn’t swing in the Giants’ direction the way I was expecting.
-Leonard Williams finished with the top grade among the DL with 2 pressures and 1 tackle. He caused a lot of re-directing in the PHI running game. Dalvin Tomlinson had 3 tackles and a pressure in addition to a pass break up. He had a bad missed tackle however and was completely pushed down the field twice that opened up big running lanes. Dexter Lawrence had a tackle, a sack, and a pressure. B.J. Hill had 3 tackles and a sack that was negated by a NYG penalty. Lastly, Austin Johnson had 1 pressure and 1 tackle.
-Mr. Reliable Blake Martinez led the team in tackles yet again, this time with 9. He also added 2 pressures and a pass break up. Don’t take his play for granted simply because it happens every week. He is playing at such a high level.
-Devante Downs got the start even though David Mayo was back. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure that led to an intentional grounding penalty early in the game. For a guy who has struggled so far this year, it was his best performance. Mayo was on the field for just 10% of the defensive snaps and finished with 2 tackles, 1 of which was on special teams. I think this job will belong to Downs for the time being.
-This group struggled overall. James Bradberry did haul in his 3rd interception of the season on a nicely played ball in the end zone. I was actually curious to see if he could handle DeSean Jackson because of the shifty speed he brings to the table. Bradberry excels against bigger receivers who don’t get in and out of breaks as well. Jackson did catch passes of 12 and 9 yards on the first drive of the game, but was held pretty quiet after that until injured. Bradberry did miss a tackle and was flagged for a pass interference on the PHI game winning drive.
-For the second week in a row, Ryan Lewis was torched down the field late in the game. He also got flagged for an illegal contact penalty. Teams will now test him more and more down the field.
-Corey Ballentine allowed a 3rd-and-10 conversion early on. He played under 20% of the snaps and I think he needs to start getting phased out of this defense. He just isn’t playing well and he doesn’t seem to mentally grasp the speed of this game. Speaking of mental gaffes, the mistake of not realizing he was uncovered on the NYG punt was an enormous missed opportunity that could have really changed the complexion of this game. Ballentine was also responsible for a 15-yard illegal hit penalty on the punt before the game-winning drive by PHI.
-Madre Harper, an undrafted rookie from the Raiders, saw a lot of playing time late and was promptly torched by the PHI passing game. In addition, he was flagged twice.
-Logan Ryan had a really solid game, as it looks like he played more safety than corner in this one. He had 2 pressures and a pass break up in the end zone. His biggest mistake, however, was a holding penalty on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line on the final PHI drive. It gave them new life and two plays later they scored the game-winning touchdown. Awful timing on what was really his lone glaring mistake.
-Jabrill Peppers has minimal football sense. First of all, he fair caught two punts where he had 10+ yards of open space in front of him. Secondly, his man coverage of Boston Scott on the game- winning touchdown throw was atrocious. He came too hard downhill, knowing he didn’t have any help behind him against a back who accelerates quickly in a situation where you knew PHI was going to take a shot at the end zone. Talent at safety is useless if you don’t fully understand game situations. He did have 6 tackles and a sack.
-Julian Love had 7 tackles and a pass break up. Solid game for him where he read the action well and flowed in the right direction consistently.
-K Graham Gano didn’t attempt a field goal. He apparently strained a quad on a kickoff, and it would have been a struggle for him to go for a long game-winning field goal had NYG gotten far enough up the field on their final drive.
-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 44.2 avg / 42.0 net
-LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates, RB Wayne Gallman
-OT Andrew Thomas, TE Evan Engram, CB Corey Ballentine
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
- Carson Wentz has become a completely different QB over these past two seasons, not in a good way. One can understand his happy feet in the pocket because of the poor OL play and lack of receiver-talent, but his poor decision-making should be alarming. He is trying to do too much and making throws that can’t be excused even by his biggest supporters. He leads the NFL in turnovers. They’re stuck with him for a while and they better pray this is a short-term speed bump.
- I respect the PHI coaching staff as much as any in the league. Their awful 2-point conversions play calls aside, these guys adjust to the game situation as well as anyone. They have been ravaged on offense with injuries two straight seasons. They don’t make it look pretty, but they get the job done.
- PHI is now the front runner of the division, no doubt. As they start to get some guys back on offense, I think they will be set up nicely to get to the 8-9 win mark, which we know won’t be touched by anyone else in the NFC Least. I wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs, either. Their pass rush is top 3 in the league and they have a lot of guys who know how to win.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- Speaking of “knowing how to win,” that is the biggest component this young NYG team needs to acquire in the coming months. I think it is an overused line by the media at times, but when a team is making the most amount of mistakes late in the game (drops, penalties, allowed sacks, etc.), that is a sign of pressing and getting mentally defeated by the moment. Eli Manning played his best football late in games. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan came up big late in games. While the team needs to continue to add better personnel, these players need to step up when the game is on the line consistently. They won’t go anywhere worth getting excited about until that happens.
- Last week, I discussed how this would be a big test for this team in regard to the future. A short week, a big game that meant a lot to the divisional standings, and response to coming off a win. It went so well for 3 and two-thirds of a quarter. Their defense was coming up big, notably in the second half, and their offense was adjusting well and turning opportunities into touchdowns. Ultimately, they failed the tests. Is this something we will keep on seeing? Or will they adjust and grow from the experience and end up being on the other side of this next time?
- Joe Judge emphasized getting smart, sound players during his initial interviews after being hired. He did this moreso than most coaches and their cliché lines. After 7 games, I can see what he means more than ever. If Corey Ballentine, Cameron Fleming, and Jabrill Peppers had higher on field IQ, this team may have 3 wins. If Evan Engram had mental toughness, this team may have another win. If this offensive line handled stunts and twists more naturally, this team may have another win. I know the “if” department doesn’t get anyone anywhere. However, when scouting players for the upcoming draft, that is something I am really going to key in on. NYG will be placing more value on it than ever.