Sep 272017
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (September 24, 2017)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 27 – New York Giants 24

RECAP

If there were ever a must win for the Giants in the first quarter of the season, this was it. Their second NFC East match-up of the season was on the road in Philadelphia, a place they haven’t won since 2013, against the 1-1 Eagles. As bad as the first two weeks were, Eli Manning has led the Giants out of a 0-2 hole to the pinnacle of the NFL before.  A win on the road, in the division, would get this ship heading in the right direction.

Things started off on a positive note, with the Eagles going 3-and-out on their first drive highlighted by an Olivier Vernon sack. Then began the theme of the Giants first half. They got to 1st-and-10 on the Eagles side of the field but it resulted in zero points. As a matter of fact, that happened on every single possession in the first two quarters. They put together solid drives, mainly through their passing game, but couldn’t quite seal it to the point of getting rid of that zero on the scoreboard. Missed opportunities and lack of execution.

After a 10-for-11 start by Eli Manning, he threw his first of two interceptions on the day. The pass was intended for Brandon Marshall who was targeted 11 times, more than the first two weeks combined, but Manning misfired and threw the ball towards the middle of the field rather than the sideline. It was a momentum killer after the Giants spent the entire first half knocking on the door.

The Giants were already in a 7-0 hole, thanks to an Eagles offense that was having an easy time running the ball via bad New York tackling and efficient blocking by their very solid offensive line. On 4th-and-8 on the Giants 43-yard line, Carson Wentz was sacked by Devon Kennard, giving Manning and the offense one more shot at a first-half score. 1st-and-10 at midfield with 2:29 left.

Slowly but surely, they got the ball to the 2-yard line, with 32 seconds left and a timeout remaining. Manning threw two touchdowns to Sterling Shepard but both were reviewed and correctly overturned. After a scoreless half and knowing the Giants would receive the ball after halftime, Ben McAdoo opted for the aggressive move on the road, foregoing a sure-thing 3 points, and gave it a go on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, trying to run the ball behind an offensive line that has been pushed around since he’s been here with no change in sight. The result? Orleans Darwka being tackled for a loss. Giants down 7-0 at halftime.

The Giants and Eagles traded scoreless possessions to start off the second half, with the Giants gaining the field position advantage after a missed 42-yard field goal by Eagles kicker Jake Elliott. Two plays into the drive, Manning threw his second interception on a tipped slant pass intended for Odell Beckham. Thanks to a 41-yard pass interference by Eli Apple, the Eagles turned the Giants’ mistakes in a 14-0 lead after Carson Wentz found tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone before Darian Thompson could intervene.

Manning led a solid, piece-by-piece drive where both the ground game and air attack looked alive and well. They got it to the 13-yard line but McAdoo felt the pressure to score a touchdown a tad too early and opted to forgo an easy field goal attempt again just to be shut down on 4th-and-2, forcing another turnover on downs. The Giants entered the 4th quarter down 14-0.

Starting near mid-field yet again, Manning hooked up with Brandon Marshall three times before finding Beckham in the end zone for a 10-yard score. His ability to get his feet down in-bounds near the back of the end zone after out-leaping the defensive back is a play many won’t appreciate enough. He makes extraordinary plays look much more doable than they really are. The ball was quickly back in the hands of New York thanks to a dropped ball/fumble by Zach Ertz. Just 1:50 of game clock passed after that before Manning hit Beckham for another amazing, contested TD catch, this time with one hand. Another three minutes of game clock pass and all of the sudden, Sterling Shepard is racing downfield on his way to a 77-yard touchdown, the vast majority of which was after the catch. That had the look of a play that would turn the season around as New York took a 21-14 lead, their first lead of the season.

With momentum fully on the Giants side, Carson Wentz got aggressive by air mailing a pass to deep threat Torrey Smith. The ball would not have been caught, but the always-grabby Apple was flagged for another pass interference, this time being 36 yards. This brought the Eagles to the 15-yard line and on the next play, rookie Corey Clement made Jonathan Casillas and Darian Thompson look silly on his way towards the Eagles third touchdown of the day. It was a 1:32 drive.

The Giants and Eagles traded field goals towards the end of the quarter as both defenses failed to step up. The Giants got the ball with :51 left and cautiously went for the yards necessary to put Aldrick Rosas in a game-winning situation. However two penalties brought them back to a point where a punt with 19 seconds was the Giants only move. Brad Wing then made the mishap of the day, shanking one off his foot, totaling 28 yards.

Wentz was able to find Alshon Jeffrey over Eli Apple for a 19-yard gain, putting Jake Elliott in position to make a 61-yard field goal with :01 left on the clock. The result? Elliott is now the Eagles record holder for the longest made field goal in franchise history. 0-3 Giants.

QUARTERBACK

  • Eli Manning: 35/47 – 366 yards – 3 TD/2 INT – 100.1 rating. This game replicated Manning’s entire career to this point against the Eagles. He played well, threw for a lot of yards, came up big in the 4th quarter, but ended up losing. Manning is now 10-17 against Philadelphia all time. The “typical Eli” comments are warranted to an extent, as his interceptions came up at inopportune times but credit needs to be given for the poise and high pressure throws he made throughout the entire fourth quarter when this team needed him most.

RUNNING BACK

  • Orleans Darkwa: 7 att – 22 yards. Throw in an 11 yard reception as well. Darkwa continues to look like has more life with the ball in his hands. The word “impressive” cannot be used for any of these backs, but Darkwa at least showed he can break more tackles and push piles. At this point, that is the only thing the running game is creating; slow, crowded piles. His 20-yard run in the 4th quarter is the longest NYG has seen this year.
  • Paul Perkins: 9 att – 22 yards. Also note 2 catches for 8 yards. Perkins had a stretch on one drive in the 3rd quarter where he looked halfway decent. Yes, the sample size was that small. He rushed 3 times for 16 yards on that drive; you can do the math on what he put out the rest of the way. Again, a victim of poor blocking but also again, lack of impact after contact.
  • Shane Vereen: 2 rec – 18 yards. One carry for another 5 yards as well. On the field for less than 30% of the snaps. Not nearly enough playing time again and at some point he needs to be on the field more than the two names above.

WIDE RECEIVER

  • Odell Beckham: 9 rec – 79 yards – 2 TD. Moving forward it is safe to say that Beckham is as healthy as he will be in relation to the preseason ankle injury he sustained. It was good to see the emotion out of Beckham, as maddening as he can be. This guy plays his heart out and made two touchdown receptions that very few WRs in the league can make, trust me on that. There was a stretch of plays that stood out to me in the 3rd quarter. Manning went to him four consecutive plays, the third of which he dropped a ball. He responded right after with a 13-yard catch for first down, a high effort play. We can say what we want about his childish antics but if this team is going to make a turnaround, it will center around him. He is that big of a difference maker.
  • Brandon Marshall: 8 rec – 66 yards. Not an impressive stat line but it was good to see so many passes (11 total) thrown his way. We got to see what this guy can be to opposing defensive backs trying to tackle him in space. A glimpse anyway. I fully expect to see a big game out of him in Tampa Bay now the game chemistry is there with him and Manning.
  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 133 yards – 1 TD. The play of the game was going to center around his 77-yard touchdown, one in which he made a move or two and raced 70 yards after the catch. The collapse late, however, overshadowed how big of a play that was. Shepard has an opportunity here to really shine. He is proving to be overly reliable in this slot-dependent, slant-dependent, YAC-dependent passing game. His toughness and consistency since the start of his rookie year are impressive.

TIGHT END

  • Evan Engram: 5 rec – 45 yards. Overall a quiet game from Engram. He continues to lead the tight end in snaps played by a huge margin. As a blocker, his grade was better than weeks 1 and 2 respectively. The progress there is encouraging but it is still a weakness to his game and the overall offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: Wasn’t thrown to at all and his performance as a blocker was average, although he played just 29% of the snaps. Tough to make an impact on the game with such little playing time. If this coaching staff wants more production out of the running game without taking to big of a bite out of the air attack, Ellison should be in for more than 50% of the plays.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Admirable performance, for the most part, by both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh. Neither allowed any sacks and with the help of the quick-release passing game, their combined pressures allowed were just 2. Flowers graded out much higher than he did the first two weeks but still graded out slightly negative. Pugh has been a steady rock all three games. Pugh did allow some inside pressure but because he is so often in good position from top to bottom, he had enough to keep his man away from making a big impact. Pugh is making money every week with his performance at RT as he heads towards his free agency.
  • Guards/Center: Hard-nosed effort from these three, although there wasn’t a ton of movement at the point-of-attack. Weston Richburg was the highest-graded lineman although he is making it a common habit to play a recovery style after getting drilled off the ball. At some point, that is going to be a major issue for this offense. John Jerry had a positive grade. What’s ironic here is, he led the group in negative-plays and positive-plays. He made some play-altering blocks, especially when they had him trap across the line, on some of the Giants’ biggest gains. He also did a nice job neutralizing the inside rush. Brett Jones gets beat initially almost every time, but in the same breath he fights back hard and won more often than not. He, too, graded out positively.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul was matched up against one of the best right tackles in the game, Lane Johnson. Johnson won. Pierre-Paul had a very quiet day against the pass and struggled to disengage from the lateral blocking by the athletic Johnson. He has been one of the most disappointing players on this team through the 0-3 start. Time for him to step up. Olivier Vernon recorded a sack early on a play where Wentz held onto the ball too long, but also recorded 5 tackles. His performance against the run was very up and down and he did have to fight through an ankle injury in the second half. Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn rotated in and out for about 20% of the plays but failed to make any serious impact.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison was avoided by the Eagles’ ground game. They made him move laterally often and it tired him out. He was only on the field for 58% of the plays. The Eagles made sure to not let him impact the game. Dalvin Tomlinson, Robert Thomas, and Jay Bromley all had a hard time maintaining their positions. They were being driven back and out of holes. Thomas especially lacked gap discipline, opening up massive cutback lanes. None were very impactful as pass rushers.

LINEBACKERS

  • The most underwhelming position group when it comes to overall grades. Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson led the group in playing time, and both led the team in negative plays. They had a hard time disengaging from blockers, especially on the outside. Don’t let Robinson’s team-leading 10 tackles deceive you, he was a liability against both the run and pass.
  • After a solid showing in his first week as the starting MIKE, Calvin Munson only played 30% of the snaps. Was there an injury? Did the coaches see something I didn’t? Was it the PHI personnel grouping that often had them running out three wide receivers? Could be any of those but Munson, in my opinion, deserves to be on the field. His play against the lateral run has been a major plus so far and NYG really struggled there Sunday.
  • Hats off to Devon Kennard who has been showing a healthy dose of versatility each week. He filled in at DE and strong side linebacker, finishing with a sack and a QB hit.

CORNERBBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins broke up two passes, the only two of the day for the NYG defense. His effort and impact against receivers that are so much bigger than him is admirable to say the least. He is a major plus for this defense and is grading out as one of the best corners in the league so far in this young season.
  • Eli Apple is up for the dud of the week. Teams are obviously targeting him downfield because of his inability to keep his hands away from grabbing. It was his red flag coming out of college and there has been little-to-no progress there so far in his career. His two long pass interference penalties in the second half both led to PHI touchdowns. He also missed a tackle and allowed too much separation on underneath routes to Torrey Smith, a receiver who is not known for short-route running ability.
  • With the Eagles in a 3 WR formation so often, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie played a season-high 41 plays, showing more than solid man coverage. Ross Cockrell has been impressive in his limited action.

SAFETIES

  • Underwhelming game from both Landon Collins and Darian Thompson. Other than Thompson’s big hit which knocked Darren Sproles out of the game, his game review was full of negative plays. He is late to recognize underneath passing routes and he missed 3 tackles that resulted in big gains, including a touchdown. His leash shouldn’t be too long, as he has yet to show much in his short NFL career. Collins didn’t finish with a negative grade, but his impact wasn’t felt the way we are used to. He overran a few lateral pursuits. And his coverage was average at best. The forced fumble you see in the box score was a mere drop-of-the-ball by Zach Ertz that Collins had little to do with.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas:1/1 (42) – 3/3 on extra points. Rosas attempted his first high-pressure kick. Tied 21-21 with 3:11 to go, he nailed the 42 yarder with plenty of extra room.
  • Brad Wing – 4 punts – 38.5 yard avg – 1 inside 20. His horrendous shank in the 4th quarter was the main reason for the Eagles being set up for a game-winning field goal.
  • Return: For the third straight game, Dwayne Harris made zero impact on the game via his returns.

3 STUDS

  • WR Odell Beckham, QB Eli Manning, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

  • LB Jonathan Casillas, P Brad Wing, CB Eli Apple

3 THOUGHTS ON PHILADELPHIA

  • Despite Dallas’ 13-win season last year with their young nucleus coming back, I noted Philadelphia as the team NYG would have to fend off for a division crown. NYG’s poor start aside, I think the Eagles are as well balanced as it gets in the NFC East. Wentz is a gamer, the team will control the trenches on both sides of the ball most weeks, and their schedule is pretty favorable.
  • The Eagles secondary is very banged up, but the young guns put together a couple solid performances. I was impressed with how CB Rasul Douglas played. He prevented the deep ball from being an option a couple times and played tough underneath against Marshall.
  • The Wentz-to-Jeffrey duo is only going to get better as the season progresses. Jeffrey doesn’t do a lot of things right as a route runner, but he has a Plaxico Burress-type approach to his game. He is bigger, taller, and can reach longer than almost everyone covering him. He is a guy who can be thrown to even when he is covered, something Wentz has never done. Once he gains confidence and chemistry there, I expect their offense to jump to the next level.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The Giants are one of 3 teams in the league that have faced three teams with winning records this season. If there is a glass half-full approach, it can center around that this was a very difficult set of games to start off the year. Two road division games and one of the most up-and-coming NFC teams on a Monday night. The upcoming stretch has a lot of winnable games. The Bucs and Chargers are very beatable. The Seahawks are not the Seahawks we have come to know the best 5-6 years. The Rams and 49ers have yet to prove that they are really out of the bottom third of the league. Those 4 teams make up 80% of the upcoming 5 games.
  • I wouldn’t call the offense broken anymore. It isn’t good, but it’s not broken. It’s improved each week and the biggest positive taken from this game is the fact that Beckham appears to be back, fully. When a player like that hesitates, a player who depends so much on explosive movement, he is a shell of himself. It is easy to tell that Beckham let it loose in the second half and I think his confidence will be back in Tampa – a defense that can be torched. Also, the fact Marshall got much more involved is a huge plus. He still has it.
  • This defense, at least to me, was supposed to come in and be a top 5 unit in the NFL. Right now, they are middle of the pack. There is too much talent here to think this is where they are. They are relatively healthy, too. There is a string of games coming up that could really elevate the confidence of this unit.  It’s not coaching or play calling, these guys simply need to beat their respective opponents.
Sep 242017
 
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Jake Elliott, Philadelphia Eagles (September 24, 2017)

Eagles win on a 61-yard walk-off field goal – © USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 24…
In all likelihood, the 2017 New York Giants season ended on Sunday afternoon with the team’s devastating 27-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Trailing 14-0 entering the 4th quarter, the Giants scored 24 points in the final period, only to lose the lead twice. The Eagles won the game on a walk-off 61-yard field goal after a series of late-game Giants’ blunders. The Giants are now 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the NFC East.

The Giants’ offense continued to be inept in the first half. Their four offensive possessions resulted in two punts, an interception, and a turnover on downs at the Eagles’ 1-yard line just before halftime. The Eagles also had their own first-half offensive issues with two punts and a turnover on downs. But the team did put together an 18-play, 90-yard marathon of a drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run. At the half, the Giants trailed 7-0.

The 3rd quarter was not kind to New York either. Despite missing a 52-yard field goal, the Eagles extended their lead to 14-0 with a 7-play, 54-yard drive after another Manning interception. The Giants also had a three-and-out and another drive end on downs at the Eagles 13-yard line.

The game rapidly changed in the 4th quarter. The Giants scored their first touchdown on a 5-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a Manning 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. The Giants then immediately got the ball back when safety Landon Collins forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Eli Apple at the Eagles’ 33-yard line. Four plays later, Manning found Beckham again, this time with a one-handed 4-yard touchdown reception, and the game was tied at 14-14 with less than 11 minutes left to play.

After an Eagles punt, the Giants unbelievably went ahead 21-14 in the contest on a 77-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Sterling Shepard. But the New York defense could not hold the lead as the Eagles quickly scored on a 4-play, 75-yard drive that tied the game with less than six minutes to play.

Back came the Giants with a 7-play, 52-yard drive that set up a successful 41-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. Giants 24 – Eagles 21. But again, the defense could not hold the lead and the Eagles tied the game on a 46-yard field goal after an 8-play, 47-yard drive.

The Giants got the ball back with 51 seconds left in regulation. After gaining seven yards on the first play, the Giants shot themselves in the foot with back-to-back penalties. Facing a 2nd-and-18 with 32 seconds to play, running back Shane Vereen stopped the clock by running out of bounds after a 3-yard run. Tight end Evan Engram came up 1-yard short of the first down after a 14-yard catch. On 4th-and-1 from the Giants’ 24, Brad Wing shanked a 28-yard punt to the Eagles’ 38-yard line. After an incomplete pass, a 19-yard pass with one second left on the clock moved the ball to the Giants’ 43-yard line. The Eagles punter then hit a 61-yard field goal to end the game.

Offensively, Manning finished the game 35-of-47 for 366 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. His leading receivers were Beckham (9 catches, 79 yards, 2 touchdowns), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (8 catches for 66 yards), and Shepard (7 catches for 133 yards, 1 touchdown). However, the Giants continued to struggle running the ball, gaining just 48 yards on 17 carries.

Defensively, the Giants did force one turnover and accrued three sacks, but the defense yielded 354 total net yards, including 193 yards rushing.

The Giants were penalized 10 times for 137 yards in the game. The Eagles out-gained the Giants in time of possession 37:32 to 22:28.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were right tackle Bobby Hart (ankle), linebacker B.J. Goodson (shin), linebacker J.T. Thomas (groin), quarterback Davis Webb, running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Matt LaCosse, and defensive end Avery Moss.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle) and running back Orleans Darkwa (back) left the game with injuries and did not return. Vernon said after the game that x-rays on his ankle were negative but he would undergo an MRI.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (Video)

ARTICLES…

Sep 222017
 
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Robert Thomas, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Robert Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 24, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
Unbelievably, there is a good chance the New York Giants season will all but officially end on Sunday. In September. Facing an 0-3 start, the Giants probably could not have picked a worse opponent to face given their painful recent history against the Philadelphia Eagles. Stating the obvious, the Eagles have the Giants number, winning five out of the last six, and 14 out of the last 18 games. Those are embarrassing numbers.

Lose on Sunday, and the New York Giants franchise will subject themselves of months of questions and debate about the competency of Jerry Reese, Ben McAdoo, and Eli Manning. Fans will begin talking about the draft and free agency IN SEPTEMBER. That’s as bad as it gets.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (concussion – questionable)
  • OT Bobby Hart (ankle – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (shin – out)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – probable)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (groin – out)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have scored 13 points in two games. Again, I repeat, the Giants have scored 13 points in two games. If you don’t score, you can’t win. The Giants are struggling to even move the football. In their last eight games, where the team has not been able to reach the 20-point mark, 46 percent of the Giants drives have resulted in three-and-outs. During that same time frame, in 97 drives, the Giants have scored nine touchdowns.

  • The Giants gambled and lost on bringing back the same offensive line.
  • The Giants don’t/can’t run (only 30 rushing attempts for 97 yards TOTAL in the first two games).
  • The quarterback is getting hit too early and too often even when the other team is only rushing four.
  • Odell Beckham missed the first game, wasn’t himself the second game, and Brandon Marshall has been a bust so far.
  • The offensive brain trust appears inflexible and stubborn.

Enter the 11th-ranked, aggressive Philadelphia Eagles defense, coached by super-prick but equally effective Jim Schwartz. He and his charges smell blood. The strength of the Eagles defense is a deep and talented defensive line salivating over the prospects of facing a shitty New York Giants offensive line that somehow plays even worse when facing the Eagles. Why have the Giants struggled to beat the Eagles in recent years? Look no further than the Giants getting their asses kicked up front by the Eagles.

The Eagles already have eight sacks in two games. With Bobby Hart out, we’ll probably see the line that played for most of the game against the Lions: LT Ereck Flowers, LG Brett Jones, OC Weston Richburg, RG John Jerry, and RT Justin Pugh. Having Pugh play right tackle over Hart for this game is probably an upgrade, but Pugh has had some of his worst games against the Eagles, including at RT. The prospect of Jones and Jerry facing DTs Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan is more than a bit nerve-wracking as is Flowers dealing with the outside speed rushers the Eagles will line up over him. The Eagles won’t have to blitz. They’ll play the run on their way to the quarterback and just rush four. It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

Barring some unforeseen turnaround, the Giants won’t be able to block the Eagles up front. They won’t be able to run the football. Eli Manning will get hit early and often and begin to hear footsteps. Beckham will be double- and triple-covered. And the Giants won’t be able to take advantage of injury-riddled Eagles secondary. If Engram can’t play, it will be even worse.

The only chance the Giants have is the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, Manning plays with 2011 NFC Championship Game-type toughness, Beckham makes a couple of huge plays, and the defense and special teams carry the team the rest of the way.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Three things have sabotaged the Giants defense early: injuries, particularly to Janoris Jenkins, B.J. Goodson, and Keenan Robinson; disappointing third-down defense; and not enough forced turnovers. The bad news is Goodson is out again and Jenkins is questionable; good news is Robinson is back. If Jenkins can’t go, the defense will be significantly weakened against the Eagles 3rd-ranked passing offense. The Eagles finished 2016 11th in rushing and 24th in passing. The major leap they have so far taken forward in the passing game is primarily due to the rapid emergence of Carson Wentz at quarterback. Unfortunately, Wentz is the real deal and he has those characteristics that have hurt the Giants in recent years: mobility combined with an ability to improvise. One again, the Giants face a quarterback who can hurt them with his feet if they don’t maintain disciplined pass-rush lanes and/or fail to wrap him up and bring him down.

Wentz’s favorite targets so far have been TE Zach Ertz (13 catches), WR Alshon Jeffery (10 catches, 1 TD), WR Nelson Agholor (7 catches, 2 TDs), RB Darren Sproles (7 catches), and WR Torrey Smith (5 catches). The Eagles are likely test rookie middle linebacker Calvin Munson in coverage with Ertz and Sproles. If Jenkins is out, look for a heavy dose of shots in Jeffery’s direction as well.

Ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount has been sharing rushing duties with Sproles. The Lions smartly eschewed running at Damon Harrison and chose to to run outside more. So I would look for Sproles on outside runs.

Stating the obvious, the Giants defense needs to have a monster game for the team to win. They have to shut down the run and get after Wentz, forcing some turnovers along the way. At worst, they need to simply get off of the field on third down. To me, the Giants defensive line has to play lights out. It’s up to Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jason Pierre-Paul to take over the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Eagles have been one of the tougher special teams units in the NFL for years. Tom Quinn’s special teams bit the team in the ass once again last week with a game-breaking punt return for a touchdown. Enter Darren Sproles, who broke a long return against the Giants in the first game last year. So far, Quinn also hasn’t been able to get his return game going either.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Carson Wentz: “He seems like he has eyes in the back of his head now. He’s very aggressive trying to keep the play alive, slide in the pocket, come out of the pocket, and he’s not afraid to take a chance down the field and make a throw that’s a long opportunity ball for his guys. Throw it up to those big playmakers, whether it’s the receivers or the tight end, to give him a chance to make a play down the field.”

Ben McAdoo on Zach Ertz: “Don’t forget about Ertz. He’s a very talented player. He’s a smart player. You can see it with the way he knows how to find the holes in the zones and run away. Friendly for the quarterback versus his man.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Eagles are playing better on offense, defense, and special teams. This is the season for the Giants. To stay alive, they have to beat the team that has has their number since 2008 at a venue that has been a horror-show for them. The recent history of this rivalry for the Giants has been shoddy blocking, turnovers, and special teams blunders. It might be a good day to mow the lawn.

Dec 242016
 
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New York Giants Offense (December 22, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 24 – New York Giants 19

Overview

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.

Quarterback

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.

Running Backs

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.

Wide Receivers

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.

Tight Ends

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Defensive Line

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).

Linebackers

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.

Defensive Backs

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.

(New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 22, 2016)
Dec 232016
 
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Malcolm Jenkins Takes Eli Manning Pick to House, New York Giants (December 22, 2016)

Malcolm Jenkins Takes Eli Manning Pick to House – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 19…
The New York Giants had a chance to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in five years on Thursday night, but they failed by falling to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-19 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With the loss, the Giants fell to 10-5 and the Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East division title. The Giants can still earn a playoff spot this weekend if one of the following four teams lose: Detroit, Atlanta, Green Bay, or Tampa Bay.

The Giants out-gained the Eagles in first downs (24 to 15), total net yards (470 to 286), net yards passing (356 to 168), and time of possession (34:04 to 25:56). But the Giants lost the turnover battle 3-to-1 and finished 1-of-5 in the red zone.

The game started off very poorly for New York. After the Giants went three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, the Eagles drove 78 yards in seven plays to go up 7-0 on a 25-yard touchdown run by halfback Darren Sproles. On the Giants ensuing possession, quarterback Eli Manning was picked off by safety Malcolm Jenkins, who returned the interception 34 yards four a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants finally got on the board after a 12-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 35-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. The Giants got the ball right back after an interception by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the Giants 38-yard line, but New York went three-and-out. After a three-and-out by the Eagles, the Giants drove 39 yards in nine plays to set up another 35-yard field goal by Gould to cut the Eagles advantage to 14-6.

Philadelphia responded with a 5-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 40-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The Eagles now led 21-6. The Giants cut into that lead by driving 84 yards in 12 plays with Manning hitting wide receiver Sterling Shepard for the Giants only touchdown of the game. At the half, the Eagles led 21-13.

The Eagles went three-and-out to start the second half. The Giants then mounted a 10-play, 56-yard drive that ended for the third time in the red zone with a field goal, this time from 29 yards out. Philadelphia then drove 74 yards to the Giants 1-yard line, but the Giants defense held on 4th-and-goal late in the 3rd quarter. However, the Giants turned the ball over right back to the Eagles when Manning was intercepted at the Eagles 44-yard line. Philadelphia converted that field position into their final points of the contest by driving 33 yards in seven plays to set up a 41-yard field goal.

New York blew several chances in the 4th quarter to win the game. On the ensuing possession, the Giants drove 52 yards in 10 plays to set up a 41-yard field goal by goal and cut the lead to 24-19 with 5:17 to play. After a three-and-out by the Eagles, the Giants drove from their own 27-yard line to the Eagles 32-yard line. At the 2-minute warning, right guard John Jerry was penalized for a false start on 4th-and-1. Manning’s 4th-and-6 pass fell incomplete. However, the Eagles only ran 17 seconds off of the clock and were forced to punt with 1:37 to play. New York did drive from their 15-yard line to the Eagles 34-yard line with 25 seconds left to go. But after two incomplete passes, Manning’s final pass was intercepted at the 11-yard line. Game over.

Offensively, Eli Manning struggled. He finished the night 38-of-63 for 356 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. His leading receivers were wide receivers Odell Beckham (11 catches for 150 yards), Victor Cruz (8 catches for 84 yards), and Sterling Shepard (7 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown). Running back Paul Perkins carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards and running back Rashad Jennings 9 times for 44 yards.

Defensively, the Eagles were held to 286 total net yards, including a paltry 168 yards passing. But Philadelphia did gain 118 yards rushing. New York did not accrue any sacks and only three quarterback hits.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), linebacker Ishaq Williams, running back George Winn, wide receiver Tavarres King, and offensive tackle Will Beatty.

Defensive tackle Damon Harrison injured his knee but returned to the game.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)

ARTICLES…

Dec 212016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 22, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
If the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants will return to the playoffs for the first time in five years. If they lose, they can still get in this week if one of four other teams lose on this weekend.

The Eagles have lost five games in a row and are 5-9. But they are still playing hard and they always give the Giants trouble. It’s always a rough spot for the road team on Thursday night football, and the Giants are a bit banged up right now.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • OL Marshall Newhouse (shoulder) – probable
  • OL Will Beatty (lower leg) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) – questionable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – probable
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (back) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Eagles are a very respectable 12th in defense (13th in points allowed). They are 17th against the run and 12th against the pass. Under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, they are well coached. The challenge for the Giants is blocking the guys up front. Fletcher Cox (6.5 sacks) is a disruptive player at defensive tackle and Philadelphia’s two ends – Connor Barwin (4 sacks) and Brandon Graham (5.5 sacks) – usually give the Giants fits. Philadelphia has good depth on the defensive line and will rotate their players frequently. The Eagles have 31 sacks on the season. Second-year middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is coming on and he has three interceptions.

The last time these two teams met in early November, the Giants offensive line did a decent job in pass protection but the Giants were only able to generate 58 yards rushing, averaging a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. The Eagles held the Giants to 16 first downs. The Giants only had two drives longer than 31 yards. But the defense helped to provide New York with good field position and Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes.

So the key question here is do the Giants continue to force-feed the running backs this week, like they did against the Cowboys or Lions? Or does Ben McAdoo worry about the Giants’ previous ground-game ineptitude against the Eagles and come out with a greater focus on the passing game? My guess is that McAdoo has decided to get this ground game going come hell or high water. While the point production hasn’t been there, the Giants have reduced their mistakes and become a more physical offense with the greater run emphasis. That doesn’t mean New York won’t take its shots to the wideouts. Odell Beckham (2), Sterling Shepard (1), and Roger Lewis (1) combined for four touchdowns in November. If Eli has time, the Giants have to like their match-ups against this secondary.

To me, offensively, this game really comes down to how well the Giants offensive line and tight ends can block the Eagles up front. Philadelphia has owned New York in recent years because the Giants get their asses kicked on the line. Ideally, the offensive front will build on its decent game against the Lions. Both tackles – especially Ereck Flowers – need to do a reasonable job. Fletcher Cox and Bernie Logan will also challenge the interior trio.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Eagles are currently 20th in offense (9th rushing, 24th passing). Their offensive line has been doing a very good job of run blocking, and Lane Johnson now returns to right tackle after a 10-game suspension. Running back Ryan Mathews has eight rushing touchdowns and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The mercurial Darren Sproles averages 4.7 yards per carry. The Eagles ran roughshod (169 yards) over what had been the NFL’s best run defense (Baltimore Ravens) last week. In the November match-up, the Eagles ran for about 100 yards and had two rushing touchdowns against the Giants.

The defensive focus is obvious: stop the run. Not only do the Giants have to be tough, stout, and physical up front, but they have to be disciplined as the Eagles will run the read-option (something New York did well against in November, but that was with Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup). The Eagles will test Romeo Okwara, Kerry Wynn, and Owa Odighizuwa in run defense. They also know that Jonathan Casillas (knee) and Keenan Robinson (shoulder) are beat up.

Although the Giants defeated the Eagles in the first match-up, the defense did not have one of its better games. Two interceptions helped, but the defense gave up four plays of more than 30 yards and allowed five drives over 50 yards. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz threw for 364 yards. And the Eagles tight ends killed the Giants, accruing 152 receiving yards. While the Giants did a good job on Sproles in coverage, the Eagles are likely to test the Giants undercoverage again with a heavy dose of passing to the tight ends and Sproles. Keep in mind that the Giants two best cover linebackers are playing hurt.

The Giants match-up fairly well with the Eagles wide receivers. But the health situation of Janoris Jenkins is a concern. If he can’t go, the Eagles will likely target Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade. Wentz has been up-and-down this year with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His favorite targets are wide receiver Jordan Matthews, tight end Zach Ertz, and Sproles.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Eagles are tough on special teams. In the first game, Darren Sproles returned one punt for 66 yards (his longest of the year) and was a shoe-string tackle away from an 81-yard score on that play. The Giants obviously have to do a better job of keeping him in check. The Eagles led the NFL in kickoff return average. Jason Pierre-Paul – who will miss this game – did block an Eagles field goal attempt. It will be fascinating to see how much the Giants use Odell Beckham at punt returner moving forward.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Philadelphia’s defensive line: “They play very well up front. There will be some carryover from the scheme we saw last week with Detroit. They play a lot of the wide nine, but they’re loaded up front. One of the best front fours in the game.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Having two division rivals play on Thursday night this late in the season is absurd. Despite the fact that the Giants are the better team, this is a tough spot for them as they will be the road team on a very short week with no real practice. The Giants have more to play for and this is definitely a very winnable game, but don’t be shocked to see the Eagles pull off the upset.

Nov 072016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 28 – Philadelphia Eagles 23

Overview

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.

Quarterback

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.

Running Backs

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.

Wide Receivers

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.

Tight Ends

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Defensive Line

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.

Linebackers

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.

Defensive Backs

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.

(Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 6, 2016)
Nov 062016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 28 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 23…
The New York Giants defeated division rival Philadelphia Eagles 28-23 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 5-3 and their division record to 2-1.

The Eagles out-gained the Giants in first downs (21 to 16), total net yards (443 to 302), net yards rushing (96 to 54), and net yards passing (364 to 257). Both teams turned the football over twice. But the Giants blocked a field goal and also stopped the Eagles three times on 4th down, twice within the red zone.

The Giants took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter after two Eagles turnovers. After the Giants started the game with a three-and-out, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s second pass was intercepted by safety Landon Collins, setting up the Giants at the Eagles 31-yard line. On 2nd-and-5, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. over the middle for a 26-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The Giants got the ball right back again when safety Andrew Adams intercepted an overthrown Wentz pass and returned it to the Eagles 30-yard line. On 3rd-and-10, Manning hit wide receiver Roger Lewis, Jr. for a 30-yard touchdown.

The Eagles mounted their first scoring drive on the ensuing possession by driving 59 yards in 10 plays to set up a 34-yard field goal. After two Giants punts and one Eagles drive being stopped on 4th-and-2, the Eagles were able to strike quickly with a 3-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, aided by a 58-yard pass. The Giants now only led 14-10.

The Giants responded with a quick strike of their own. A 46-yard pass by Manning to wide receiver Victor Cruz set up the Giants at the Eagles 9-yard line. Two plays later, Manning hit Beckham for a second touchdown and the Giants extended their advantage to 21-10.

The Giants and Eagles exchanged punts with the Eagles gaining the advantage after a 66-yard punt return by running back Darren Sproles set the Eagles up at the Giants 15-yard line. But Sproles was stuffed on 4th-and-1 at the Giants 6-yard line. After another New York punt, another Eagles scoring threat was stymied when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a 40-yard field goal with just over a minute to play before halftime. At the intermission, the Giants led 21-10.

Philadelphia tightened the game against on their first possession of the second half by driving 70 yards in six plays for a touchdown that cut the score to 21-17. New York responded with a 10-play, 75-yard effort that culminated with a 32-yard touchdown from Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. The Giants now led 28-17.

The Eagles and Giants exchanged punts before the Eagles mounted a 14-play, 80-yard march that resulted in a 26-yard field goal early in the 4th quarter. Giants 28 – Eagles 20. The Eagles got the ball back after Manning’s pass intended for Beckham was intercepted at the Philadelphia 40-yard line. Both teams then exchanged punts again before the Eagles cut the Giants advantage to 28-23 after an 8-play, 26-yard drive set up a 38-yard field goal with less than four minutes to play.

The Giants offense was able to pick up one first down before Manning was intercepted on 3rd-and-4, setting up the Eagles on the Giants 34-yard line with 1:48 to play. A 17-yard pass moved the ball to the Giants 17, but the game ended with four straight Wentz incompletions.

Offensively, Manning finished 22-of-36 for 257 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. No receiver had more than 50 yards but Beckham (2), Lewis, and Shepard all had touchdown receptions. The running game struggled with Paul Perkins gaining 32 yards on 11 carries and Rashad Jennings 26 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, Landon Collins led the defense with 12 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 interception. Defensive end Olivier Vernon was credited with the team’s other sack. Andrew Adams had the other interception.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were quarterback Ryan Nassib (elbow), safety Darian Thompson (foot), cornerback Leon Hall, defensive end Kerry Wynn (concussion), offensive tackle Will Beatty, wide receiver Tavarres King, and linebacker Deontae Skinner.

Left guard Justin Pugh (knee) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (ankle) left the game in the second quarter with injuries. There is no word yet on the severity yet.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants five victories have been by a combined 20 points.

The Giants broke a 4-game losing streak to the Eagles, and improved to 2-5 in MetLife Stadium vs. Philadelphia.

The Giants are 3-1 at home, where they finished 3-5 in each of the previous two seasons.

QB Eli Manning’s 257 yards increased his career total to 46,428. That moved him past Vinny Testaverde (46,233) and into ninth place on the NFL’s career list.

ARTICLES…

Nov 042016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (January 3, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 6, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
This is one of the most important games of the season for the Giants and Eagles. Both teams are 4-3. The Giants are 1-1 in the NFC East while the Eagles are 0-2 in the division. I’ve discussed it ad nauseam – the Giants have failed to make the playoffs in recent years, and Tom Coughlin was fired, because the Giants could not beat the teams in their division, especially the Eagles and Cowboys. The Eagles have beaten the Giants an absurd 13-of-16 times and four in a row. While one could argue that the Eagles were a better team in the last eight years, they were not that much better. The Eagles are in the Giants heads. And everyone knows it. Until the Giants grow a set and punch the Eagles in the mouth, this trend will continue.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • QB Ryan Nassib (elbow) – questionable
  • RB Bobby Rainey (calf) – questionable
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (hip) – probable
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – questionable
  • DE Kerry Wynn (concussion) – out
  • S Darian Thompson (foot) – out
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
  • LS Zak DeOssie (ankle) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have faced a series of good defenses – Vikings, Ravens, Packers, Rams – and will face another on Sunday. Under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles have impressively roared to 8th in the NFL in overall defense (20th against the run, 5th against the pass).

“Their defense is a hard charging unit, their front four leads them,” said Ben McAdoo. “They’re deep and talented along the defensive line. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company are playing very well upfront for them. Athletically, their linebackers can run and they can hit. Their secondary had a lot of position flexibility. They have some guys that can play some different spots, with Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins.”

As McAdoo, points out, this is a very good defensive line with ends Connor Barwin (who has given the Giants fits) and Graham, plus a very strong interior duo of Cox and Bennie Logan. And the Eagles are deep on the defensive line and will rotate in fresh reinforcements frequently. The Eagles are second in the league in sacks (22). On paper, this looks like a bad match-up for the Giants given how New York’s offensive front has been playing. If the Giants offensive line can rise to the occasion, the Giants can do damage running the ball and attacking a secondary – that while ranked 5th – has given up some big plays.

To me, other than the offensive line, the big key to success for the Giants in this game is the Eli Manning to Odell Beckham connection. When the Giants last had the Eagles number, Plaxico Burress was the Eagle-killer. Odell Beckham has to become the new Eagle-killer. Eli and Odell have to click and connect for the Giants to win this game. Eli is going to have to play with more toughness and courage in the pocket and elevate his overall game. This is why he is being paid the big bucks. He has to out-play his rookie counterpart.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Eagles are 28th in overall offense (16th rushing, 29th passing) but 10th in scoring. Given the fact that the Giants are likely going to have issues on offense against Philadelphia’s defense, the Giants likewise need their defense to bring it on Sunday. Carson Wentz (66 percent completion rate) is having a remarkable first season, but he is still a rookie playing in his eighth NFL game. The Eagles offensive line isn’t what it once was and comes into this game banged up. The Eagles receiving corps – while respectable – doesn’t scare people.

“Offensively, they’re a West Coast ball control outfit,” said McAdoo. “That’s their foundation. They use personnel groups and creativity to try and create confusion for the defense. Carson Wentz is a big, strong, athletic quarterback who has acclimated well to the pro game. They’re deep in experience along the offensive line. Ryan Mathews is their feature ball carrier and he can carry the mail. They have a trio of play makers in the pass game, how they like to deal the ball, with Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz and Jordan Mathews; they feature those three guys inside.”

The good news for the Giants is that they finally have the added athleticism at linebacker to deal with a back like Sproles and a tight end like Ertz. The bad news is Darian Thompson is out (possibly for the season) and the Giants will have to play with the injury-prone Nat Berhe or Andrew Adams at free safety. But overall, I like the match-ups for the Giants in this game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple should be able to shut down the wide receivers, allowing the linebackers and Landon Collins to focus on the backs/tight ends. Wentz has not been taking many deep shots down the field, and I expect the Giants pass rush to also force him to dump the ball off short for much of this contest.

The Eagles try not to tax Wentz. Giants should be able to stop the run. Matthews is the starter, but Sproles is the bigger threat as a runner and receiver. Wentz’s go-to guys are Matthews (36 catches), Sproles (22 catches), and Nelson Agholor (21 catches). If the Giants can keep Sproles and Ertz in check, the Eagles should struggle to move the football and Wentz will be in trouble. Keenan Robinson and Jonathan Casillas will be under the spotlight in coverage.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Over the past few seasons, the Eagles have fielded one of the NFL’s best special teams units. And unfortunately, their special teams prowess has been a major factor in a number of Giants defeats. Wendell Smallwood (kickoffs) and Darren Sproles (punts) are very dangerous returners. The Eagles are very good in covering returns.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan on the Eagles defense: “They’re able to apply quite a bit of pressure just with their front four and that makes it a challenge.”

Head Coach Ben McAdoo on the Giants offense: “Some say that the points are in the passing game. I believe the points are in balanced football. I believe in running the football and having things come off of the run game. That makes for a good red zone, green zone offense. We need to keep running the ball and to be balanced. We need to be aggressive with what we’re doing in the passing game. The most important thing about it is we need to get down there (the red zone) more. We’re not down there enough.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This should be a defensive struggle with the outcome possibly being decided by turnovers and special teams plays. The latter favors the Eagles. But if the Giants offensive line can give Eli some time, I like Odell Beckham to have a big game in this spot.

Jan 262016
 
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Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, New York Giants (January 3, 2016)

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 35 – New York Giants 30

Overview

My apologies for this game review being three weeks late. But better late than never and now that we unofficially know that the Giants’ offensive, defensive, and special teams systems will remain in place in 2016, what transpired against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 3, 2016 does have more meaning.

The regular-season finale was a crappy end to one of the team’s crappiest seasons in its history. Let’s painfully – but briefly – rehash what transpired:

Will Beatty tears his pectoral muscle in May and never returns, causing a domino effect on the offensive line at tackle. Jason Pierre-Paul permanently disfigures himself on July 4th, misses half the season, and returns to play one-handed football. Giants safeties start dropping like flies before the season even starts. Victor Cruz’s “the return” never happens. Jon Beason breaks himself again. The Giants also lose Johnathan Hankins, Owa Odighizuwa, Devon Kennard, Prince Amukamara, Geoff Schwartz, Larry Donnell, and Daniel Fells for much of the season.

For the most part, the Giants play competitive football in 2015, but keep painfully losing in the final seconds due to questionable decisions, red zone ineptitude, bad defense, and untimely special teams mistakes. The Giants lost the opener in Dallas with a red zone meltdown combined with allowing Tony Romo to drive the length of the field in the final seconds. A red zone turnover against the Falcons and another defensive collapse left the Giants at 0-2. The Giants rebound with a three-game winning streak before being blown out by the Eagles. Dwayne Harris haunts his former team as the Giants defeat the Cowboys at home. Eli Manning throws six touchdown passes against the Saints but the Giants still lose.

Nevertheless, the Giants beat the Buccaneers to improve their record to 5-4. They are in first place in the terrible NFC East with seven games left to play. The 2-6 Cowboys and 4-4 Eagles are wounded and fading. The Redskins are 3-5. Even with the Patriots looming next, with Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, and Odell Beckham, the Giants are the favorites to win the NFC East.

But in a far-too-common occurrence during the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants collapse in the second half of the season. They only win one of their last seven games. The Giants have the Patriots on the ropes but Beckham and Landon Collins can’t hold onto the football. With the division on the line, the Giants fail to show up in Washington. Coughlin’s eschews a late field goal against the Jets who win in overtime as Josh Brown misses a game-tying field goal. A heroic comeback against the Panthers falls short as the defense collapses late again. New York gets destroyed in the Minnesota cold.

Which brings us to Week 17. Both the Giants and Eagles are 6-9. In their last seven games, the Eagles have lost five contests and been badly beaten by the Buccaneers (45-17), Lions (45-14), and Cardinals (40-17). The Eagles are 15th in offense and 30th in defense. Chip Kelly is fired before the finale. On the other hand, it is widely speculated both inside and outside of the locker room that this will be Tom Coughlin’s last game as head coach of the Giants. There is talk about sending him out on a high note with an inspired effort against a team that has owned the Giants the last eight years.

Instead an Eagles team with nothing to play for soundly beat the Giants 35-30. Coughlin is left with one last sour memory as the Eagles have now beaten the Giants 13 times in the last 16 match-ups. Once again, bad defense and red zone inefficiency lead to defeat.

As the third Giants’ head coach to win two NFL Championships, Tom Coughlin is undeniably one of the top three coaches in franchise history. But in the end, he was done in by his inability to defeat his divisional rivals in recent years. In addition to the Eagles dominance over the Giants, the Cowboys have defeated the Giants six out of the last eight games. And although the Giants had fared much better against the Redskins, the Giants came up woefully short in both 2012 and 2015 against Washington with the division on the line.

Giants on Offense

The Giants accrued 30 points, 30 first downs, and 502 total net yards (208 rushing and 294 passing) against the Eagles. New York had 81 offensive snaps to Philadelphia’s 65. The Giants won the time of possession battle 31:54 to 28:06 and were 7-of-15 (47 percent on third down). With numbers like that, you would expect a victory. But the team’s defense was again poor. And offensively, the Giants were only 2-of-5 (40 percent) in the red zone. The biggest error of the game came late in the 3rd quarter. With the Giants up 27-21 and driving at the Eagles’ 14-yard line, Eli Manning was sacked. The ball was knocked out of his hands and returned 83 yards for a touchdown. It was at least a 10-point swing in the game, and possibly a 14- or 15-point swing.

After punting on their opening possession, the Giants scored on each of their four remaining drives of the first half with two field goals and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, the first field goal drive stalled after the Giants faced a 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The second stalled after facing a 2nd-and-5 from the Eagles’ 7-yard line. The second half was not as kind as the Giants scored twice (touchdown and field goal), punted twice, had the fumble returned for a touchdown, and ended the game with a turnover on downs. There was one head-scratching call (or audible) on 3rd-and-10 in the 3rd quarter when a draw play was called.

Quarterback

Eli Manning had a solid day, completing 24-of-43 passes (56 percent) for 302 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His fumble that was returned for a touchdown was probably the difference in the game but that play was more on Ereck Flowers than him. Manning did miss a wide open Myles White in the end zone on the second drive that ended with a field goal. He also missed a wide open Odell Beckham in the 4th quarter on an errant throw and threw into double coverage a few plays later on a deep pass intended for Randle.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen had the type of day that the Giants dreamed they would have on a regular basis in 2015. Jennings carried the ball 27 times for an inspiring 170 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Williams chipped in with 26 yards on five carries (5.2 yards per carry) and Vereen 12 yards on four carries (3.0 yards per carry). Vereen also caught 6-of-8 passes thrown in his direction for 72 yards (12.0 yard average). He was a big factor on the team’s second TD drive when he ran for four yards on 3rd-and-2 and then caught three passes for 41 yards on three consecutive plays. But obviously the story was Jennings who ran with toughness and purpose. Remarkably, half his 863 yards on the season came in the last four games.

Wide Receivers

Aside from one big touchdown play to Rueben Randle, the wide receivers were surprisingly quiet against a secondary that they should have destroyed. One game after his NFL suspension, Odell Beckham was held to 5-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for just 54 yards. He was also flagged with a false start. Randle caught a 45-yard touchdown pass but was held to three receptions on his other six targets for just 34 yards. He lazily couldn’t come down with a 3rd-and-7 pass on the opening drive. Hakeem Nicks caught just 2-of-4 targets for 24 yards and Myles White did not have a catch despite three passes thrown in his direction. Nicks had a chance to be a hero late in the game but dropped a deep pass from Manning on the last desperate drive.

Tight Ends

Will Tye finished his surprising year on a strong note with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Tye’s run blocking is noticeably improving as well, though he did miss one block that led to a 2-yard loss.

Offensive Line

From left to right, the offensive line was Ereck Flowers, Dallas Reynolds, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, and Justin Pugh. Adam Gettis also saw some time at left guard. The good news was the 208 yards rushing. And the line looked sharp on a number of pulling efforts, especially by Pugh and Reynolds. Richburg also stood out with his effort to make an initial block, then come off his man and engage a second defender. The bad news was that pass protection was shaky at times. Eli Manning was only officially hit four times, but two of those were sacks. The line had pass protection issues on the first drive as Flowers and Reynolds gave up back-to-back pass pressures. Then Jerry was flagged for holding on a play where Manning was pressured. Early in the 2nd quarter, on 3rd-and-7, Flowers gave up the first sack when he was beat by an outside rush and Reynolds blocked his man into Flowers. Of course, the decisive play of the game was the gimpy Flowers being beat for a sack-forced fumble that resulted in at least a 10-point swing. The line did a poor job of protecting Manning on the last desperate drive as both tackles and Reynolds gave up pressure.

Giants on Defense

The NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense played terribly. The Eagles scored three offensive touchdowns on their five first-half possessions as they easily drove 80 yards in five plays, 85 yards in six plays, and 80 yards in 16 plays. While the Giants did force two punts and caused a fumble in the second half, the defense also allowed a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that for all intents and purposes put the game away. The Giants made the inconsistent Sam Bradford look like an all-star as he completed 30-of-38 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Zach Ertz caught all nine passes thrown in his direction for an astounding 152 yards receiving (16.9 yards per catch). Wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught two touchdown passes. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles carried the ball 15 times for 93 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

Most damning of all? The Giants’ “defense” (and I use that term loosely) allowed the Eagles to convert 10-of-13 third down opportunities, a 77 percent success rate that was the highest by a Giants’ opponent since 1970.

What’s worrisome moving forward is how uninspired and confused Steve Spagnuolo’s defenders looked. Are there talent issues? You bet. But the players on the field didn’t appear to play with much effort and there were too many easy plays for the Eagles simply because defenders were out of position. For example, there was one 3rd-and-1 play where the Eagles had two wideouts split to the left with only one defensive back in the picture. It was an easy uncontested pitch-and-catch for a first down. The defense also came up small again at the end of a game, allowing the Eagles to pick up two first downs, 37 yards, and run almost three minutes off of the clock after the Giants had cut the score to 35-30 with 4:30 left to play.

Defensive Line

The starters up front were Jason Pierre-Paul at left end, Cullen Jenkins at left tackle, Jay Bromley at right tackle, and Robert Ayers at right end. Ayers played a strong game with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 quarterback hits. Sadly, no other Giant officially hit Sam Bradford. Pierre-Paul had six tackles and two pass defenses, Bromley five tackles, and Jenkins three tackles. As reserves, George Selvie chipped in with two tackles and a fumble recovery. He was flagged with a neutral zone infraction. Montori Hughes had two tackles and one tackle for a loss, but was easily blocked on Murray’s 54-yard TD run. Hughes did flash on a few occasions with his hustle in run defense. Pierre-Paul was successfully blocked on Darren Sproles’ 6-yard touchdown run as Sproles ran around him. JPP did bat a pass up into the air that was intercepted by Jonathan Casillas, setting up the Giants’ first touchdown drive on a short field. Jenkins was easily blocked on a 3rd-and-5 draw play that picked up a first down on the Eagles’ third touchdown drive of the first half.

Linebackers

The Giants started in the nickel with Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas starting at linebacker. Brinkley finished the game with 9 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 forced fumble. Casillas had 7 tackles and 1 interception. Others spotted in the game included Mark Herzlich (1 tackle) and Nico Johnson (0 tackles). The Giants linebackers looked slow, unathletic, and lethargic in coverage. The Eagles’ game plan was obvious and successful. Alternate throws to the middle of the field with short passes to the outside perimeter. Force the linebackers and safeties to run to the ball and make plays. Let this one astounding fact sink in: Bradford was 21-of-23 for 243 yards throwing to the tight ends and running backs!!!

Casillas was slow to react to receivers out of the backfield and to fill the gap on Murray’s 54-yard touchdown run. Johnson got faked on a misdirection boot to his side. Later, Zack Ertz (who caught all nine passes in his direction for 152 yards) was left all alone on a 60-yard gain. Casillas did not run with Ertz and there seemed to be confusion between defensive backs Landon Collins and Prince Amukamara on the play when the tight ends crossed. Brinkley couldn’t stay with Ertz on a 19-yard completion on 2nd-and-11 down to the Giants’ 3-yard line. Brinkley did make a number of nice plays in the 3rd quarter, including the forced fumble, an aggressive tackle in the hole against the RB, and then a sure tackle after a short pass. Casillas was beat by TE Brent Celek for 24 yards on 3rd-and-5 on the Eagles’ last touchdown drive. Both Casillas and Brinkley looked awful in coverage on this drive, including Brinkley embarrassingly whiffing on an open-field tackle attempt that set up the Eagles at the Giants’ 3-yard line.

Defensive Backs

The Giants started the game with Landon Collins and the recently re-signed and gimpy Brandon Meriweather at safety, Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie outside at cornerback, and Trevin Wade playing nickel corner. Trumaine McBride was forced to play safety after Meriweather injured his knee. The only defensive back with a pass breakup was Wade with just one.

The safeties were just dreadful in coverage as indicated by the receiving productivity of the tight ends. In addition, Meriweather was caught flat-footed on Murray’s 54-yard TD run. He also made a pathetic, flailing effort to tackle Ertz on his 60-yard catch-and-run. Collins looked lost out there at times. He got blocked and couldn’t make a play on Sproles’ 6-yard TD run. He later badly missed a tackle on Ertz too. On the Eagles’ third touchdown drive, on 3rd-and-10, Collins was cleanly picked off of Ertz, resulting in an easy first down. Collins was beat again by Ertz for 21 yards in the 3rd quarter. He gave up two more catches to Ertz late in the 4th quarter when the Eagles were running out the clock.

Wade got beat deep on 3rd-and-3 by Jordan Matthews who thankfully dropped a perfect pass, leading to the Eagles only punt of the first half. Only two Eagles’ wide receivers caught passes and only one caught more than two passes. The wideouts were limited to a combined 11 catches for 77 yards. But Matthews caught two touchdowns. One of those was also against Wade, who struggled at times with Matthews out of the slot. He did knock away one pass intended for Matthews on one of the Giants only three third down stops. Jayron Hosley was beaten easily by Matthews for his second touchdown on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara were never really tested.

Giants on Special Teams

Josh Brown finished a strong season 3-of-3 on his field goal kicks, including a 48 yarder. Five of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The other two kickoff returns went for only 24 yards combined. Brad Wing punted three times with all three punts downed inside the 20-yard line, including at the 2-, 3- and 9-yard lines. None were returned. All six Eagles kickoffs resulted in touchbacks with no returns. The only punt returned was by Odell Beckham for five yards.

(Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, January 3, 2016)