Dec 292014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 26

Game Overview

This game was not only a microcosm of the season but the past few seasons. The Giants can throw the football, but they can’t run it. The defense and special teams stink. The Giants can’t beat a team with a winning record. And they can’t beat the Eagles.

Offensive Overview

The Giants gained over 500 yards of offense and passed for 429 yards, the latter being the fourth highest in franchise history. They had 78 offensive snaps and controlled the time of possession by almost 10 minutes (34:37 to 25:23).

The Giants scored on 4-of-7 first-half drives and and 2-of-7 second-half drives, but only managed two touchdowns as New York was 1-of-3 in the red zone.

The Giants were 7-of-18 on third down (39 percent). The running backs only gained 76 yards on 25 carries (3 yards per carry).

Quarterback

Eli Manning completed 28-of-53 passes for 429 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception for a 78.3 QB rating. The yardage total is obviously impressive (4th highest in team history), but he only completed 52 percent of his passes, threw into double coverage some, and was lucky a few of his passes were not picked off.

That said, the lower completion percentage was not only a question of inconsistent accuracy, but some dropped passes, some non-calls by the referees, and a strategy to take more shots down the field.

“Now was the percentage the way you’d like it? Probably not,” said Tom Coughlin after the game. “But there were some deep shots that we wanted to take. We wanted the one-on-ones and we wanted to take some shots and we did. Unfortunately, most of them were not completions and they go in the book as incomplete. But it was part of what we wanted to do.”

Examples of some of the negative plays? On the second Giants’ possession that ended with a punt, the Eagles blitzed Eli up the middle and he somehow missed spotting Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell in the middle of the field as he threw the ball away deep (Eli was lucky intentional grounding was not called). On the following 3rd-and-9 play, Manning badly overthrew Odell Beckham.

Eli missed some opportunities like on this incomplete play.

Eli missed some opportunities like on this incomplete play.

Trailing by eight with over three minutes to play, the Giants had one final chance to tie the game, but Eli’s deep pass to Rueben Randle was picked off.

“It was just underthrown,” said Manning. “Rueben read the coverage right. They were jumping the outside route. He converted it to a go. I just couldn’t get enough on the throw. I saw it clean. They were in a quarters coverage. There should have been a window out there to hit the throw to Rueben. I couldn’t step into the throw. The ball floated up a little bit. I left it a little inside and let the safety make a play on it. It wasn’t a bad read. It was just kind of a poor throw based on the circumstances.”

Running Backs

Same old story…lots of run attempts…very little productivity. And this against the 17th-ranked defense against the run. Andre Williams carried the ball 15 times for 43 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 10 times for 33 yards (3.3 yards per carry). Williams caught all three passes thrown in his direction for 19 yards, while Jennings caught 3-of-5 passes for 21 yards.

Williams did have a nice 9-yard run on 3rd-and-1 on the opening touchdown drive and an 8-yard run on the first FG drive. And Jennings had a nice 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-13 in the first quarter and an 18-yard run in the third quarter. But too often it was only 1-3 yards per attempt, or worse, a negative-yardage play.

Part of the problem may be the use of differing blocking schemes.

“We were dabbling a lot between schemes, whether we were outside zone, whether we were a zone team or a power team, what fit our personnel the best,” Williams said. “As we continue to learn the offense and learn what we’re good at, we’re bound to get better…I think we’re capable of both. I just don’t know if we knew when and where we were supposed to do what. It all comes with newness, new faces, and new players. Everything was new this year, especially for me. I think that played a big role.”

Wide Receivers

It was the Odell Beckham (12 catches for 185 yards and one touchdown) and Rueben Randle (6 catches for 158 yards) show. And both could have had an even bigger day as Beckham was actually targeted 21 times and Randle 13 times. As productive as these two were, the Eagles also had an unbelievable 11 pass defenses in the game.

The Eagles got away with obvious pass interference on Beckham on a few plays, including deep shots in the first and second quarters. Beckham had a nice 22-yard sideline reception on the Giants’ first FG drive on 3rd-and-5. Three plays later he had a 17-yard reception. Beckham had two catches on the Giants’ second-half field goal drive, including a spectacular, leaping 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-and-20 that set up the successful 53-yard field goal. Later in the quarter, Beckham had a shot at a perfectly-thrown deep ball down the middle of the field by Manning but the safety knocked the ball out of Beckham’s arms. Three plays later, Beckham could not come down with another deep pass, this time along the right sideline. Of course, the big highlight was Beckham’s 63-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

However, that was basically it for Beckham. “He was sick on he sideline,” said Coughlin. “He was ill and was vomiting and so on and so forth. They held him. He didn’t come back with a lot of strength right there.”

Randle made a great 43-yard catch despite double-coverage on the opening touchdown drive and followed that up on the next play with an 18-yard reception down to the 1-yard line. In the second quarter, Randle made another big play with another athletic 36-yard grab on 3rd-and-7. Three plays later, he caught a 25-yard pass. These plays helped the Giants get into FG range. However, the drive stalled when Randle was flagged with an offensive pass interference (pick) penalty.

Also on the downside, Randle really should have have come down with three more catches, including a 3rd-and-9 pass in the second quarter and a 3rd-and-11 pass on the play before the blocked punt. On the Giants’ third-quarter drive that ended with a 53-yard field goal, Randle had a key 24-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-2. After a 15-yard catch by Beckham, Randle appeared to have caught a 34-yard touchdown pass but a holding penalty wiped out the play. Then the inconsistency returned as Randle dropped the very next pass.

The only other receiver targeted in the game was Preston Parker, who caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in direction for 20 yards. He had a key 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 two plays before Beckham’s 63 yard catch-and-run.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell caught 2-of-6 passes thrown in his direction for 26 yards. On the Giants’ first FG drive, Donnell didn’t do a very good job of picking up a pass rusher on an incomplete 2nd-and-5 pass. One play later, Manning tried to hit him deep on the end zone, but he couldn’t make the play and the Giants settled for three points. On the following drive, Donnell got wide open on a 3rd-and-5 play but dropped a pass thrown behind him and the Giants had to punt. Donnell did have a 10-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter. Eli went deep to Donnell again in the fourth quarter but couldn’t connect.

Adrien Robinson could not make a play on a deep pass opportunity.

Offensive Line

Pass protection was pretty good as Eli Manning was not sacked and only officially hit three times. That was quite an improvement over the first Giants-Eagles game when Manning was sacked eight times, especially when you keep in mind that the Giants took a lot of deep shots down the field in this game.

Run blocking remains a sore spot as the Giants only averaged three yards per carry on 25 attempts against the NFL’s 17th-ranked run defense.

For example, on the first play of the second NYG drive, OC J.D. Walton and LG Weston Richburg allowed the Eagles’ nose tackle to run right past them to nail Jennings for a 3-yard loss.

Jennings has no chance as NT runs by Walton and Richburg.

Jennings has no chance as NT runs by Walton and Richburg.

Here you see Fletcher Cox shove Walton back into the backfield, disengage, and nail Williams for no gain.

Fletcher Cox abusing J.D. Walton.

Fletcher Cox abusing J.D. Walton.

After Jenning’s 18-yard run in the third quarter, Walton got shoved back again on a 3-yard loss. Then he made matters worse by getting flagged with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Two plays later, Walton was flagged with a false start and the Giants found themselves in a 3rd-and-29 situation, largely due to Walton.

Of course, the huge offensive line mistake was the holding penalty on LT Will Beatty that wiped out Rueben Randle’s 34-yard touchdown. The Giants had to settle for a field goal instead.

Even late in the game when the Giants were down by 8 points in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles probably looking pass first, the Giants couldn’t run it. Look how neither Walton nor Beatty can get any movement at the point-of-attack.

Both Walton and Beatty stonewalled and Jennings is bottled up.

Both Walton and Beatty stonewalled and Jennings is bottled up.

Defensive Overview

Just another dreadful performance. The Giants’ defense gave up 27 points, 23 first downs, 426 total net yards, 262 passing yards, and 164 rushing yards. The Eagles converted 7-of-16 third-down attempts (44 percent). And Philadelphia gained 20 yards or more on EIGHT plays.

The defense allowed the Eagles to score two touchdowns on their first two possessions, allowed the Eagles to drive the field at the end of the first half to set up an easy field goal, and couldn’t stop the Eagles in the second half once the Giants had twice cut their lead.

Yet after the game, Coughlin – at least publicly – seemed borderline delusional about the play of his defense against an Eagles’ offense led by Mark Sanchez of all people.

“I thought our defense battled,” said Coughlin. “Their first score was right down the field and score, but once we settled down, we did a decent job of holding them. I’m not sure what the number of punts were or anything like that. We did have some three and outs, which was very good and put ourselves in position…Defensively, again, I say we had a good plan, the plan was well taught. I thought we did a pretty good job, although you always say you’re going to try to stop the run. They had a lot of run yardage as it turns out.”

Defensive Line/Linebackers

Really shitty run defense once again against the Eagles as Philadelphia gouged New York for 164 yards, averaging over 5 yards per carry. The pass rush was not as consistent as the team’s four sacks suggest.

The best of a mediocre bunch was Jason Pierre-Paul (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits). The Giants didn’t get much out of Kerry Wynn (3 tackles) and Damontre Moore (1 tackle) at defensive end. Cullen Jenkins (1 tackle) also played some end but was largely invisible.

The tackles played very poorly, especially Johnathan Hankins (2 tackles, 1 QB hit) and Mike Patterson (4 tackles). Their defense on the goal line early in the fourth quarter was embarrassing as the running back jogged into the end zone untouched. Markus Kuhn (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) was a little better, but not much.

The linebackers just didn’t make enough plays although Mark Herzlich flashed statistically with 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for a loss. He did sack Sanchez and made a nice tackle short of the first-down marker on a 3rd-and-2 run. Jameel McClain had eight tackles and one pass defense in the end zone at the end of the first half. Spencer Paysinger played but didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

On the first running play by the Eagles – a play that picked up 23 yards – JPP, Patterson, and Hankins were all blocked and McClain overran the play.

JPP, Patterson, and Hankins blocked; McClain overruns the play.

JPP, Patterson, and Hankins blocked; McClain overruns the play.

On the very next snap, both McClain and Herzlich bite badly on the play fake to the left as WR Jordan Matthews crosses wide open behind them to the right en route to his 44-yard catch-and-run TD.

Linebackers leave big hole in coverage by biting on play-action fake.

Linebackers leave big hole in coverage by biting on play-action fake.

On 2nd-and-15 on Eagles’ next possession, note how Hankins and Moore are easily blocked up front and no other linebacker or defensive back is anywhere near the line of scrimmage to help out against LeSean McCoy on an 8-yard run.

Moore and Hankins blocked and no one else there to stop McCoy.

Moore and Hankins blocked and no one else there to stop McCoy.

After Eagles pick up first down on 3rd-and-7, Wynn fails to account for Sanchez on a read option (and McClain is completely driven away from play) on 15-yard run by a nimble-footed quarterback (sarcasm off).

Kerry Wynn bites on play fake and Sanchez runs around him for 15 yards.

Kerry Wynn bites on play fake and Sanchez runs around him for 15 yards.

And then there is this little gem where the Giants’ defense appears unbalanced towards the side with fewer players. Everyone bites on McCoy’s first step to the left before he cuts back to the right and there is NO ONE on the perimeter of the defense to stop the run and McCoy gains 21 easy yards. This was a big play on the Eagles’ touchdown drive that put Philadelphia up 31-19.

No one outside to stop McCoy on 21-yard gain.

No one outside to stop McCoy on 21-yard gain.

How bad was the defense? With the Eagles up by 8 points with 4 minutes left to play, and Philadelphia facing a 3rd-and-18 from their own 8-yard line, the Giants should have been prepared for a draw play. Instead they gave up 17 yards on the draw and almost a first down.

Defensive Backs

Mark Sanchez completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. WR Jordan Matthews caught eight passes for 105 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass. The other wideouts to catch passes were Jeremy Maclin (3 catches for 49 yards) and Riley Cooper (2 catches for 37 yards). The tight ends caught 5 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Harris (10 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) was beat by TE Zach Ertz for 18 yards on Philly’s first offensive snap. Two plays later, Stevie Brown (3 tackles) looked pathetic and slow trying to make a tackle on WR Jordan Mathews, who is not known for his speed, on his 44-yard touchdown catch-and-run. On the next possession, Harris was beat by Ertz again for 10 yards on 3rd-and-7.

Chykie Brown (6 tackles, 1 pass defense) had good deep coverage on Cooper on the Eagles’ second drive, but he was later flagged on this same drive with a questionable and game-altering 41-yard pass interference penalty on a play where Stevie Brown picked off Sanchez at the NYG 9-yard line. Three plays later, on third-and-goal, TE Brent Celek scored on a 1-yard TD reception by beating Harris who got caught up in the goal line congestion. Harris missed a tackle on McCoy after a short pass early in the 4th quarter on a play that picked up 15 yards and then got beat by Matthews on an 8-yard slant down to the 1-yard line. Chykie Brown got flagged with an offside penalty on 3rd-and-13 that helped the Eagles move a bit closer for their last field goal.

Antrel Rolle (8 tackles) just doesn’t seem to be making plays anymore against the run and the pass. On 1st-and-goal from the NYG 6-yard line, Mark Herzlich gambles on Mark Sanchez keeping the ball on a read-option play. Instead, RB LeSean McCoy has the ball. In my opinion, Rolle has to cover the gap on the potential cutback run more aggressively than he did. Instead, Rolle only makes the tackle after McCoy gains five yards down to the 1-yard line.

Antrel Rolle needs to make the play sooner in the hole on the goal line.

Antrel Rolle needs to make the play sooner in the hole on the goal line.

Late in the third quarter, Rolle had McCoy all alone but let him get away for an 11-yard gain.

Rolle has McCoy 1-on-1 but lets him get away on 11-yard run.

Rolle has McCoy 1-on-1 but lets him get away on 11-yard run.

Rolle also committed a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Eagles’ last scoring drive.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2 tackles) gave up a big 20-yard completion to Maclin on 3rd-and-16 on the Eagles’ FG drive right before halftime. He also didn’t make much of an effort to get off a block on Matthew’s 44-yard touchdown. Quintin Demps (3 tackles) didn’t make any plays.

But what really drives me nuts are plays where receivers are simply left wide open, either from flaws in the defensive schemes and/or mental mistakes by the players.

Note how no one is anywhere near two Eagles receivers on this 3rd-and-7 play where Matthews picked up an easy 24 yards.

It's 3rd-and-7, not 3rd-and-27.

It’s 3rd-and-7, not 3rd-and-27.

And no one covers Jeremy Maclin on a short crossing route that picked up 25 yards.

Easy pitch-and-catch again for Sanchez and his receiver.

Easy pitch-and-catch again for Sanchez and his receiver.

And at the end of the first half, the corner and safety (Rolle) were nowhere to be found on a 22-yard completion to Cooper.

Seriously?

Seriously?

There were a few positives, but not many. Chykie Brown knocked away one pass. Harris did pick off Sanchez and returned the ball to the Eagles’ 49-yard line and tipped away a pass intended for Ertz in the end zone at the end of the first half.

Special Teams Overview

The punt blocked for a touchdown early in the third quarter was a difference maker. Punter Steve Weatherford’s other six punts averaged 41.8 yards, but only a 33.7 net. The Eagles returned two punts for 15 yards with a long of 13 yards. Zack Bowman made a nice play on one return by tackling Sproles right away.

Josh Brown was 4-of-4 on field goals, including kicks of 38, 20, 36, and 53 yards. Five of his seven kickoffs went for touchbacks. The Eagles returned one kickoff 29 yards and the other only went for 11 yards.

I have no idea why the Giants were trying to draw the Eagles offsides with a hard count on a fake FG attempt since the penalty would not have helped them there. Instead, Weatherford was flagged with a false start.

The Giants did not return a punt as all seven were fair caught by either Rueben Randle (5) or Odell Beckham (2) – bad job by the Giants in holding up the Eagles’ gunners.

Preston Parker’s three kickoffs were returned to the 24, 19, and 20 yard lines. He fumbled his first kickoff return but was fortunate the loose ball was recovered by Mark Herzlich.

(Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 28, 2014)
Dec 282014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-26 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the defeat, the Giants finished the 2014 NFL season with a 6-10 overall record and 2-4 in the NFC East.

Despite the score, the Giants had advantages total net yards (505 to 426), net yards passing (429 to 262), and time of possession (34:37 to 25:23). But the Eagles scored on special teams (blocked punt) and dramatically out-rushed the Giants (164 to 76). The Giants also were flagged eight times for 106 yards, including a holding penalty that wiped out a a touchdown pass. Each team’s quarterback threw one interception.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Statistically, quarterback Eli Manning and wide receivers Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle had big games. Manning completed 28-of-53 passes for 429 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Beckham caught 12 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown, while Randle caught six passes for 158 yards.

The Giants drove 80 yards in six plays on their first possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead. Randle caught back-to-back passes of 43 and 18 yards, setting up running back Andre Williams’ 1-yard touchdown run.

But the Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the game and went up 14-7. First the Giants’ defense surrendered a 3-play, 80-yard drive ending with a 44-yard touchdown pass. Then the defense allowed a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass.

The Giants had three more scoring possessions in the first half, but each ended with field goals instead of touchdowns. The Giants cut the Eagles lead to 14-10 on a 38-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown after the Giants stalled at the Eagles’ 20-yard line. After two three-and-outs by New York, the Giants drove 47 yards in 10 plays, but stalled at the Eagles’ 2-yard line and settled for a 20-yard field goal. Then the Giants drove 71 yards in 10 plays but were forced to settle for a 36-yard field goal after reaching the Eagles’ 3-yard line. At this point, the Giants were up 16-14 with just over two minutes to play in the half.

However, the Giants’ defense allowed the Eagles to drive 66 yards in 11 plays to regain the lead 17-16 by kicking a 32-yard field goal as time expired.

The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half. The Giants could not gain a first down and sent out the punt team. Disaster struck when punter Steve Weatherford’s punt was blocked and returned 27 yards for a touchdown and Philadelphia went up 24-19 early in the third quarter.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants cut the lead to 24-19 after an 8-play, 46-yard drive set up a successful 53-yard field goal by Brown. However, a 34-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Randle was wiped out on this possession due to a holding penalty on left tackle Will Beatty.

Both teams exchanged punts again. The Eagles then drove 65 yards in eight plays, scoring a rushing touchdown from one yard out to extend their advantage to 31-19.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants responded with a Manning-to-Beckham special. On the fifth play of the possession, Manning hit Beckham for a 63-yard touchdown pass and the Giants pulled to within five points at 31-26.

But the New York defense could not hold. A 10-play, 53-yard march by the Eagles set up a 39-yard field goal as the Eagles went up by eight points at 34-26 with just under eight minutes to play.

Both teams exchanged punts and the Giants got one more chance with 3:45 to play. But Manning’s deep pass to Randle was intercepted at the Eagles’ 42-yard line and returned 40 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard. The Eagles then ran out the clock to end the game.

Video highlights/lowlights of the game are available at NFL.com.

Injury Report: Safeties Nat Berhe (knee) and Stevie Brown (foot sprain) both left in the first quarter and did not return. Tight end Larry Donnell left later in the second half with an ankle injury and did not return.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Tom Coughlin’s post-game transcript are available at BigBlueInteractive.com and Giants.com.

Post-Game Player Media Q&A’s: Video clips of media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were WR Corey Washington, TE Jerome Cunningham, OG Eric Herman, OG Adam Gettis, DT Dominique Hamilton, LB Devon Kennard (toe), and CB Jayron Hosley.

The Giants finished 3-5 both at home and on the road.

The Giants allowed 400 this season. It was just the fifth time in franchise history they gave up at least 400 points.

The Giants are 1-20 in regular-season games in which they throw at least 50 passes.

QB Eli Manning finished the season with a Giants-record 601 pass attempts and 379 pass completions. Manning finished the season with 4,410 yards, which is the second-highest total in franchise history. He passed for 4,933 yards in 2011. This was his fourth career 4,000-yard season. Manning threw 30 touchdowns, one shy of his career-high in 2011. Manning finished with 14 interceptions, or 13 fewer than he threw in 2013. Manning’s completion percentage (63.1) was a career-high. His passer rating of 92.1 was the second-highest of highest of his career (93.1 in 2009).

WR Odell Beckham is the first rookie in NFL history and the first Giants player with two 12-catch games in a season. Beckham is also the first NFL rookie with four consecutive games with at least 130 receiving yards and a touchdown. Beckham’s 185 yards is a Giants rookie record. Beckham joins Hall of Famer Michael Irvin as the only players in NFL history with at least 90 receiving yards in nine consecutive games. Beckham’s season totals were 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, all franchise rookie records. Beckham set NFL records for most catches and yards in the first 12 games to start a career. Beckham’s 91 catches were the second-highest total in franchise history, topped only by Steve Smith’s 107 receptions in 2009. Beckham averaged 108.8 yards a game, well ahead of Victor Cruz’s previous Giants record of 96.0, set in 2011.

PK Josh Brown finished the season with 24 successes in 26 attempts (one of the misses was a block), a 92.3 percentage that is a Giants single-season record.

The Giants finished the season with 47 sacks, their highest total since they had 48 in 2011 (they had 34 sacks last season).

DE Jason Pierre-Paul finished the season with 12.5, the highest total by a Giant since JPP had 16.5 in 2011.

NY Post Q&A with QB Eli Manning: A Q&A with Eli Manning by Steve Serby of The New York Post

NJ.com Q&A with DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul breaks down his 2014 season | Four Downs by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on General Manager Jerry Reese and Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Despite two straight losing seasons, NY Giants would be right to keep duo of Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning: Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning still a good combination to lead the Giants by Bob Glauber of Newsday

Article on WR Odell Beckham: Why Giants phenom Beckham Jr. says best is yet to come by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on OG John Jerry: Giants offensive lineman John Jerry rebuilds reputation after bullying scandal with Dolphins by Jordan Raanan for NJ.com

Article on the Upcoming New York Giants Offseason: Giants Will Revamp, but in a Considered Fashion by Bill Pennington of The New York Times

Dec 262014
 
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New York Giants Helmets (October 27, 2013)

New York Giants Helmets – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 28, 2014

The 90th season in the history of the New York Football Giants is about to end. After making the playoffs in five of seven seasons (2005-2011), including winning two NFL titles, the Giants have now missed the playoffs three straight seasons and five of the last six seasons. The Giants have have had two losing seasons in a row for the first time since 2003-2004 (Jim Fassel’s last season and Tom Coughlin’s first season).

With the benefit of time, it is easier to see that the overall problem has been the steady decline of overall starting talent and depth. Injuries have been a factor but so has questionable drafting and free agent moves. The proof is in the pudding. How many players on the current roster would you rank among the best in the NFL? How many are Pro Bowlers?

2014 clearly was not a success. There were some positives, the most important being the reconstruction of QB Eli Manning (who statistically has had one of his best seasons after playing his worst) and the emergence of WR Odell Beckham (perhaps the best player to come out of the 2014 NFL Draft). The tight ends played better than feared. And as could be expected, the offense did improve as players became more comfortable with Ben McAdoo’s system.

But minus Geoff Schwartz and no viable depth, the offensive line continued to remain a terrible liability. The team lost David Wilson for good, Rashad Jennings could not stay healthy, and Andre Williams struggled. The Giants averaged less than four yards per rushing attempt. Victor Cruz suffered a season-ending and potential career-altering knee injury. Rueben Randle did not develop as hoped.

Defensively, for all intents and purposes, the Giants lost Jon Beason during the OTAs. It was anticipated that the Giants’ secondary would be one of the best in team history and carry the defense, but the Giants lost Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride, and Cooper Taylor to injury, and Will Hill to drugs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was never healthy. Antrel Rolle regressed and the other safeties weren’t very good. Linebacker play was at best mediocre. While Jason Pierre-Paul did play better than the previous two years, he didn’t really make a big impact until it was too late. Mathias Kiwanuka didn’t get the job done. Cullen Jenkins was hurt. Johnathan Hankins played above expectations, but Damontre Moore played below them.

By all indications, Tom Coughlin and the bulk of his coaching staff will return in 2015. The larger question is the talent arrow now pointing up or down with this team? The Giants are getting a lot of positive contributions from young players such as Beckham, Richburg, Williams, Donnell, Pugh, Hankins, Wynn, and Kennard. Hopefully guys like Cruz, Amukamara, Ayers, and Schwartz come off season-ending injuries and return to form. But will JPP and Thurmond be back? What about Rolle? Can the Giants adequately address talent-deficiency issues on the offensive line, tight end, linebacker, and safety? There are still some significant questions about the overall state of the defensive line and wide receiving corps too. In a nutshell, the Giants need more impact players…more difference makers.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is this Perry Fewell’s last stand?
There has been much speculation that Perry Fewell’s job is in jeopardy. His defense is 28th in the NFL. Injuries undoubtedly have been a factor, but Fewell’s defenses have been cellar-dwellers for much of his tenure in New York. While the defense has improved its play in the last month, that success has come against some of the NFL’s worst offenses. On Sunday, even with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, the Giants will face one of the better offenses and an offense that Perry Fewell has struggled to counter. Perhaps the decision on whether to retain or fire Fewell has already been made. If not, this game may ultimately decide his fate.

Second Down
Can the Giants get out of this game injury free?
Given the fact that this game will be played on December 28, serious injuries suffered in this game could impact a player’s availability in 2015. The last thing the Giants need is another injury to a player important for their future.

Third Down
Can the Giants get over their mental block with the Eagles?
For some reason, in recent years, the Giants have more problems with the Eagles than they do with any other team. The Eagles are a decent team but they should not be giving the Giants as much problems as they have in recent years, including earlier this year when the Eagles absolutely dominated them. To be blunt, there is not a huge talent differential between these two teams. It’s time for New York to man up and take care of business.

Fourth Down
Can Eli Manning and Odell Beckham end the season on high statistical notes?
This game is basically meaningless other than draft position and whether or not the narrative heading into the offseason will be more positive or negative. And football is supposed to be a team sport and not about individual accomplishments. That said, it would be nice for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to continue to add to their positive overall individual statistical accomplishments. Manning is having one of his best overall seasons ever and it would be nice to further accentuate a very solid TD-to-INT ratio (29-to-13). He is two TDs short of his career high. And his 13 interceptions are his second-lowest ever since he became a full time starter. He’s less than 20 yards from his fourth 4,000-yard season. Odell Beckham? He’s breaking records left and right every time he plays.

BREAKING DOWN PHILADELPHIA:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Eagles are 5th in offense in terms of yards gained and 3rd in terms of points scored (over 29 per game). Their fast-break offense enables them to run on average 70 offensive snaps per game which is very high. The Eagles also tend to do very well early in games,  having scored 85 points on their first and second drives.

Partly due to injuries, the offensive line has had its up and downs this year. But the offensive line still has a number of talented players, especially on the left side with LT Jason Peters and LG Evan Mathis. The Eagles have a lot of talent at the skill positions including RB LeSean McCoy (149 rushing yards against the Giants in October), RB Darren Sproles, WR Jeremy Maclin (1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns), WR Riley Cooper, WR Jordan Matthews (7 touchdowns), TE Brent Celek, and TE Zach Ertz (coming off a 15-catch game). McCoy and Sproles can hurt you both running the ball and catching it, and present match-up problems for linebackers in coverage.

Weakness?
The Eagles turn the football over a lot, including both interceptions (20) and lost fumbles (15). Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent at quarterback, and is more at ease with the short- to intermediate-throw than the long ball.

DEFENSE
Strength?
The Eagles are ranked 25th in defense (three spots higher than the Giants). Earlier in the season, turnovers largely covered up bad play. That said, back in October, this 3-4 Eagles defense dominated the Giants at the line of scrimmage and shut out New York. Philadelphia can rush the passer as they are second in the NFL with 49 sacks. RDE Fletcher Cox is very good. Reserve pass rushing specialist DE Vinny Curry has nine sacks. LOLB Connor Barwin has 14.5 sacks and gave RT Justin Pugh fits in the last game. ROLB Trent Cole (6.5 sacks) has a history of playing well against New York. Reserve Brandon Graham can play a number of positions and also rush the passer.

Weakness?
The Eagles secondary isn’t very good. They give up a lot of yards and a lot of big plays. They have given up 64 plays of 20 yards or more, the highest in the NFL. The Eagles are also 23rd in scoring defense, allowing almost 25 points per game (which makes the shutout against the Giants even more disconcerting).

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Eagles have scored six touchdowns on special teams: two on punt returns, two on kickoff returns, and two on blocked punts. Darren Sproles is very dangerous on punt returns as is Josh Huff on kickoff returns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Odell Beckham
Not to sound like a broken record, but he’s THE reason to watch this game. Can he break 100 yards again?

The Offensive Line
If they can pass protect, the Giants can score a lot of points against this defense.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTHS:

Tom Coughlin - “Probably the best thing we have done is take care of the football. Offensively, the ball has not been turned over in two weeks, so I am hoping we can do that again.”

Chip Kelly - “(On Odell Beckham) They are moving him around more. Obviously, you have to know where he is at all times. They seem like they are putting him in more positions…In my opinion, I thought he was the best in the draft, I think he is showing people that.”

FINAL WORD:

The Eagles really are a middle-of-the-pack team that was thriving off of turnovers and big plays on special teams earlier in the season. But for some reason, they seem to have the Giants’ number. Offensively, if the Giants can protect Eli Manning, New York can score a lot of points on this defense. Can the offensive line play two strong games in a row against an opponent who rushes the passer so well?

Defensively, the Eagles are a match-up problem for the Giants. Devon Kennard (toe) will not play and the Giants will be forced to play a three defensive back package most of the game with the slow Jameel McClain and Mark Herzlich at linebacker. The Eagles should be able to run and pass against that defense unless Mark Sanchez plays like crap and/or the defensive line dominates. The Giants simply are not athletic (or good enough) at linebacker an safety to cover these backs and tight ends.

The Giants defense was pretty bad against a mediocre Rams offense last week, and it could have been much worse had not the quarterback missed wide open targets. I don’t see the defense playing very hard to save Perry Fewell’s job, and I wonder if this game will mark the last of Tom Quinn too – especially if the special teams gives up a score.

Eagles 38 – Giants 24.

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Markus Kuhn and Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (October 12, 2014)

Markus Kuhn and Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 27 – New York Giants 0

Long-time BBI readers know that in each season, the Giants play a game where we decide not to write the usual position-by-position breakdown because (1) it is too painful to re-watch the game, (2) no one really wants to read how much their favorite team sucked across the board, and (3) there is a need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

This is one of those reviews.

This game was not as close as the 27-0 score. The Eagles out-gained the Giants in total net yards (448 to 253), net yards rushing (203 to 85), net yards passing (245 to 168), and first downs (24 to 12). The Giants punted 10 times, turned the ball over on downs once, and fumble the ball away on another drive. Meanwhile, the Eagles scored on four of their first five offensive possessions and cruised the rest of the way.

But I think this game tells us more about the Giants than the Eagles.

What we do know is the Giants are only the third-best team in the NFC East. They are not as bad as the Washington Redskins, but they are not as good as the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. They are likely to finish the 2014 standings in third place.

It’s difficult to not be emotional following the embarrassing performance against a hated division rival and potential career-altering injury to Victor Cruz. And it’s always imprudent to make definitive statements or dramatic conclusions after a great win or bad loss.

The problem with the loss to the Eagles is that we don’t know if the team was so uncompetitive because their talent is so much worse than the Eagles, they were badly out-coached, or they didn’t match the Eagles’ sense of urgency and passion. The next month will provide us with more definitive answers.

But there are some troubling trends that we should take note of:

  • In the last three seasons, uncompetitive, blowout losses are becoming an all-too-common occurrence with this team. One of the greatest coaches in team history has been left standing at the post-game podium, literally scratching his head without answers (at least publicly) after too many games.
  • This team has an inflated opinion of itself. Two NFL titles will do that. But it’s literally a .500 team over the last two and a half seasons (19-19), with a quite a few embarrassing losses and no playoff appearances. The players talk too much. John Mara admitted that he felt last year’s 7-9 team had as much talent as the Super Bowl teams. And he often comes across as cocky. So does Jerry Reese, who continues to undervalue certain positions, a tendency that has repeatedly come back to bite the team in the ass. There is an arrogance about this team that is no longer deserved.
  • While Roger Goodell and the NFL front office seems to determined to turn the pro game into the version of football we see in Starship Troopers, games are still determined not only by great quarterback play, but in the trenches. When the Giants play well up front, they win; when they don’t, they lose. The Giants are not good enough on the defensive and offensive lines. They are better than they were in 2013, but these areas are still too weak.
  • Special teams hemorrhaging has not abated. It’s been a problem almost every season under Tom Quinn.

All of this becomes moot if the Giants upset the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys next week and go on to win the bulk of their division games and win the NFC East. But I don’t think that is going to happen. Victor Cruz is gone. The once unbelievably deep secondary is rapidly becoming weaker with the departure of Will Hill, the regression of Stevie Brown, and injuries to Walter Thurmond (on IR), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who can’t seem to finish a game now), and Trumaine McBride. The schedule is getting tougher and the Giants are already two games back with 10 to play.

The focus by fans, the media, and the team at this point should be more strategic. The Giants need to building for the future rather than taking a short-term approach. To be brutally frank, this is not a Super Bowl caliber team. All attention and effort should be focused on the long-term objective of getting the New York Football Giants back to Super Bowl contention.

With that in mind, let’s consider the following:

  • Eli Manning has proved that he has a lot of good football left in him. He has also proven he not only can adapt to the West Coast system, but he may actually be better suited for it as this state of his career. If the Giants believe that Eli has another good 5-6 years left in him (and I think they do), they have time to construct a better team around him. In the meantime, keep the emphasis on the short-passing attack in order to preserve Eli’s body and state of mind. They may lose many more battles this season, but don’t lose the war (i.e., Eli).
  • The Giants have some weapons in Odell Beckham and Larry Donnell to build around, but not enough. Victor Cruz’s career may be over, or he may never be the same player again. Jerrel Jernigan was drafted to be a slot receiver, but of course, he’s nowhere to be found. Don’t be shocked to see the Giants be in position to find the best prospect at their pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft to be another wide receiver. The need is there.
  • Offensively, the rest of the season should be spent on getting Manning and the entire offense more accustomed to the new system. The loss of Cruz will hurt. Teams that were focusing special attention on Cruz will now focus more attention on Larry Donnell and Odell Beckham. The three-headed monster is gone. Those visions of Cruz, Beckham and Donnell tormenting secondaries evaporated before they could be fully implemented. Does Rueben Randle have an NFL future? What about Corey Washington?
  • The Giants need to continue to allocate serious resources to the offensive line. Much of the rest of the season should be spent on seriously evaluating Will Beatty (who was improving until Sunday) and Justin Pugh (who largely shut down JJ Watt but allowed the Eagles pass rushers to blow by him all night). Weston Richburg is likely the center of the future. But Geoff Schwartz wasn’t looking too good before he got hurt. The Giants really could use a stud road grader at guard. And they need better overall depth to shove guys like James Brewer, Charles Brown, and Dallas Reynolds off of the team. The Giants also need to seriously evaluate long-time offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
  • Do the Giants consider Ben McAdoo a strong future head coaching candidate? If so, it may be time to part ways with Tom Coughlin. This is nothing against Coughlin, easily one of the three greatest head coaches in team history, and still one of the best in the business. But as John Mara, Jerry Reese, and Tom Coughlin have repeatedly pointed out this year after Kevin Gilbride, sometimes change and a shake-up is needed. Coughlin is 68 years old. How well does he relate to 25 year olds now? Has his message grown stale with a team that too often does not appear ready to play? Coughlin does not appear to be able to get his team to shut its mouth. Is a 68-year old the best candidate to oversee a rebuilding team? Perhaps most importantly, by keeping Coughlin, does the team lose out on the next up-and-coming hot coaching candidate? (But also keep in mind these “hot” coaching candidates are more often busts than not).
  • On the subject of coaches, it’s time for Tom Quinn to go. At best, his special teams have been average in good years. But usually, they are a team weakness. He’s been here eight seasons. Enough is enough.
  • I’m not a fan of Perry Fewell. I think he’s OK. The best his defense has ever performed was 2010 (notwithstanding the meltdowns against the Eagles and Packers) and for a 6-game stretch at the end of the 2011 season. But one never really comes away with the impression that, “Wow, we really out-coached the other team’s offensive coordinator.” Fewell seems to play it far too conservatively at times. This team has never been a good blitzing team under him. In years past, the defense has had trouble holding leads. This year, the defense seems to have trouble starting games. Is it more personnel than coaching? Personnel definitely has a significant role, but Fewell just doesn’t do it for me. I think the Giants can do better.
  • On the subject of defensive personnel, the Giants have some tough decisions to make. Antrel Rolle turns 32 in December is will demand a big contract. He may not be the right fit for a rebuilding club. But how will his departure impact DRC, who is signed through the 2018 season? A more difficult question is what do do with JPP? He will demand a mega-contract. He has played much better this year and is probably set for some breakout games. But he has had some injury issues and talks better than he plays. That said, replacing him would be very difficult and the Giants are already lacking in the pass rush department.
  • Also speaking defensive personnel, the team is going to continue to have issues until they get younger, faster, healthier, and more physical at linebacker. The game has changed. You need guys who can run and hit and stay on the field on all three downs. Jerry Reese continues to ignore that fact or attempt to patch up the linebacking corps with short-term free agent solutions and low-round draft picks.
  • In the secondary, hopefully the Giants can re-sign Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond to reasonable contracts. But the Giants need help at safety unless Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe really surprise. The importance of safeties in this league continues to rise.

My final comment is this. I like to think of myself as a logical man, someone not influenced by notions of “luck” and “karma” and “destiny.” But when it comes to football, those concepts sometimes enter my mind. The Giants had two of the most unbelievable and unexpected playoff runs in sports history in 2007 and 2011. It all came together at the right moment for the Giants. In 2007, the “football gods” decided that Eli Manning would turn from a bumbling, stumbling quarterback into a stone-faced assassin. Corey Webster would go from a draft bust to a cornerstone on the post-season defense. Playing hurt, Plaxico Burress would play perhaps his best game on the frozen tundra in Green Bay. Kevin Boss more than adequately filled in for Jeremy Shockey. The Giants defense would hold the highest-scoring offense in NFL history to 14 points. Eli and David Tyree combined for the greatest play in NFL history. In 2011, the Giants made a Super Bowl run with a near-dead last running game and defense. JPP became a one-man wrecking crew. Victor Cruz came out of nowhere to put up monster numbers. Hakeem Nicks had one of the greatest post-season performances by a wide receiver in NFL history. Jake Ballard made clutch plays in close victories.

Then the “football gods” decided that was enough. One by one, those playoff heroes were picked off, often under strange circumstances – Burress, Boss, JPP, Nicks, Cruz, Ballard, among others. It was as if each had their moment in the sun to play during those critical Super Bowl runs, but then, once that moment had passed, those players (or their exceptional ability) were taken away long before they should have been.

I wouldn’t trade 2007 and 2011 for anything. But we appear to be paying the price now. The football gods have decided to give someone else a chance.

(New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 12, 2014)
Oct 132014
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (October 12, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In a critically important game for both teams, the New York Giants were embarrassed 27-0 by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants fell to 3-3 (1-1 in the NFC East) behind the now 5-1 Eagles and 5-1 Dallas Cowboys. The Giants face the Cowboys next Sunday in a game that may determine the fate of their season.

Worse than losing the game, the Giants lost WR Victor Cruz for the season with a torn patella tendon in his right knee. The injury was so severe that Cruz was forced to stay in a hospital in Philadelphia overnight.

“Oh, it’s (an) incredible (loss),” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said of Cruz. “Huge loss.”

“It was tough to say anything,” QB Eli Manning said. “I just went over and patted him on his shoulder. Even if I did say anything, I don’t think he would’ve heard me, he was in so much pain.”

“That’s extremely tough,” S Antrel Rolle said. “He’s just down there screaming. That’s your brother down there on the floor.”

In addition, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. CB Trumaine McBride also left the game with injured thumb that required a cast.

As for the game, it was a failure across the board for New York on offense, defense, and special teams.

“In this league, you can’t take days off. You can’t take them off,” Rolle said. “We took (Sunday) off. Everyone took the day off.”

“It starts right here at the top,” Coughlin said. “Very, very poor performance. I take full responsibility for it. And there’s not a lot to say about it. Not a lot to say.”

Offensively, the Giants were shutout, held to 12 first downs, and 253 total net yards (168 yards passing and 85 yards rushing)

The Giants offensive line gave up eight sacks and could not open up holes for the running game. Heading into the game, the Eagles secondary was ranked 29th against the pass, but Eagles’ defensive backs were able to successfully press the Giants’ wide receivers at the line, and forced Manning to hold onto the ball longer than usual.

“It was great coverage,” Eagles’ Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis Jr. said. “We pressed up on guys and we were disguising some coverages, you know with a guy like Eli you have to show him one thing and give him another and just moved it around on him a little bit.”

“That’s the thing,” Eagles’ LB Trent Cole said . “Him holding onto the ball, that surprised me. Eli, he’s a guy that just gets it out quick, gets it to his receivers and he’s very accurate. I’ve always given it to him, I think he’s a great quarterback and I still think he’s a great quarterback. But, hats off to our secondary, man. I’m just very happy about how the were playing and making him hold onto the ball.”

Other Eagles said the Giants’ offense was easy to predict and defend.

“We knew if we gave (Eli Manning) a certain look, he would check to certain things,” said LB Brandon Graham. “We knew (what) was checking at the line…Everything (we thought) was going to happen, happened in the game.”

“I wasn’t surprised,” LB DeMeco Ryans said. “They did the things they showed on film.”

Defensively, the Giants allowed the Eagles to score 10 points on their first two drives as New York quickly found themselves in a 10-0 hole. The Eagles added another 10 points in the second quarter as the game was practically over by halftime.  Philadelphia gained 448 yards of offense, including 203 yards rushing.

Special teams were not better with the Giants giving up a 43-yard punt return and having a punt partially blocked.

The Giants were also penalized 10 times for 74 yards.

The Giants had talked a lot of trash leading up to this game, but in the end, the Eagles had the final word.

“I said when (the Giants) were talking all week that we would see what happened on Sunday,” LB Trent Cole said. “Well, we saw what happened Sunday.”

Notes:  Inactive for the Giants were RB Rashad Jennings (knee), LB Spencer Paysinger (hamstring), OG Adam Snyder, OGBrandon Mosley, OT James Brewer, DT Jay Bromley, and DE Kerry Wynn.

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Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (May 31, 2014)

Odell Beckham, Jr. – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 12, 2014

The New York Giants (3-2) square off against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) Sunday evening in New York’s second NFC East matchup.

FOUR DOWNS:

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 5, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
Will Odell Beckham Jr. be special on special teams?
For the past several years, the Giants have desperately been looking for some kind of spark on special teams. This Sunday it appears as if Beckham will be given a chance to ignite it. The Giants first round pick has taken reps as the team’s punt returner in place of Preston Parker. When Beckham was drafted, Giants general manager Jerry Reese raved about how Beckham could score in “three different ways.” He caught a touchdown last week. Now he’ll have a chance to do it in way No. 2.

Second Down
Can the Giants get pressure on Nick Foles?
The Eagles offensive line is battered, bruised and depleted, similar to the Atlanta Falcons a week ago. Can the Giants make Nick Foles’ day miserable? If not, and the team lets the third-year pro sit back and throw, it could be a long night for the Giants defense.

Third Down
Does Robert Ayers Jr. play?
When Ayers, who has been one of the biggest surprises for the Giants this year, showed up to practice Friday morning, he went to the trainers with neck pain. Turns out, Ayers is dealing with “Neck Spasms.” He didn’t practice Friday and is questionable for this Sunday.

Fourth Down
Can Eli Manning continue to be the Eli Manning of late?
Eli Manning and the Giants offense are playing the best football they have in years. The last three games, the offense has scored 30 or more points in each and Manning has had a 100+ quarterback rating. Those two statistics together have not happened since 2010. Will the hot streak continue for Manning? Or will Philly cool down the red-hot Giants offense.

BREAKING DOWN PHILADELPHIA:

Justin Tuck, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Giants Run Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles have been everything and more for the Philadelphia offense this year. While McCoy has struggled a little to get it going on the ground, Sproles has picked up the slack. The game breaking ability out of the backfield Sproles regularly displayed for the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers is now showcased weekly in Philly. When Sproles comes out of the backfield, it will most likely be Jacquian Williams tasked with stopping him. As far as McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul said it best, the moment you forget about him he’ll go off for 100 yards rushing in the first quarter. The two are the heart and soul of the offense, especially with a struggling Nick Foles.

Weakness?
It’s no shock here, the weakest unit on the Eagles offense was their strongest a year ago. The Eagles offensive line is bruised and battered heading into Sunday’s game. One of the reasons McCoy has struggled to get going, and Foles has looked nothing like the quarterback that burst onto the scene last year, is because of the men up front. There’s little running lanes, and even less time in the pocket. Lane Johnson is back, but Evan Mathis and Jason Kelse are not.

DEFENSE -by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Eagles defense is currently ranked 28th in terms of yards allowed, but it is opportunistic, having scored three touchdowns already this year. The base defense is a 3-4, but the Eagles will shift in various fronts. The strength of the defensive team is in the front seven. Defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thorton can cause issues, and are flexible enough to move to tackle when the Eagles go to their pass-rushing packages, where DE Vinny Curry becomes a factor. Linebacker/defensive end hybrids Trent Cole and Connor Barwin can also rush the passer. Brandon Graham has also been making plays. The leader, inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, should play this week after suffering a groin injury.

Weakness?
It’s the secondary. The Eagles are 29th against the pass. Outside of safety Malcon Jenkins and Brandon Boykin, the Eagles are struggling. Jenkins has all three of the Eagles interceptions this season. Corners Bradley Williams and Cary Williams are not very good. Nickelback Brandon Boykin will likely match up against Victor Cruz quite a bit. He’s undersized but very quick and athletic.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles, Brent Celek
It won’t be a Giant I have my eyes on this Sunday, but rather several Eagles, and what Giant covers them on passing routes. Prior to joining Philadelphia, head coach Chip Kelly and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick would exchange offensive philosophies. It was Kelly who originally came up with the two tight end approach the Patriots used to reach the Super Bowl (Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez), and Kelly is now building it in Philly with Ertz and Celek. The biggest question with Philadelphia is when the team comes out with two tight ends and Sproles in the backfield, who covers whom?  Will it be Jacquian Williams on Ertz, or Sproles? If Williams is on Ertz, who covers Sproles and Celek? Will Rolle come down? Or Demps? Will Trumaine McBride be forced to cover one of the tight ends? It’s a difficult task presented to Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell this week

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy -
Jason Pierre-Paul
JPP has been running his mouth all week. Can he back it up? Though the Eagles offense has struggled thus far this season, they are still loaded and capable of embarrassing an opponent. Philadelphia will go up tempo and prevent the Giants from subbing defensive personnel, such as getting pass rusher Robert Ayers in at defensive tackle. JPP will face one of the best left tackles in football in Jason Peters. But “great” players are supposed to show up in big games against top-notch opponents. If JPP isn’t a factor on Sunday night both rushing the passer, stopping the run, and being aware of misdirection (screens, end arounds, etc.), it could be a long night for the defense.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “Exciting week, divisional week preparing for coach Chip Kelly and his staff. Outstanding Philadelphia Eagles football team, 4-1 team that could be 5-0. Scored 156 points, 88 in the second half, 31.2 per game. They’ve overcome double-digit deficits in the second half of the first three weeks. They’re a team that’s scored on seven returns, which is amazing. You’re talking about being at this point, five games into the season, they have a punt return for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, they have two blocked punts for touchdowns, they have three defensive touchdowns, so they’ve done an outstanding job in that area.”

Chip Kelly - “The team I see this year, they are playing…changed offensively in terms of their scheme. Eli Manning seems very comfortable in the scheme; he is getting the ball out a lot faster than they did before. They seem like they are in a lot more spread formations. Defensively, it is the same style. It looks like Jason Pierre-Paul is really playing at a high level right now, he is very healthy. Their front four is doing a lot of really good work. They added guys like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the secondary, who is an outstanding corner, so they added a couple pieces there, (a) really good football team coming in here on Sunday.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – Finally. The war of words between the trash-talking Giants and Philadelphia Eagles is put to rest with the teams stepping on the field Sunday night. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will be the Giants walking off it with their fourth straight victory.

Entering the game, the Giants have a better offense than the Eagle defense. And the Giants defense is better – with the offensive line at its present state – than the Eagles offense. The Giants are hot, the Eagles, despite their 4-1 record, are not. Everything points to New York continuing its winning streak. But I just don’t see it happening.

When the Giants played the Patriots in the past, the team is built to beat them. It didn’t matter how good, or how many weapons New England had, the Giants schematically were the perfect match. They were able to pressure Brady with four, knock him to the ground and control the clock to beat the unbeatable. They did it twice on the biggest of stages.

With Philadelphia, I see something similar. They match up very well against the Giants defense. Who exactly covers Celek? Sproles? Ertz? The Giants could go nickel, using Trumaine McBride to cover one, but that opens up rushing lanes. It’s a difficult situation.

It should be close, as all Giants and Eagles games seem to be. But I see an Eli Manning interception late in the fourth sealing the deal.
Philadelphia 24 – New York 20

Eric Kennedy - How good are the Eagles? Are they simply not as good as they were last year because of the injury issues on their offensive line and the loss of DeSean Jackson? Or are they poised for a breakout game? The problem – as Connor astutely points out – is that the Eagles have a lot of very dangerous underneath targets at running back and tight end who create significant match-up problems for the Giants defense. This is an opponent where the Giants will miss Will Hill and not having more overall speed and athleticism at linebacker. The Eagles are also one of the most dangerous screen teams in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, on paper, the Giants should be able to move the ball if the team can protect Eli Manning and create running room for Andre Williams. But if I’m the Eagles, I really challenge and test the ability of Williams to protect Eli. This was a bad time to lose Rashad Jennings, who is very good as pass protector and receiver. In a close game, specials will likely determine the outcome. The Eagles special teams have been outstanding. They have scored four touchdowns, including on blocked punts. The Giants special teams remain less than special, finding different ways to screw up each contest.

I think the Giants are the better team. But I also think there is something about those green turds from Philadelphia that bring out the worst in the Giants. The trash-talking, which was started by the Giants this week, was unnecessary, and I believe a sign of underlying doubt and mental weakness against this particular opponent.
Philadelphia 33 – New York 10

Oct 272013
 
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Linval Joseph, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Linval Joseph Sacks Matt Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants Defeat Philadelphia Eagles 15-7: The New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 15-7 on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The victory was the second win in a row for the Giants and their first road victory in eight games. The Giants are now 2-6 overall and 1-2 in the NFC East.

With the Cowboys falling to the Lions, though New York is still in last place in the division, the Giants are unbelievably only two games out of first place in the terrible NFC East.

“The key to the turnaround has been our enthusiasm,” said safety Antrel Rolle after the game. “After the 0-6 record, the coaches and players got together and we got on the same page. There were a lot of in-depth conversations. There was a lot of speaking as men to men, understanding your strengths and weaknesses and just the coaches and players being on the same page at the same time. As well as the coaches trusting the players and the players trusting the coaches and I think it’s definitely shown in our performance.”

The Giants did not score a touchdown, but controlled the game, holding advantages in total net yards (325 to 201), net yards rushing (88 to 48), net yards passing (237 to 153), total offensive plays (71 to 58), and time of possession (38:05 to 21:55). The Giants only committed one turnover (on special teams), while forcing three turnovers. On the downside, the Giants were penalized 11 times for 92 yards and were 0-2 in red zone opportunities.

For the second game in a row, the Giants’ defense shutout an opponent. The Eagles had 11 offensive possessions in the game. Three ended in turnovers, two on downs, and six with punts.

Four of the Giants’ six first-half possessions resulted in field goals. After a three-and-out on the Giants’ first drive, New York got the ball back three plays later with an interception by Rolle. The Giants then drove the ball 57 yards in nine plays to set up a 40-yard field goal by PK Josh Brown. The Eagles went three-and-out on their second possession and the Giants responded with a 7-play, 45-yard drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Brown. The Eagles picked up one first down and punted and the Giants went 48 yards in 12 plays, resulting in yet another Brown field goal, this one from 33 yards out. The Eagles picked up one more first down on fourth possession and then punted. Up until this point, halfway through the second quarter, the Eagles only had accrued two first downs in the game. The Giants responded with a 9-play, 53-yard drive and a 46-yard field goal by Brown.

With 2:24 left in the half, QB Matt Barkley replaced the ineffective QB Michael Vick. The Eagles quickly drove from their own 20-yard line to the Giants’ 2-yard line with 1:14 left in the half. But on 1st-and-goal, Barkley was sacked by CB Terrell Thomas. Barkley fumbled and LB Jacquian Williams recovered the loose ball at the Giants’ 12-yard line.

At the half, the Giants led 12-0.

The Eagles received the football to start the third quarter and Philadelphia again moved the ball, driving from their own 25 to the Giants’ 26-yard line. But after a sack by DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Barkley’s 4th-and-10 pass fell incomplete and the Giants took over on downs.

Neither team could pick up a first down on each of their next two possessions, resulting in four punts. At the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, New York put together their final scoring drive of the game, driving 32 yards in nine plays to set up a 27-yard field goal as the Giants went up 15-0 with 12:23 to play.

Both teams then exchanged punts again. The Eagles went for it on 4th-and-20 with 5:20 left in the game from the Giants’ 46, but the play only picked up five yards. The Giants could not run out the clock and with 4:19 to play, long snapper Zak DeOssie’s snap went over punter Steve Weatherford’s head and the Eagles recovered the loose ball for a touchdown. Giants 15 – Eagles 7.

Rolle recovered the Eagles’ onsides kick. Despite a delay of game penalty, the Giants were able to at least pick up one first down before punting with 36 seconds left in the game. Two plays later, safety Will Hill ended the game by picking off a deep sideline pass by Barkley at the Giants’ 38-yard line.

Offensively, QB Eli Manning finished the game 25-of-39 for 246 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Wideouts Victor Cruz (seven catches for 86 yards) and Hakeem Nicks (7 catches for 51 yards) were the leading receivers. RB Peyton Hillis carried the ball 20 times for 70 yards while RB Michael Cox chipped in with 19 yards on nine carries.

Defensively, Terrell Thomas had a team-high 11 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Will Hill both had interceptions, and Rolle also had a sack. DE Mathias Kiwanuka and DT Linval Joseph each had sacks too. LB Jacquian Williams recovered a fumble. The Giants had four sacks overall, coming into the game with only six on the season.

On special teams, Josh Brown was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts. But the Giants gave up their fourth special teams touchdown this season.

Video highlights are available at NFL.com.

Injury Report: WR Victor Cruz left with a stinger but returned. X-rays were negative.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Player Post-Game Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of post-game media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were QB Ryan Nassib, RB Brandon Jacobs (hamstring), RB David Wilson (neck), TE Adrien Robinson (foot), OC Dallas Reynolds, DT Shaun Rogers (knee), and CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring).