Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 29
With each week comes a gap that is that much shorter before this horrendous 2017 season is over for the bottom-feeder Giants, the second worst team in the NFL. What was destined to be a blowout-type projection with the Eagles aiming at a first round bye in the playoffs behind their MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz quickly became a closer-to-even match-up as Wentz tore his ACL last week. Nick Foles, former Eagles backup, was back in the saddle after a few unsuccessful seasons with the Rams and Chiefs, respectively.
The Giants’ 31st-ranked scoring offense came out, surprisingly, on fire. Eli Manning was spreading the ball out, hitting his targets on the numbers, and looking confident. They opened with a 13 play drive that ended with an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard touchdown run, the first time NYG scored 6 on their first drive of the game all season. Aldrick Rosas had his PAT blocked, leaving the score at 6-0. PHI responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with the biggest play being at the hands of a missed sack by Jason Pierre-Paul and a 32-yard pass interference penalty on Darian Thompson. Two plays later, Foles found the newly-signed long-term receiver Alshon Jeffrey for 6, his ninth TD catch of the year. There isn’t a single 3-WR combination on the Giants that have 9 TDs on the year.
Manning was out to prove that first drive wasn’t a fluke, as he engineered another touchdown via 10 plays. The Giants’ no-huddle offense sent the PHI defense scrambling, as the pass rush substitutes weren’t able to get on the field and the PHI defensive backs looked lost. Tavarres King brought in his 2nd TD catch of the year.
After a quick PHI possession, it took NYG 3 plays to get in the end zone again, this time a short pitch to Sterling Shepard and a 63 yard-after-catch scamper down the sideline aided by good downfield blocking and porous tackling by the PHI secondary. It was early in the 2nd quarter and NYG held a commanding 20-7 lead with the Eagles looking lost with a backup QB leading the charge. They had to stop the bleeding first, then figure how they were going to dig out of this deep hole on the road.
All within the last 6 minutes of the first half, a Manning interception to Ronald Darby led to a quick touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise) and then a blocked punt in NYG territory led to a touchdown pass from Foles to Trey Burton (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise). In 2:30 of game clock, the score went from 20-7 NYG to 21-20 PHI. The nightmares of 2017 continue. NYG did put together a quick and efficient 11 play drive at the end of the half capped by a 28-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas to take a 23-21 lead at halftime, however.
PHI took the lead back on the first possession of the second half via a field goal by Jake Elliot, a likely Pro Bowler. Foles was inconsistent, as he was for the rest of the half, but he made key throws and/or the NYG defense failed to step up in key situations. The second PHI possession of the second half yielded more points, this time a touchdown from Foles to Nelson Agholor after newly-acquired Jay Ajayi picked up a combined 54 yards on 2 straight plays, the second of which was another low-ball effort by Eli Apple. It was 31-23 just like that.
PHI offered a couple of mistakes themselves with an offsides on a NYG punt that led to a re-birth of a drive and a missed tackle by Darby that enabled King to scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, bringing NYG back with 2 of the Eagles towards the end of the 3rd quarter. NYG lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth, but for the 3rd time a NYG kick was blocked. This time Malcolm Jenkins snuck around the outside and got just enough of it. The 4th quarter woes appeared to be following this team yet again.
PHI marched down the field, ate up 7:30 of game clock, and hit a short field goal to extend their lead to 5. It was now touchdown or bust for the 2-11 Giants. Manning, yet again, led this offense down the field and was looking like his old, clutch self. With replacement-level receivers, he was spreading the ball out, escaping pressure, and making several changes at the point-of-attack in their solid no-huddle offense. It was 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line and…right tackle Bobby Hart proved it again. The worst right tackle in the league was flagged for a false start, pushing NYG back to the 11-yard line, a major difference. Manning was forced to throw the ball before he wanted to and it was out of the reach of Engram. Game over, Giants fall to 2-12.
- Eli Manning: 37/57 – 434 yards – 3 TD/1 INT. In 2 games this year, Manning has passed for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns against PHI. His 434 in this game were the most he has had in one game since week 4 of 2015. The play-calling called for more downfield passing than we have seen all year and it begs the question, why wasn’t this approach earlier in the year? Manning’s greatest strength has always been downfield passing and this was the first week we saw him do it consistently.
- Wayne Gallman: 8 att/39 yards – 6 rec/40 yards. More of the same from the 4th-round rookie. Gallman has a burst and change of direction that continues to create on its own that the other NYG backs don’t have, plain and simple. He is running hard and tough, in addition. His play, his improvement, and his approach each week is a good sign for the future.
- Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/7 yards – 1 TD – 1 rec/9 yards. Rightfully so, Darkwa is being slightly phased out of the offense as this team needs to see what Gallman can present. We know what we have in Darkwa. An average between-the-tackles rusher who can break tackles, which is important, but can’t do anything else at a high level.
- Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/139 yards – 1 TD. Shepard was targeted early and often, 16 times. That is the most Manning has targeted any pass catcher all year. Shepard did have another drop, however. This kid is a tough player who is starting to show he is more than a 3rd-and-5 slot receiver. He can make some things happen and excels at getting himself open. He is a keeper, but won’t ever be more than a #3 on a good passing offense.
- Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 74 yards. Lewis was targeted 10 times and is developing in a positive way before our eyes. I’m not ready to say he needs to be a part of the 2018 group, but he is closer than he was since Beckham and Marshall were injured. Lewis is showing more body control and speed as a route runner and when he is attacking a 50/50 ball. Good signs.
- Tavarres King: 2 rec – 70 yards – 2 TD. King made the most of his day, getting in the end zone twice despite only having a couple catches and leaving the game early via injury. His body control is upper tier, but elsewhere is game is very limited. Plus with that frame, not sure he will ever be durable.
- Evan Engram: 8 rec/87 yards. The second-most targeted pass catcher on the day is on a mini hot streak. He did have another drop, but this kid is just getting more and more confident each week. It is enabling him to play faster, which is hard to believe because he was already the most impressive athlete in the NFL at TE. He was manhandled by DE Vinny Curry twice, so there is still a blocking deficiency there but he has done better than most thought this year.
- Tackles: With Manning dropping back deeper in the pocket and holding onto the ball longer, it put more on the OL’s shoulders. For the most part, they responded well against a pass rush that has been more than solid this year. Ereck Flowers had a another below average game, allowing 2 sacks (1 of which was on a 2 pt conversion), 2 pressures, and recorded a holding penalty. He saved himself with some quality run blocking, however. Bobby Hart is still in the starting lineup for some reason. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL while recording an atrocious false start penalty at the end of the game. Chad Wheeler deserves playing time over these next 2 weeks.
- Interior: Pleasantly surprised by this group. They didn’t do a good job run blocking, but they held up well against an interior pass rush that has been among the best in football this year. You could see the frustration boiling in Timmy Jernigan late in the game. John Jerry had his second-best game of the year and third game where he was above average. Brett Jones and Jon Halapio were right at the slightly above average mark.
- Ends: Another woefully quiet game by Jason Pierre-Paul. He was over-matched by Lane Johnson, arguably the top RT in the league. He had a free sack put in front of him in the first quarter but Nick Foles, not known for his movement ability at all, pump faked and juked him badly which led to Thompson’s 32-yard pass interference penalty. Olivier Vernon was disruptive, as he was up against the backup left tackle for PHI. He recorded a sack-fumble and a season high 6 pressures. It was his best game of the year.
- Tackles: Damon Harrison played a season high 75% of the team’s snaps, good to see a guy like him who has been banged up almost all year continue to play his heart out. His grades have been sky high all season. Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 3 tackles and continues to improve his hand techniques. This DT unit is going to be a major strength moving forward, among the best in the league. Jay Bromley recorded a TFL in limited action and he has been a pleasant surprise over the past 5-6 games.
- B.J. Goodson was back in the lineup, but ended up leaving the game with another injury. He has had a very hard time staying on the field and whether it is luck or not, it will have to be considered when evaluating how to approach the LBs this offseason. He did have 7 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His speed and range looks limited, as he just doesn’t carry any sort of fluidity unless he is attacking downhill. That can be a problem.
- Kelvin Sheppard is an older, slightly less athletic version of Goodson. Not dismissing him, as he does make an impact between the tackles and plays with a physical brand. However he, Calvin Munson, and Devon Kennard simply take away from the speed of the defense. Kennard gets a pass because of his pass rush versatility, but this team needs more speed in this unit. No doubt. And you know who is a free agent this upcoming offseason? Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.
- Another solid game by Ross Cockrell. I am curious to see the numbers on him over the past 5-6 weeks when it comes to QB rating on balls thrown his way. He had another solid PD and looked excellent on the All-22. Coverage strengths against all levels of the passing tree.
- Eli Apple was back in action and showed a few flashes of his talent, which is certainly first-round caliber. He was involved in some very physical plays and after that, his hustle and intensity dwindled. When I see things like that, I just think this kid isn’t a football player. Very poor effort on the Jay Ajayi screen play that went for a big gain. Maybe the new coaching staff will give him the reboot he needs, but I’m not optimistic there.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made an aggressive mistake that led to an Eagles touchdown. He jumped the wrong route and left his man sitting in the end zone all alone. Mistake? Yes. But if he guessed right and came away with a pick 6, he would have been praised for it. I don’t mind things like that happening to be honest.
- Darian Thompson finished with 9 tackles and a PD. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes but the two that he did make were game-changing. He had a deep pass interference call that put PHI inside the 5-yard line and a horrid missed tackle on Zach Ertz. The situations exaggerated the mistakes a tad, but that is the name of the game. Those two mistakes led to 10 points for PHI.
- Landon Collins only played about a quarter of the team’s snaps. Andrew Adams was his replacement and finished with 6 tackles, but also missed 2 others. After a surprising rookie season in 2016, he appears to have gone backwards. He can be beat by quickness too often and that is simply the name of the game in the NFL now. Not sure he deserves to be here long term.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 1/2 (Made 28, 48 blocked). Rosas had an extra point blocked as well as a 48-yard attempt late in the game. Looking back, it looks like he was a hair slow getting to the ball and the blocking was poor on the field goal. Rough year for this kid.
- P Brad Wing: 2 Punts – 37.0 avg. Quiet day for the most used punter in the league this season.
- QB Eli Manning, WR Sterling Shepard, DE Olivier Vernon
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Bobby Hart, FS Darian Thompson
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
- I said this before the Wentz injury, but this PHI secondary is going to hold this team back in the postseason. If and when they get matched up against a quality air attack, they’re finished. I’ve heard some commentators speak highly of Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby…etc. These guys are not good at all.
- Unfortunate for PHI fans that they won’t be able to see what their young franchise QB can do in the playoffs. It is a huge part of whether or not they have “The One”. Postseason play is huge in terms of evaluating QB play and they are going to have to wait now.
- The PHI pass rush has the makings of something that can be special. Rookie Derek Barnett, the underrated Brandon Graham, and interior forces of Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox may be one of the best 3rd-down rushing groups in the league. And they are all going to be there for at least another few seasons. Another reason to stock up on OL talent for NYG.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- Touching on this again…but why wasn’t the passing offense approached like this all year? Throw the ball downfield. Let Eli take his chances, even if it means more INTs. I think this game proves he has plenty left in the tank and he should be the guy next year. But it also proves that when McAdoo was here, the approach was very flawed. It was extremely easy to predict and defend against. This was the best the passing game looked in 2 years and Manning had Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Kalif Raymond running routes!
- I still have a thought of considering Saquon Barkley, RB out of Penn State, with the NYG first pick. I see a lot of “special” in him. Yes, if the next franchise QB is there grade-wise you take him, but what if he isn’t? You can’t force that pick and you could get a guy that helps this team win games next year. I can see a combination of Barkley and Wayne Gallman just running wild. Objective A, B, and C after that is building the OL. I think it is a good plan for the last year or two of Manning’s career here.
- Is the defense that bad? I don’t think so. I think there are legit worries at two spots. One, the edge rushing. This team needs a new, young fresh force at DE or pass rushing OLB. Two, the depth at CB is going to look thin if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t back. He has another year left I think, but he is frail and behind him, there is next to nothing. CBs are very hard to find. Cockrell is a keeper, Jenkins can be very good if his head is on straight, Apple is such a wildcard. That isn’t a spot you want to struggle at. But if they can bring in one more feasible talent and build the edge rush, I think this defense can quickly be back in the top-10 discussion.