New York Giants 27 – Philadelphia Eagles 17
Just 24 days prior to this game, NYG and PHI faced off on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Because of the miserable state of the NFC East, it was a game that could have set NYG up for an eventual first-place destination. It was a hard-fought loss that seemed very winnable. Since that 1-point loss, NYG lost by 2 to Tampa Bay and won by 3 against Washington. PHI on the other hand beat Dallas by 14 before heading into a much-needed bye week that would help accelerate the recovery of their extended and impactful injury situation. PHI, coming off a 2-week rest, had tackle Jason Peters, running back Miles Sanders, tight end Dallas Goedert, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and wide receiver Jalen Reagor in uniform, none of whom were on the field when these two teams last met.
The Giants offense has been stellar in the first quarter since October 11. In fact, they entered the game with a 5-game streak of scoring touchdowns in the first 15:00 of game clock. That streak continued in this one, as Daniel Jones ran for a 36-yard score on a designed run that was perfectly blocked and executed. After allowing a 40-yard field goal to PHI kicker Jake Elliott, NYG put together a 13-play drive that ended in a Wayne Gallman touchdown run. The Giants were faced with a 4th-and-1 at the start of the 2nd quarter and they altered the personnel at the last second to confuse the PHI defense and put them on their heels. They then quick-snapped it and Gallman hurdled over the pile at the line of scrimmage for the score. NYG had an early 14-3 lead.
The two offenses traded scoreless possessions but following the NYG 3-and-out, punter Riley Dixon booted a 71-yard punt to pin PHI inside their own 10-yard line. PHI then made it to midfield before punting and pinning NYG inside their own 5-yard line. NYG then followed suit, making it to midfield as well before punting and pinning PHI at their own 11. The special teams were performing at an admirable level as the score remained 14-3 heading into halftime, as both defenses were able to level out and find their footing.
The Giants defense had allowed 48 combined points in the second half of the last three games, an average of 16 points. Their struggles there have been a key culprit in finding themselves on the wrong side of close games. That trend continued as PHI scored on a 56-yard touchdown run by Boston Scott on their opening possession of the 3rd quarter. Scott entered this contest with 5 career touchdowns in 21 career games, 4 of which were against NYG. Wayne Gallman responded with a touchdown run of his own, however, as the NYG offense featured two straight downfield throws to Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate that netted a combined 65 yards. NYG maintained their double-digit lead but that disappeared again as PHI put together another touchdown drive, this one capped off by a 5-yard Corey Clement run. PHI, after successfully executing a 2-point conversion on their previous touchdown, opted to go for another 2 points despite being down by 4. They failed this time, as Leonard Williams got the unrecorded sack on Carson Wentz, the most sacked QB in football, to keep the game at 21-17.
The NYG offense stalled. They went 3-and-out on two consecutive drives, but PHI could not capitalize. Their sloppy play up front and the Wentz accuracy issues that have plagued him all year long continued to surface. NYG lengthened their lead to 7 via a 35-yard field goal before stopping the PHI offense again for the third straight time, this one ending in a James Bradberry 4th-and-10 pass deflection that gave NYG the ball with a touchdown-lead and under 5 minutes left. A surprise 40-yard pass to Darius Slayton put NYG into field goal range where Mr. Automatic kicker Graham Gano hit his 20th consecutive attempt, this one from 44 yards. NYG had a 10-point lead and the PHI offense just couldn’t make it a game. NYG beat Philadelphia for the first time since 2016.
NYG wins 27-17.
-Daniel Jones: 21/28 – 244 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 100.0 RAT
Jones added a team high 64 rushing yards on 9 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run on the first drive. Jones also had a second touchdown taken off the board by an Andrew Thomas holding penalty. For the first time in his career, Jones has now gone 2 straight games without turning the ball over. Not coincidentally, NYG is 2-0 in those games and they are 3-0 in the games since last year in games he kept the “0” next to his name in the turnover column. Jones sprinkled the ball in all over the route tree with accuracy and precision. He also spread the ball out and did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him. Heading into the bye week, Jones is no-doubt trending in the right direction.
–Wayne Gallman: 18 att / 53 yards / 2 TD and 1 rec / 7 yards
Throughout the recent surge in quality play from NYG as a whole, it may be Gallman who has been the biggest surprise and biggest beneficiary. He has been playing at, by far, the highest level of his career. While the numbers aren’t going to jump off the screen, Gallman’s aggressive downhill style and nose for yards after contact have been a huge part of this offense. He rushed for 37 yards on 7 carries in the first half when NYG’s offense was really clicking. This is the fourth straight game in which Gallman has scored a touchdown. Brandon Jacobs was the last NYG running back to do that, all the way back in 2010. He had 3 touchdowns in 38 games heading into this season. Just an outstanding job by the fourth-year back who will be a free agent this winter.
-Alfred Morris continues to be the number two guy in the backfield right now. He added 28 yards on 7 carries, adding some hard-nosed, blue-collar pile pushing. Dion Lewis had 17 yards on one catch and was flagged for a holding penalty.
-Darius Slayton: 5 rec / 93 yards.
Slayton went down with an injury on the second offensive NYG play and missed some time but was back in the 2nd quarter. He caught those 5 passes on just 7 targets, as Darius Slay was on him most of the afternoon. His 40-yard catch was a high-level ball skill reception that came at a huge moment.
-Sterling Shepard finished with 6 catches on 6 targets for 47 yards. He made a huge downfield grab in the third quarter. The rest of his receptions were dinky-dunk passes. Golden Tate, a week after being benched for a week, came back and caught 2 passes for 44 yards including a huge grab in which he displayed outstanding ball skills.
-Austin Mack had 1 catch for 9 yards on his lone target. The catch was a brilliant reach-back, hands-only catch on a poor throw by Jones. Mack also had a key block on the Jones TD run and showed some serious physical play at a few different moments. He is an intense player who is making the best of his limited opportunities.
-Evan Engram was targeted just three times, He caught 2 passes for 15 yards, one of which was an excellent hands-grab on a ball that was thrown away from his body. Perhaps his most impressive play on a ball was on the incomplete pass where he jumped and turned his body, snared it with one hand, and came down with it albeit out of bounds.
-Kaden Smith added 2 catches for 12 yards and came up with 2 key blocks, one of which was on the Daniel Jones touchdown run.
-I was really impressed with this group, for the most part. The interior had a really strong first half, run game in particular. Rookie Shane Lemieux got the start over Will Hernandez even though Hernandez was back after missing two games on the Covid-19 List. He allowed 1.5 sacks, as he continues to struggle with his anchor as a pass blocker. But his quickness and initial pop as a run blocker has been a difference maker. The speed out of his stance in translated well into power. His smarts and understanding of the game have been a breath of fresh air. In addition, Kevin Zeitler is looking much better than he did earlier in the year. His lateral movement has been crisper, and he is getting quality movement with his punch. He suffered a concussion and was replaced by Hernandez late in the game.
-Nick Gates had a rough day in pass protection, allowing 2 pressures and 1 sack. With that said, the sack was allowed on a Hail Mary play at the end of the first half. He wasn’t challenged much one-on-one, but when he was, he looked late. As a run blocker, he continues to be an absolute boss. The NYG blocking scheme is pulling their guards laterally often and that can only be done if the center is effectively blocking back side, which Gates is doing. His run blocking has been a huge difference maker in the run-game surge we have seen over the past 5 weeks.
-Andrew Thomas had a solid day. He allowed just one pressure but did allow a half-sack on the first drive. One could make the argument that Jones held onto the ball for too long on that play. Thomas’ most notable gaffe was on a touchdown run by Jones that was called back because of his holding penalty. While he is normally grading out very well as a run blocker, Thomas sometimes fails to sustain quality contact in space with his feet under him and his chest up. Nevertheless, his arrow continues to point up.
-Cameron Fleming’s arrow is still pointing down, steeply. He allowed 3 pressures and graded below average in the running game. I think with the bye week here, it is time to insert Matt Peart as the starter on the right side.
-NYG got some impact out of Trent Harris, who finished with 3 tackles, a half-sack, and 1 pressure. He played about half of the defensive snaps and while we shouldn’t get too excited about this, he showed the most athletic “juice” off the edge of anyone we have seen since Lorenzo Carter went down.
-Kyler Fackrell had a poor game. He finished with 2 tackles and a pressure, but he was a key culprit for the struggles NYG had against the run. He didn’t get off blocks and he whiffed on Miles Sanders two times.
-Leonard Williams, who unfairly gets put into the discussion surrounding NYG’s disappointing roster simply because he was acquired via trade for 2 middle round draft picks, had one of his best games since becoming a Giant. He had 2 tackles, 5 pressures, and a sack on a PHI 2-point conversion attempt, which does not show up in the box score. He was getting in on the action away from the point of attack, he was in Wentz’s face all day, and he made it easier on the edge rushers. His one mistake was a silly roughing the passer penalty where it was a blatant, unnecessary take down right in front of the ref that will get called every single time.
-The rest of the NYG defensive interior shined against the pass along with Williams. Dexter Lawrence had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pressures. Dalvin Tomlinson finished with a tackle and a pressure. If these three can stay in the NYG uniform for another few years and this front office gets their hands on a high-end edge presence, watch out.
-The one issue NYG had up front was against the run. The three PHI running backs ran for 153 yards on just 19 carries. I think more of the blame was on the linebackers but these guys up front did struggle a bit against the zone blocking scheme by just not getting off of the linemen quickly enough.
-Blake Martinez, the NFL’s leader in tackles, had a season-low 4 tackles. PHI attacked him pretty hard in the running game with lone blockers who had a clear path to him. It was evident he was game-planned around.
-Devante Downs and David Mayo combined for 8 tackles and 1 TFL, as they rotated at the other ILB spot. In the box score, that looks like a productive day, but I thought they didn’t fill the running lanes fast enough. They were slow to the meeting point and it resulted in PHI creating better space and angles for the cutback runs. Neither factored in coverage.
-James Bradberry had a big day without causing a turnover. Often, those who want to evaluate cornerback play are too obsessed with interceptions. If you watched this game with the All-22 tape, you would see just how well Bradberry blanketed the PHI receivers. He did have 2 pass break ups, one was on 3rd down and the other was on 4th down. They were both high-level plays on the ball.
-Isaac Yiadom added a pass break up and 3 tackles. He played really hard, aggressive, and physical on the edge. It did result in 2 missed tackles, however. Yiadom stuck with the PHI speedster Jalen Reagor on two occasions downfield where it did appear Wentz wanted to go that way, neither of which he did.
-Darnay Holmes had a tackle and a missed tackle, but his biggest issue was a pass interference penalty called on a 3rd down stop. He is getting too grabby with his hands and needs to do a better job trusting his feet. He is athletic enough on all fronts.
-Jabrill Peppers is on a nice hot streak right now. His versatility is shining, as he finished with a team high 7 tackles in addition to 2 TFL, 1 pressure, and a half-sack. Peppers came up with a high-level tackle on 4th down to seal the win. He also came up big as a punt returner, averaging 12 yards per on 4 attempts that really helped win the field position game.
-Julian Love had 3 tackles and was rangy. He was physical and didn’t let any ball carriers shake free of his wrap up. Logan Ryan added 6 tackles and a pressure as he continues to thrive in this versatile, multi-faceted defensive back role.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 35, 44). Gano hit his 20th straight attempt, tying a franchise record. He was signed through 2023 following the game.
-Riley Dixon: 4 Punts / 53.3 avg / 53.3 net. All four punts landed inside the 20.
-DT Leonard Williams, QB Daniel Jones, CB James Bradberry
-OT Cameron Fleming, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Devante Downs
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
- In 2 games, PHI scored 39 points against NYG. 26 of them came in the second half, with just 13 coming in the first half. That is a clear sign that the coaching staff can do a good job of regrouping at halftime and coming out with an altered approach in the second half. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this coaching staff is a good barometer for Joe Judge’s staff to match up against in the future.
- I’ve debated with a few people here over the years (healthy and respectful debate, it is possible!) surrounding the importance of linebackers in today’s NFL. While I think the value of pass rushers and cornerbacks remains stronger, a front office that neglects linebackers almost always gets burned. PHI’s linebackers were exposed several times when I watched the All-22 and it led to a lot of NYG’s offense success. Their linebackers who saw a lot of time in this game were two second-year undrafted free agents, and a 2017 3rd-round pick who was acquired via trade from ATL for a safety who has been off and on the practice squad in SF and a 7th-round draft pick. They are really weak at the second level and it has been a huge miss by that front office.
- If I was a betting man, the NFC East race will come down to PHI and NYG. One could make the argument that PHI has a tougher schedule from here on out, but not by much. And the Eagles do have the current standings advantage. PHI is battle tested and remember, they were do or die for 4 straight weeks last year with a very injured roster and they went 4-0 to seal it. That kind of experience and culture does mean something.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- The late injury to Kevin Zeitler and seeing Will Hernandez come into the game led me to thinking about next year and beyond. This offensive line took a turn for the better in mid-October. They still aren’t quite there and still have ugly stretches. However, compared to the last 3-4 years and the first month of 2020, they are a much more productive group. Looking around the league, one should assume your offensive line is going to take at least 1-2 serious injuries at some point in a given season. Seeing Zeitler go out and Hernandez come in got me thinking how this group needs to be addressed in the coming offseason. I can see NYG going after a top-notch guard (Joe Thuney from NE for example) in free agency and possibly even drafting another day 2 offensive lineman who has some inside-out versatility (Rashawn Slater from Northwestern for example). One may say this is too much overload with other issues on the roster. I won’t agree. Make no mistake, much of the recent “surge” in quality play is a direct result of the offensive line improving. Keep that group strong and deep, don’t forget the latter. I would have no issue signing a Thuney-type and drafting a Slater-type while also keeping Zeitler and Nate Solder on the roster as backups for another season.
- Are we happy about all of the designed runs from Daniel Jones? Part of me says it is absolutely vital for this offense to move down the field. After all, he leads the team with 384 yards on the ground, he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, and he is slightly changing how defenses play him along the first 2 levels. The other part of me says that he needs to take less hits if he is going to last for the long term. I am all about the designed run, but I think both he and Jason Garrett need to look ahead now that defenses will start keying in on him and will try to knock him into yesterday. At some point, it will no longer be a surprise and NFL defenders will be able to gear up with anticipation.
- Big picture, the Giants offense is still the weak point of this team. They rank 31st in both points and yards. The good news? All but their week 16 opponent (BAL) rank in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and/or yards allowed. That’s right, 5 of their 6 remaining opponents can be scored on at an easier-than-average rate. Their defense will face a stiffer test (especially against ARI and SEA) but if this NYG offensive trend continues, they have a shot. That emotional loss in PHI on a Thursday night is what currently keeps them out of first place. They’re that close.