A bitter loss. A wasted opportunity.
This perplexing Giants team did not distance themselves from their rivals in the NFC East. Instead of ending the Eagles season on Sunday Night, their sloppy and inept play gave the Eagles life. The Eagles 17-10 victory over the Giants could become a flash point for both teams. This win could propel the Eagles to turn the table. And it could have serious ramifications for the Giants. With more tough games ahead,(at New Orleans and home against Green Bay) the Giants may go into yet another second half tailspin. Needless to say, second half collapses have been the hallmark of Coughlin's Giants. So far, the Giants are 0-2 in the second half of this season. But this loss to the Eagles at home is inexcusable. More importantly, with this deflating loss, the Giants find themselves looking up at the Cowboys. Yes, the Cowboys 6-4 and not the Giants 6-4 are in first place in the NFC East. Because right now, the Cowboys have a better division record at 2-1.
In a game in which rookie cancer survivor Mark Herzlich made his first start and rookie Prince Amukamara picked off his first pass, it appeared the stars were aligned for a Giants victory. On a ball in which Eagles quarterback Vince Young thankfully under threw, Prince was beat on the play. But he showed good ball skills in snagging the ball out of the air. I thought this play was a harbinger for good things to come. But this was not the case. The somnambulant Giants offense could not capitalize on Prince's interception. Heck, they gave the ball right back to the Eagles. Feeling the Eagles rush, Eli threw off his back foot. His pass intended for Victor Cruz landed into Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney's hands. A wasted opportunity.
Before this game, if I told you Vince Young is going to throw three interceptions, your answer would have been the Giants will win. Because interceptions correlate to winning teams. Teams which accumulate more interceptions have winning records. However, much to the dismay of the Giants and their fans, this was not the case tonight. Picks by Amukamara, Kenny Phillips, and Aaron Ross did not translate into ANY Giants points. The Giants won the turnover battle and still found a way to lose this game.
Yesterday, Andy has his usual Sunday with Simms segment. The takeaway from this Simms segment: Simms points out the scheme that teams have used successfully on defense vs the Eagles this year: Man up and be physical vs the Eagles WRs. When those Eagles WRs get zone they find the holes and do much better. Wow! Simms nailed it. The Eagles were effective against the Giants mainly because defensive coordinator Perry Fewell reverted back to too much zone. Case in point- In the second quarter, the Eagles had a third down and ten on their 30 yard line. In the shot gun, a rusty Young again under threw a wide open DeSean Jackson for a 32 yard gain. Inexplicably, Fewell had the Giants in zone defense. Instead of playing press man with one or two safeties back, Jackson was able to find a huge hole in the zone. Subsequently, this long gain would help the Eagles get on the board first with a field goal. Furthermore, earlier this week, Paul Burke chronicled Fewell's telling Tampa 2 statistics. When the Giants play a soft zone defense, a quarterback rips us apart. ie Rex Grossman, Jackson/Whitehurst. On the other hand, when the Giants play press coverage, they are so much more successful. Moreover, if you were listening to the telecast, Cris Collinsworth called out the porous Giants pass defense. When the Giants were in zone pass defense, Collinsworth kept saying: the rookie linebackers were not dropping deep enough. By them not dropping deep enough, Eagles receivers like Jackson were finding open real estate. It has become tiresome trying to figure out Fewell. Especially when it is clear the Giants play better when they play press coverage.
Throw away LeSean McCoy's long gain late in the game, Fewell's passive zone scheme, and the 18 play nine minute game winning touchdown drive, the Giants defense held the Eagles offense in check. Let's credit to Fewell for improving the Giants rush defense. Over the last several weeks, the Giants have improved. Unfortunately, this could not be said of the Giants offense. In this game, the offense was atrocious. In the first half, the Giants had a total of EIGHT possessions. Six of the eight possessions resulted in punts. This putrid offense gained FIVE first downs, TWO for EIGHT on third down conversions, and NINTEEN rushing yards. And the second half was not much better. If it was not for Giants quarterback Eli Manning, this game would have been even worse. Manning continued his 4th quarter heroics. Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants were trailing 10-3. Thanks to the refs swallowing their whistles, Manning completed a 47 yard bomb to Hakeem Nicks. On this play, Giants left tackle Will Beatty held Eagles DE Trent Cole. For the Giants and their fans, there was no flag. Then, Manning hit the play maker of this offense Victor Cruz for a 24 yard touchdown. These two plays were the highlights of the Giants offense. The game was tied at 10. And perhaps the Giants could pull this one out. But no. Eli, a miracle worker this season, did not have one in him tonight. On their ensuing drive, the Eagles marched down the field methodically. They went on an 18 play 8:51 second game winning touchdown drive. Although the Giants had a chance to tie the game, the Eagles defense, which has folded like a cheap tent in 4th quarters all season long, made a huge play. Free agent acquistion Jason Babin sacked and stripped Manning of the football. The Eagles recovered and the game was over. This 18 play drive could turn the Eagles season around. In the past, recall, the Eagles have had dramatic victories over the Giants. ie Herman Edwards Fumble recovery, Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson punt returns, and now this epic drive. With this win the Eagles have been taken off of life support. They are 4-6 overall and 3-1 in the NFC East.
As for the Giants, they have a serious problem. They have a moribund running game. All season long, the Giants have struggled running the football. Coming into this game, the Giants were 29th in the league averaging a paltry 89 yards per game. After tonight's performance in which the Giants gained TWENTY NINE yards on the ground. Yes. This is not a misprint. Indeed, a team which has prided itself on being able to run the ball cannot. After 10 games, the running game is still idling. The Giants have not gotten into first gear. This does not bode well as this season continues. In order to be successful at any level in football, a team has to have a decent running game. Right now, the Giants running game is piss poor. Even Giants head coach is flummoxed about his team's play. In his post game press conference, befuddled Giants head coach Tom Coughlin uttered the following: “As disappointed a feeling as we’ve had around here in a long time,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I didn’t like the way we played.” “pathetic” (to describe the Giants’ 29 yards rushing), “outplayed” (his assessment of the offensive line’s play) and “poor” (the overall performance).
The offense was terrible. The special teams had another hiccup. All game long, Giants punter Steve Weatherford was playing with fire. For whatever reason, he kept on kicking the ball to DeSean Jackson. Haven't the Giants learned from last year's epic loss. Do not kick the ball to this guy! And Jackson made the Giants pay. Jackson's 51 yard punt return set up Philadelphia's first touchdown. Jackson returned this punt all the way to the Giants 14 yard line. Then one play later, the Eagles scored a touchdown. Guess you caught the touchdown? Steve Smith. On his touchdown catch, this is Smith's take on the Giants zone coverage: “I was wondering who was on me,” Smith said, “because it didn’t seem like anyone was.”
Like Smith, I am wondering too. What kind of team do we have? After being front runners once again at the midpoint of this season, the Giants were 6-2. This has been familiar territory. In five out of eight seasons under Coughlin, the Giants have started their seasons at impressive 6-2 records. Then for whatever reason or reasons the Giants fall apart. Two weeks ago, Giants DE Justin Tuck said the following: “We’ve been down this road before, man,” said defensive end Justin Tuck, less than an hour after the game was over. “We started 6-2 so many times, had a good start to the season and kind of collapsed. That’s getting old for me. We’d put some games together, then we’d fall apart. Whatever that reason is, we don’t know. Tuck and the Giants better figure this out. Based on their performance on Sunday night, there is nothing here that should give anyone the confidence that they have. The Giants squandered a huge opportunity. And now the math of New Orleans and Green Bay kick in.