I didn't get to watch the New York Giants - Philadelphia Eagles game until Tuesday morning. It was my girlfriend's birthday on Monday, so I spent that with her and doing things she liked. No football. It wasn't that bad. As you'll read later on, it was impractical to watch the game, anyway.
So, I sit down to watch the game on Tuesday morning. I have a bar of dark chocolate, and some crazy pomegranate flavored drink, and GamePass all ready to go. It was fine, for a while. It looked good. The Giants looked good. Oh good, a touchdown. Then, everything was the worst, and death was upon us, and hell was empty because the devils were vacationing in metropolitan Pennsylvania. Somehow 7-0 became 7-7, and then 7-14 and before you know it, the game was over -- 7-27.
This was not a good game for either team. It wasn't fun to watch, it wasn't interesting, and unfortunately, it had a lot riding on it. It always seems to work out that way, doesn't it? I tried to not let the miserable game affect this article, but fear that -- being a Giants fan who writes about the Giants -- the task is impossible. There are some numbers here, but it's a little lighter on the stats than normal. Congratulations, guys, you managed to make a game so bad that there weren't even many interesting numbers! What is this? Baseball?
I always start this article with 'The Good' because (A) optimism is important, and (B) because if I don't, my spaghetti-western wordplay will be rendered invalid. The problem this week is that there wasn't a whole lot of positives to take away from this game. This wasn't a narrow loss to a good team. This was a blowout by a team of equal ineptitude.
What was worse, was that this was a relatively high-stakes game for an October match-up. A 2-4 start for the Eagles would have buried them and caused a smattering of "Chip goes back to college" rumors to ripple across NFL media. That won't happen. Instead we will likely get the much too familiar "Are the Giants on the verge of collapse?" storylines.
I wish I had an answer, but I don't, so I'm going to address that question with a cheat answer. No, they're not on the verge of collapse ... yet. I say this because the Giants' next three opponents -- Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 6-10 combined right now. Those are winnable games, even if recent Giants teams have lost to Cowboys backups and been taught more than one lesson by Drew Brees. So, yeah, optimism I guess.
I live in Ireland. It sucks, because the first game here doesn't kick off until 6 p.m., and by the time Sunday Night Football is finishing up, it's usually around 4 a.m. It's rough being a Giants fan in a Western European time zone, because four of the first six games on the schedule this year fell in the 8.30 p.m. ET prime time slot.
The good news -- at least for me -- is that this team has just one remaining game at night this season; a Week 14 Monday night matchup against the Miami Dolphins. This is, of course, subject to change as late-season flex-scheduling can occur should both the Giants and the opposing team appear to be playoff contenders. The Week 17 finale against Philadelphia could be for the division title, and the Week 16 game against the Minnesota Vikings could have Wild Card implications.
I know I have geographical reasons to want less action under the lights, but I know a lot of other fans dread those prime time games, too. There are too many difficult losses and wasted nights spent watching the Giants almost-win with all of America watching, only to throw it away in the fourth quarter. The good news here is that you should be able to get any remaining tears out of your system before dinner. It's the little things.
After starting out 10-for-10 with a touchdown, Eli Manning completed just three out of his next 17 passes, with two interceptions. I'm probably the 5,000th analyst to say this, but once the Larry Donnell fumble-ception occurred, it was all downhill from there. Following their opening drive, the Giants went 13 straight possessions without a score.
It was a swift fall from grace by Manning, who was close to completing 70 percent of his passes prior to this game, as well having just the two interceptions on the year. His stat line is far more pedestrian following Monday night's misadventure, though still admirable.
Manning had the makings of a semi-MVP type season. You know the ones. Philip Rivers had a few of them recently. They were never good enough to earn serious consideration for awards, but worth discussing anyway. Yeah, Manning was previously in line for one of those. Now, it's reduced to the frustration of possibly hearing "Well, it's a good year by Eli's standards", as if "Eli's standards" aren't a pair of Super Bowl rings.
The Giants had 12 penalties for 92 yards on Monday night, which bumps their total number of penalties way up to 38 on the year, good for sixth-worst in the league. It was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball, but this is especially poor. If you're going to lose, at least make the other team beat you.
The obvious talking points here are when Damontre Moore pummeled Sam Bradford into the turf, and Nikita Whitlock running into the kicker. Both enabled the Eagles to keep the ball on key drive-ending sequences. Moore will likely be fined for his actions, though it's arguable that Coughlin's doghouse is a far worse punishment.
You could bring in Manning's intentional grounding penalties here too, but that's more a function of trying to work behind an under-performing offensive line than it was bonehead play or malice.
Big Blue are 3-12 in their last 15 games against the Eagles. Their last win came in 2013 against the Matt Barkley team, and I'm pretty sure the fact that the all-time record is 82-77-2 will be of little consolation to Giants fans right now.
For some reason, the Eagles games are a bugbear for the Giants. They can't seem to figure out how to break the Dirty Birds. When you have such a poor record against a common opponent, it doesn't speak well of the coaching staff's preparedness. I recently pointed out how Coughlin's Giants have been better on short weeks (4-2) than in season openers (4-8). The more familiarity the Giants gain on an opponent, the bigger the downfall. It's extraordinary.
The Downright Confusing
Manning had been sacked just four times all season, but added another three to this total on Monday night, as well as four more QB hits and two intentional grounding penalties. As Werder points out above, the Eagles have not been good at pressuring QBs, though they are a little better in terms of pressure converted to sacks. They rank 20th in sack percentage (sacks compared to total passing snaps), which is alright-ish I guess, but it's nowhere near an explanation for how they outmatched the Giants in this game.
It's possible that it was an off night for the offensive line, but there were plays when the Eagles defense simply manhandled their way to the quarterback. At one point, the MNF crew used the phrase "walking the tackle back". It's appropriate, and it's embarrassing for Marshall Newhouse. He has filled in better than expected, but it's games like these where you see the difference between starters and replacement level talent.
The Giants rushed more than four players on just one single play against the Eagles (via PFF). With Jayron Hosley starting, Trevin Wade in the slot and two safeties that need to play within their limits, the Giants couldn't afford to risk bringing linebackers in coverage and implemented a conservative approach on rushing the passer in order to maximize coverage. That makes sense on paper, but it didn't work in the game, and nobody seemed to care.
Why didn't Steve Spagnuolo alter the game plan after the Giants were down by three scores? Was he afraid of putting the team in a position where they couldn't win the game? I understand the need to compensate for ineffective personnel, but stagnant playcalling is not the solution. You can't play 4-on-5 over and over and over ad infinitum, and not change tactics when it's clear that it's not working.
When you're losing a game, the key point is to increase the number of variables. When you're winning, you want to reduce them so that you have less things that can possibly go wrong. It's basic strategy for sports. The Giants were losing for a large chunk of this game -- nearly 43 minutes in fact -- yet the pressure game plan never changed. New York keeps playing it safe, and it's killing them.