Let’s look back at Sunday’s critical 28-23 victory by the New York Giants over the Philadelphia Eagles as only we can, in our traditional “Kudos & Wet Willies’ style. Who deserves praise and who, or what, deserves scorn? Let’s find out.
Kudos to ...
Giants’ defense — Three fourth-down stops that kept points off the board, including a game-saving one on the final Philadelphia drive. Two interceptions on the first two Eagles’ possessions, giving the offense short fields and leading to a pair of quick touchdowns. Two sacks of Carson Wentz and a good amount of pressure much of the day.
The Giants gave up seven passing plays of 20 yards or more, four of at least 30 yards. Between those plays, a Darren Sproles’ 66-yard punt return that gave the Eagles the ball at the Giants’ 15-yard line and two late-game turnovers by the Giants’ offense, it felt like the defense was on the ropes the entire game. They made the plays at the biggest moments, though, to earn the Giants the victory.
Landon Collins — An admiring Jonathan Casillas said Sunday evening that “Landon’s having one of the best years I’ve probably ever seen from a safety.” Indeed, the second-year safety from Alabama is having a great year. He led the Giants with 12 tackles on Sunday, and added an interception and a sack. He leads the Giants in all three of those categories.
Jason Pierre-Paul — A blocked field goal, five tackles (one for loss), a near-interception on the Eagles’ final drive, two quarterback hits. This was JPP’s best game of the season.
Keenan Robinson — The former Washington linebacker was an unsung hero for the Giants on Sunday. It was Robinson who chased down Sproles and nudged him out of bounds — barely — at the Giants’ 15-yard line on his 66-yard punt return. That kept seven Philadelphia points off the board as the Giants stopped Philadelphia on downs.
Oh, and Robinson continued to play very well defensively with 10 tackles and a pass defensed.
Trevin Wade — The reserve cornerback has not played much since being torched — and earning a “Wet Willie” — against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4. Sunday, Coty Sensabaugh even got on the field in sub packages before Wade. When the Giants finally decided, though, that they just couldn’t watch Apple struggle any longer they turned to Wade and he delivered. Philadelphia targeted Wade on their final fourth-and-10 play at the Giants’ 17-yard line, and his terrific coverage on Jordan Matthews contributed to a game-ending incompletion.
Andrew Adams — The undrafted rookie free agent continues to deliver for the Giants. He had an interception that set up a touchdown and barely tipped away a pass toward Matthews that would have gone for an Eagle touchdown. He finished with nine tackles, two passes defensed and that interception, the first of his career. What a find he has been for the Giants, who have seen safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe both miss significant time with injuries.
Brett Jones — For the second time this season, the former CFL lineman was called on to fill in and did an admirable job. When Justin Pugh went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, Jones took over. He played 50 snaps with no penalties and no noticeable miscues. He was, in fact, the Giants’ highest-graded offensive player, per Pro Football Focus. Jones also filled in at center capably in Week 3 when Weston Richburg was ejected.
Giants’ wide receivers — Beckham had two touchdown grabs, 26 yards and 1 yard. Sterling Shepard had a 32-yard score. Roger Lewis had a 30-yard TD grab. Victor Cruz saw his playing time diminish as Lewis and Dwayne Harris got opportunities, but still contributed a 46-yard catch before leaving with an ankle injury.
Pass protection — Heading into the game the big fear was that the Eagles’ pass rush, with 22 sacks on the season, would wreck the Giants’ offense. That didn’t happen. Eli Manning was sacked just once and hit only two other times. He moved around the pocket some to find space, but the offensive line did an excellent job keeping the Philadelphia pass rush at bay.
Wet Willies to ...
Giants’ running game — The Giants got a couple of nice runs from rookie Paul Perkins, but ended up with only 54 yards on 24 carries, 2.3 yards per carry. To their credit the Giants made some changes, most notably with Perkins (11 carries) getting more chances. The problem remains mostly with the blocking, but there is one more change the Giants, in my view, need to make. Orleans Darkwa needs the snaps that have been going to Rashad Jennings. The 31-year-old Jennings is gaining only 2.6 yards per carry this season. I have been saying since last season that I believe the 24-year-old Darkwa is a better player, and I still fail to understand why the Giants won’t give him a full opportunity.
Eli Apple — A forgettable game for the rookie corner. He missed tackles, gave up completions, drew a penalty for lining up offside, gave up outside contain on an Eagles’ touchdown run and ultimately found himself benched.
Dwayne Harris — I love the way Harris plays. He is aggressive, all-out all the time and he makes a lot of plays. What on earth was he thinking, though, on the final Eagles’ kickoff with the Giants leading, 28-23, and 3:51 left? He caught the ball two yards deep in the end zone and, rather than taking the touchback and giving the Giants the ball at the 25-yard line, he brought the ball out and slid down at the 12-yard line. That was a decision that could have cost the Giants the game. Not a smart play.
Coach Ben McAdoo said “last year is in the rearview mirror” when asked about the difference in his team at the end of games this season, especially on defense. He’s right, of course, but Sunday’s game is still one the Giants would have lost a year ago. They wouldn’t have had the resolve, or talent, on defense to make plays at the end of the game. They wouldn’t have had the play-makers on offense to take full advantage of their opportunities.
“We believe that we are going to win these football games,” McAdoo said. “We believe that we’re a physical team. We’ve just got to hang onto leads and win the games. We know we’re going to get better as the game goes on and we’re going to win in the end.”