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Spotlight: The game-ending defensive stand by the Giants

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A look at how the Giants’ defense won the game for New York

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles, it wasn’t the offense that got the job done. The offense had the chance to end the game on the Giants’ terms. All they needed to do was convert a 3rd down with 1:55 left in the game. Philadephia could only stop the clock once, and Manning was playing well.

However, Connor Barwin made a good play to tip the pass to an open Will Tye, opening the door for Jordan Hicks to make an impressively athletic interception.

So many times over the previous three years this would have spelled the end for the Giants — another heartbreaking loss to the Eagles.

But this time history didn’t repeat itself.

First Down

After their first play put them in striking distance of the Giants’ end zone — first-and-10 from the Giants’ 17-yard line — Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo ramped up the pressure.

The Giants are in their base nickel set, but they have a very aggressive defense called. New York calls a six-man blitz under a Cover-0 shell, with every player either rushing the passer or in man coverage.

The Eagles opt to attack the Giants’ coverage with two routes into the end zone and three underneath.

The Giants’ blitz is well designed. Bringing a safety and a linebacker, the Giants are attacking every gap, and with only five blockers, one rusher is going to get a free run at the quarterback. It happens to be Olivier Vernon, rushing from the left defensive end position. Vernon nearly sacks Carson Wentz as he rolls out to his right, forcing the quarterback to throw off his back foot, the ball falling incomplete.

Second Down

This time the Eagles look to spread the Giants defense out and go for the quick pass to get closer to converting the first down or scoring. They empty the backfield, motioning Darren Sproles into a stack formation to the quarterback’s right.

The Giants ramp the aggression up even further. Crowding the line of scrimmage, the Giants are in a clear Cover-0, showing a heavy blitz.

The Eagles have just one deep pass called and the play is designed to go to Sproles running to the sideline. The pressure gets to Wentz quickly, and the ball comes out quickly, letting linebacker Keenan Robinson bat the ball away, leading to third down.

Third Down

Two plays down, the Giants have to stop the Eagles from scoring or converting the first down just two more times. However, this time the Eagles decide to change things up and try to get the ball to Sproles on a screen pass.

This time the Giants bring seven rushers in an all-out blitz to attack the Eagles’ offense.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a .gif to show this play in motion. However, the rush quickly gets through the line of scrimmage as the blockers for the screen pass get into position. The right side of the Giants defense, however stays disciplined, throwing off the timing of the play.

That allows the rushers to get to Wentz, and the ball once again falls incomplete.

Fourth Down

This is it. This is the game. If the Eagles score or convert the first down, the game could be over for the Giants.

Recognizing New York’s commitment to aggression, the Eagles decide to play it safer and keep both their tight end and running back in for extra protection.

The Giants are once again showing a heavy blitz, with seven potential rushers crowding the line of scrimmage. All of them come on the blitz, with the secondary in a Cover-1 shell — Landon Collins is at single high safety while Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in man coverage on the outside while Trevin Wade is in man coverage on Matthews in the slot.

There is very little time for the Giants’ rush to get there, as Wentz basically catches the snap, grips the ball, then throws the pass.

However, the pressure brought on the previous plays seems to have gotten to him, and he releases the ball too soon. The rush was pushing the pocket, but Wentz still had a few moments to hold the ball. Instead, he releases the ball too soon, not putting enough air under it.

The result? It sails just out of Jordan Matthews reach.

Two quick kneel-downs later: Game over, Giants win.