Up 19-3 with two minutes left in the first half on Sunday it looked like the Giants were going to run away with the game and win their first game in Philly since 2013. Instead, the teams (many) flaws caught up with them and their lead (and any hope of meaningful football in December) slipped away.
The Giants’ defense is a long way away
Despite James Bettcher’s reputation for fielding ferocious defenses, nobody seriously thought that the Giant would field a good defense in 2018. For a variety of reasons, there were simply too many holes to play with any kind of consistency.
Not only are the Giants playing at a talent deficit against most offenses, but they simply don’t have the players to run the scheme effectively. Bettcher wants to run an aggressive blitz-heavy scheme, but it is impossible to do so without a reliable free safety or at least three solid cornerbacks. The Giants are also lacking in speed on the front seven, both in coverage over the middle and rushing the passer.
The problem is that while the Giants have some players with upside, they have too many holes at positions which demand athletic (and either draft or free agency) premiums to fill without a significant investment. It will be a struggle to do that and address the needs on the Giants’ offense. They can free up cap room, but they can’t do so without creating more holes that will need to be filled.
The Giants are still undisciplined
Many of the same problems that plagued them all season long cropped up again and caused them to cough up a two score lead after half-time.
- Crippling penalties to hurt themselves and extend opponents’ drives. You just can’t win when you’re going backwards at 10 yards a clip on offense or defense, and it’s even worse when you’re doing it to yourself.
- Defenders missing tackles and being out of position. The Giants have struggled to tackle cleanly all season long. Players in coverage have been out of position or too easily fooled by offensive eye candy. The result has been plays which should have been short gains instead go for chunk yardage. Plays which should have resulted in stalled drives turned in to big plays and drive extenders. The Giants simply have not been able to get off the field when they needed to
- Bad clock management from the coaching staff. The Giants moved torturously slowly in their last drive of the first half before Manning forced a ball to a triple-covered Odell Beckham which was intercepted. The coaching staff burned a time out needlessly before calling a foolish swing pass on a third-and-18, costing them the ability to stop the clock in the Eagles’ two-minute drill.
- The Giants’ effort seems to wane when they are playing with a lead. They don’t try to stick the dagger on offense, and instead try to run out the clock — regardless of how many quarters are left. Too often the defense appears to assume the play is over once first contact is made or if the ball looks to be going to another area of the field.
The games against San Francisco and Tampa Bay were entirely too close considering the caliber of quarterbacks (and defenses) the Giants faced. New York’s own play is a big reason why. They let bad teams hang around, and now let themselves get beaten by an under-performing good team.
Landon Collins needs to play downhill
This isn’t something we just learned — we’ve known it since 2016. But it is something that James Bettcher seems to be learning (or accepting) over the last couple weeks. In the first half of the season, Collins played a role similar to Tony Jefferson in his last season with the Arizona Cardinals. That is as a “do it all” safety who can play the deep half of the field as well as come up and defend the run. But that isn’t Collins’ game. He can play in coverage, but he excels in short areas underneath, and struggles when he has to turn and run with a player down the field.
That was how he was used in the second half of the game, and he had an impact, making several tackles behind the line of scrimmage and blowing up some quick passes. The problem is that Bettcher doesn’t really have any players who can cover the middle of the field and some times has no choice but to put Collins in an unfavorable match-up. Collins can still make impact plays as a strong safety, but until the Giants can find a linebacker with range and a reliable free safety, the Giants’ won’t be able to use Collins to his full potential.
The Giants are too easily thrown off their game
After the game, head coach Pat Shurmur said that penalties and negative plays knocked the Giants out of their game plan. However, the Eagles made some in-game adjustments on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and the Giants simply had no answers. Saquon Barkley was dominant in the first half, racking up well over 100 yards and both of the Giants’ touchdowns with runs and receptions. In the second half he got the ball a handful of times. The Eagles’ secondary had no answers for Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard in any area of the field. But after a few halftime adjustments, the Giants looked completely lost on offense. They spun their wheels for a grand total of -5 yards on offense through the third quarter and most of the fourth.
In part, it was because despite the evidence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the offensive line still can’t run block particularly well. But also the Giants took entirely too long to recognize and adjust to a simple change in coverage shells and a switch by the Eagles’s offense to running the ball after a couple RPOs.
This isn’t how a good, or even improving, NFL team is supposed to deal with the ups and downs of a game.