In a long line of devastating, gut-wrenching, losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, this Thursday Night meltdown ranks close to the top. The Giants, who have not won in Philadelphia since 2013, let the victory slip right through their buttery fingers. The national narrative is composed with a clumsy, turnover prone, Daniel Jones failing in a primetime matchup when the Giants virtually should have won. Yes, Daniel Jones has 34 turnovers in 20 games, which is the most turnovers by a quarterback in his first 20 games since Ryan Leaf (Leaf had 41 turnovers in that span); this obviously isn’t ideal and some blame must be laid at the feet of the 2nd year quarterback out of Duke. However, Thursday’s turnovers should be a microcosm of the collective nature of Daniel Jones’ turnover issues.
Jones has a fourth overall pick who can’t keep his inside foot planted in pass protection, a subpar right tackle in Cam Fleming who was beaten several times in this game, and skill-position players like Evan Engram, who happened to be the target on Jones interception. We should be discussing how Jones led a 15-play, 97-yard drive, that ate up just under 8 minutes of game time in the fourth quarter on the road; a drive that consisted of a miraculous escape and dump off to Wayne Gallman; a drive that was capped off by an excellent play design in the red zone to Sterling Shepard on third-and-goal. We should also be rejoicing in a beautiful throw to Engram to seal the game after the defense capitulated to Carson Wentz on the previous drive. But instead, we’re discussing yet another loss by this Giants team.
The Giants’ defense played 72 snaps in the game, in part because the Giants scored quickly. They were going to be tired and sloppy late. The defense forced five Philadelphia three & outs, three of them were to start the second half, which is very impressive. Sadly, they were also undisciplined down the stretch; the special teams hit by Corey Ballentine, the illegal contact and defensive holding by Ryan Lewis, the too many men on the field penalty, the unnecessary roughness by Madre Harper on the two-point conversion, the defensive pass interference on James Bradberry, and then the offensive holding on Will Hernandez with 40 seconds left all helped set up this meltdown. All seven of these penalties happened with less than 6:05 left in the game. The Giants need to be better than that with their discipline and technique.
These close losses are brutal, and New York is no stranger to them. The Giants were in the red-zone with a chance to win against Chicago in week 2. They had a chance to tie the game against the Rams in the last minute. New York led Dallas with about two minutes left in the game, and they led Philadelphia with 46 seconds left in the game. Is it pure ineptitude, bad luck, malediction, or just a combination of all three? I’m not sure, but this team has found ways to come up small in too many big spots. None more relevant than Play 1:
Play 1: Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
I don’t think even the Giants would have found a way to blow this game if Engram secures this catch on third-and-7. Jones excels against this type of man coverage look, a look that was presumed from the pre-snap motion, and confirmed post-snap by Jones. It’s a nice pass and it dropped over the shoulder and slightly outside/away from the MOF safety to Engram, who just can’t haul it in. Engram releases well outside, creates separation, and puts himself into a position to be the hero of the game, but that did not happen. Engram has been a colossal disappointment this season, and he couldn’t have picked a worse time to have a mental lapse. The Eagles showed the Giants a similar look earlier in the game, and New York made them pay.
Play 2: Golden Revenge
On first-and-10, Jason Garrett lines up in a 2x1 set with the tight end to the two wide receiver side as a Y. They were in the shotgun, and Tate suspects man coverage, as did Jones. I love how pre-snap Jones called out the blitz and saw the strong safety start to creep towards the line of scrimmage, signifying man coverage on Engram. After the snap, Jones manipulates the single high safety by looking him off; Jones looks to his left, which forces the safety to flow in that direction. Jones does this to allow Tate to have a one on one outside without safety help in man coverage. And much like we saw in 2019 when Jones receives man coverage, he throws it up in the air for his receiver. Tate did a great job securing the catch, breaking the tackle, and scoring on the slot vertical. This is a smart, well-timed, and well-placed pass by Jones from the pre-snap to the post-snap phase of the play.
Play 3: Shepard’s back
Since we were talking about the good above, we might as well go over some red zone efficient plays that allowed the Giants to jump up two scores. If this third-and-goal wasn’t converted, the Giants would have been in an awkward position to either kick a field goal, and go up by seven, or to attempt to go for a touchdown. The Eagles would have to travel very far to score a touchdown if the Giants failed to score. Garrett has his offense execute a very good play design to give Sterling Shepard inside leverage vs. Jim Schwartz’s red zone defense. Philadelphia runs a lot of BANJO coverage in these situations, which essentially means the corners will switch assignments at the line of scrimmage depending on the wide receiver’s direction and stem. If the inside receiver goes outside, then the outside cornerback assumes that responsibility. Garrett designed a play that forced the transition with Shepard releasing outside from the No. 2 receiver spot, but quickly coming back inside once the transition was made by the cornerbacks. This gives Shepard inside leverage on Darius Slay (24) since Slay is originally lined up on the outside cornerback. This is savvy play calling by Garrett, an excellent route by Shepard, and a well-thrown ball by Jones. This put the Giants up by two scores with 6:18 left in the game; that’s something we’re not used to seeing. Sadly, it didn’t last.
Play 4: Demoralizing sequence
Ryan Lewis didn’t have the best stretch of plays towards the end of the game. He had just suffered an illegal contact play that negated a B.J. Hill sack that would have put the Eagles into a third-and-15. Just another game-altering play that the Giants found a way to nullify. New York is in zone coverage, but it’s difficult to identify what the safeties are supposed to be doing with their assignments from the broadcast angle. Judging by Bradberry on the other side, it may have been a three-high look. However, Lewis who is splitting the numbers and the sidelines with his alignment, allows John Hightower (82) to beat him deep. I can’t be certain from the broadcast, but I don’t believe Lewis is supposed to be in trail technique, so it seems like a mistake on Lewis’ part, and an excellent drop-in from Wentz. This was the play that made me feel very uneasy about the Giants’ winning, despite an 11 point lead.
Play 5: Boston again
Boston Scott had the Giants’ number in 2019, and he was kept in check all game until this play above. A Logan Ryan defensive hold extended the Eagles drive on a third-and-5, but a Jason Kelce facemask pushed the Eagles from the 3-yard line to the 18-yard line, which set up the unfortunate GIF above. Jabrill Peppers needs to do a better job of getting his head around to locate the ball, but I don’t want to slam Peppers, who had a solid game other than this play. Scott releases late, which allows the other receivers to clear out any defenders other than Peppers. Scott has space from the numbers to the front pylon to outrun Peppers, and he does just enough for Wentz to put a beautiful pass on his back shoulder. The fate was all but sealed for the Giants after this play.
There were several big plays to choose from in this game. The interceptions were inconsequential, due to it essentially being a hot potato in terms of when they happened, and the Daniel Jones 80-yard run was huge and funny, but these five plays above set an unfortunate script for the game; a script that culminated in another excruciating loss to a division rival. It’s another week, another loss, and more ifs and buts on how the Giants could have won. Mediocre teams find ways to lose, and the Giants have found ways to lose in 2020.