The New York Giants came up just short in their Week 18 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. But while the Giants may have ended the regular season with a 22-16 loss to a division rival, this game doesn’t really feel like a loss.
Maybe it’s because the Giants were expected to be blown out. Or maybe it’s because of how hard the Giants’ second- and third-stringers played against the Eagles’ starters in a game with nothing on the line. But whatever the reason, this was one of the more fun games in recent memory.
So what can we take away from the Giants’ “loss” to Philly?
First down: The Giants made them work for it
The outcome of this game was pretty much a foregone conclusion as soon as it was revealed that the Giants would be resting their starters while Philly would be playing to win.
But what nobody really saw coming was how hard the Giants made the Eagles work for it.
The Giants’ defense played hard and aggressive all game long, and repeatedly held the Eagles to field goals despite them repeatedly driving to the end zone was unable to get much going, but the Giants’ defense gave the Eagles fits.
Philly seemed to be trying to walk the line between winning the game and not exposing their starters any more than necessary. They didn’t seem to want to expose their starters to more risk of injury than was necessary, and they kept their schemes as vanilla as they could.
That said, the Giants kept this closer than it had any right to be. In particular, Tomon Fox, Micah McFadden, Nick McCloud, Dane Belton, and Jarrad Davis were seemingly everywhere for the Giants’ defense. The Giants’ defense played well enough that they held the Eagles to just one touchdown (of course it was Boston Scott...) and five field goals.
The offense struggled to consistently replicate the defense’s success, but they were able to move the ball in fits and starts on a very good Eagles’ defense and even came away with a pair of touchdowns.
All in all, the Eagles won, but it was a disappointing, unsatisfying win against a team they should have run out of the stadium.
Second down: Evan Neal’s rough game
The Giants rested most of their regular players, but opted to get right tackle Evan Neal reps to compensate for the time he missed due to injury. The Giants likely hoped that Neal would be able to build on his good play last week against a very good Eagles’ pass rush.
Instead, Neal had a very rough outing.
Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham had multiple pressures off the right side as Davis Webb spent much of his first start running from pass rushers and improvising in the backfield. Neal also had two false start penalties before being replaced by Matt Peart in the second half.
Neal closes out a very up-and-down 2022 regular season on a low note. That, obviously, isn’t what you want to see from the seventh-overall pick, but there’s always a learning curve for rookie tackles. We saw Andrew Thomas have a similar rookie season before improving significantly in his second and third years.
Third down: Davis Webb SZN
The Giants’ third-string quarterback was reportedly courted by the Miami Dolphins after Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion, but Webb opted to stay on the Giants’ practice squad. The Giants gave him his first start this week since Jerry Reese made him the Giants’ 2017 third-round pick, and he gave the Giants his all.
Webb never seemed overwhelmed by his opportunity and was in control of the offense — though he was also frequently forced to improvise when pass protection broke down.
The play of Webb (as well as the Giants’ defense) was one of the reasons why this might be the most entertaining loss in recent memory. This might be the only game Webb ever starts, but he certainly gave us some memorable plays.
Davis Webb doing his best Patrick Mahomes impersonation… so close pic.twitter.com/HjNu2qEv2K— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) January 8, 2023
Then Webb did his best Brandon Jacobs impression for his first touchdown.
And finally, his second touchdown turns out to also be the first for Kenny Golladay as a Giant, and his first since 2020.
Webb was never going to get a chance behind Eli Manning. Nor was he going to get a chance with the Jets while they still thought Sam Darnold was a franchise quarterback, nor in Buffalo behind Josh Allen.
But it was good to see Webb make the most of his chance today with the Giants, and enough to make you wonder what he might be able to do with a starting offense.
Fourth down: Love For Hamlin
There just wasn’t any way I could end this but to put a bow on a harrowing — and inspirational — week for the NFL community.
Hamlin collapsed on the field a little bit less six days ago in one of the most frightening moments in NFL history. The sports world all but stopped over the next twenty-four hours and we all hung on every update regarding his condition. Everyone from Hamlin’s teammates, to athletes in other sports, to President Biden took the time to offer they’re prayer and support for the 24-year old safety and his family.
While words of support poured in from around the internet, so did the donations to his Chasing M’s Foundation (nearly $8.5 million as of this writing).
Hamlin won the fight for his life and has made fantastic progress this week, and now the NFL is offering tribute.
Players and teams around the league came together to honor Hamlin this weekend, but the best was — fittingly — the Buffalo Bills. The Bills paid tribute before the game, then Nyheim Hines paid the best possible tribute with a kick-off return for a touchdown to open the game.
The outpouring of love and support for Hamlin, his family, his teammates, and the Buffalo community in general has been nothing less than inspirational.
There are some things — many things, if I’m being honest — that are much bigger than football. This whole saga has served as an excellent reminder of all that we share and how we can come together for things that are truly important.