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Giants 28, Eagles 23: Ten things we learned

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Playoffs, personnel, the running game, much more

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Rashad Jennings runs with the ball Sunday vs. the Eagles.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Let’s look at 10 things we learned Sunday as the New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-23.

The Giants’ playoff hopes are alive

A loss Sunday would not, of course, have eliminated the Giants from the playoff race. Far from it. Falling to 4-4 with home losses to the division-rival Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles would, however, have put the Giants in a bind. The Giants end the season with road games against Washington and Philly, and winning both of those games is a tough ask.

The Giants now face the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears at home, then travel to face the woeful Cleveland Browns. There is an opportunity in that stretch for the Giants to gain some ground.

The Giants CAN show up on time

After falling behind early in four straight games, the Giants finally got off to a good start. They took advantage of interceptions by Landon Collins and Andrew Adams on Philly’s first two possessions, converting those into touchdowns to grab a 14-0 lead just 5:17 into the game.

Personnel changes

The Giants, who had used “11” personnel (oner running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) 96 percent of the time over the first seven games continued that trend Sunday. They did, however, significantly alter the personnel they utilized.

Even before he suffered an ankle injury, Victor Cruz was losing snaps to Dwayne Harris and Roger Lewis Jr. at wide receiver. At tight end, Will Tye started and shared time with rookie Jerell Adams. Larry Donnell did not play. At running back, rookie Paul Perkins saw his most extensive action, splitting time with Rashad Jennings.

On defense, the most notable change was that second-year defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa never played, even with Kerry Wynn out due to a concussion. When the Giants needed an extra pass rusher, linebacker Devon Kennard had his hand in the ground. Kennard even rushed from the nose tackle spot on at least one occasion.

The Giants have not fixed the running game

Chris named the running game as his “loser” for the day, and with good reason. The Giants ran 24 times for 54 yards, an average of just 2.3 yards per running play. That will drive their league-worst average of 70 yards rushing per game down.

The Giants tried some things. Paul Perkins carried 11 times for a team-high 32 yards and did have runs of 14 and 9 yards. They had Eli Manning under center a bit more. They used Marshall Newhouse as a blocking tight end a couple of times and had Dwayne Harris on the field as a blocker for a handful of plays.

If the Giants trusted the running game, Manning never would have put the ball in the air on third-and-4 with 1:55 to play, a decision that turned into an interception and gave Philly a final chance.

To put it kindly, the running game remains a work in progress.

Landon Collins is a star

If you have been paying attention you probably knew that already. Sunday, Collins had his team-leading third interception, his team-leading third sack and a team-high 12 tackles. Collins rarely misses a tackle, and the second-year pro seems to get better every week.

“Landon’s having one of the best years I’ve probably ever seen from a safety,” said defensive captain Jonathan Casillas.

Giants just can’t make it easy

Especially against the Eagles.

You had to know when the Giants took a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game that it wasn’t going to be that easy all afternoon.

When Manning threw an interception giving the Eagles the ball at the Giants’ 34-yard-line with 1:48 left I know you had a sinking feeling that another heart-breaking loss to the Eagles was at hand.

Ben McAdoo will call the plays

There was intrigue about whether the head coach would cede play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan in an effort to jump start the offense. He didn’t. The Giants did add a few wrinkles and change personnel, but McAdoo will continue as the play caller. Truthfully, did you expect him to do anything else?

Darren Sproles isn’t slowing down

Sproles might be 33, but the Eagles’ running back/kick returner is still as dangerous as ever, especially as a return man. Giants’ punter Brad Wing neutralized Sproles most of the day, but hit one 55-yard punt pretty much down the middle of the field and Sproles made him pay, returning it 66 yards. Only a tremendous hustle play by Keenan Robinson, barely pushing him out of bounds at the Giants’ 15-yard-line, saved the day. The Eagles ended up getting no points, turning the ball over on downs.

So, credit Robinson with a seven-point save. Maybe with a game-winning seven-point save.

The Giants can defend the zone read

The zone read, especially when the quarterback kept the ball, is a play that has killed the Giants for years. Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz tried it a few times Sunday, and wound up rushing four times for -4 yards. His longest gain was just 3 yards.

Carson Wentz has a bright future, but ...

The Eagles’ quarterback is still a rookie. And the Giants made him look like one the first two times Philly had the ball. First, Olivier Vernon pressured him and he made a bad throw that was picked off by Collins. Then, he sailed one off target down the middle that was picked off by undrafted rookie Andrew Adams. The Giants turned those gifts into a 14-0 lead.

Wentz, though, ended up 27-of-47 for 364 yards. He barely missed Jordan Matthews in the end zone on the Eagles’ final fourth-and-10 play from the Giants’ 17-yard-line. Trevin Wade, in coverage, said Matthews was “pretty close” to catching the ball.

The Giants will have their hands full with Wentz and Dallas Cowboys’ rookie quarterback Dak Prescott for years to come.