Is it possible to have a game where the team never trails, spending most of it leading by double digits, and still have your heart pounding?
If you’re a fan of the New York Giants, you know it isn’t just possible, but almost expected. Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles got close at the end, after a questionable ... well, we’ll go with ‘turnover’ blunted the Giants momentum. However, the Giants survived and are now 5-3 on a three-game winning streak.
The Giants won, and despite a four-touchdown day by Eli Manning it was on the back of their defense.
- Giants 28, Eagles 23: Complete recap
Winner — Giants’ Defense
Announcers can’t seem to NOT mention the defensive investment the Giants made in free agency this past off-season. But while the free agents played an important role, it was the players the Giants acquired through the draft that carried the Giants to victory.
It started on the third play of the game when 2015 second rounder Landon Collins jumped a short pass for his third interception in three games. His interception gave the offense the ball on the Eagles’ 27-yard-line, and lead directly to a 26-yard touchdown catch by Odell Beckham Jr. Collins finished the game with 11 total tackles, an interception and a sack which ended the first half, holding the Eagles to just 10 points.
The next drive it was undrafted rookie safety Andrew Adams who picked off Wentz, which led to fellow UDFA rookie Roger Lewis Jr.’s second NFL touchdown. After that, the defense stepped up with a pair of fourth down stops in field-goal range, taking at least six points off the scoreboard.
2010 first rounder Jason Pierre-Paul had a great day, single-handedly (no pun intended) thwarting a read-option play, which was ruled a tackle for a loss rather than a sack. He also tipped at least two passes, one of which he almost intercepted, and blocked a kick, taking three more points off the board.
Finally, after a tip-drill interception inside of the two-minute warning prevented the Giants from ending the game on their own terms, it was the defense that stepped up and sealed the win with a terrific stand on the Giants’ own 17-yard-line. Steve Spagnuolo was aggressive, sending pressure on every down, frustrating and confusing the rookie quarterback. The secondary held up, and the ball hit the ground every time, and the Giants denied the Eagles one final fourth down conversion to end the game.
Outside of passes to their tight ends, the Giants’ defense frustrated the Eagles’ offense most of the game, and were the clear winners of the game.
Losers — Giants’ Running Game
It almost isn’t fair to label the Giants’ running game as the “losers” in this game. However, whether it was failures blocking up front, poor plays by the running backs, or bad blocks at other positions, the Giants just weren’t able to consistently move the ball on the ground against a talented Eagles’ front.
To be fair, the Giants lost their best offensive lineman, Justin Pugh, before the half to a knee injury. It had to have an effect as backup center Brett Jones filled in at left guard. However, they struggled to consistently create positive plays in the running game, and any good plays were almost immediately wiped out by losses.
The Giants DID flash some positives in the running game. They seemed to learn from previous weeks and used Dwayne Harris rather than Victor Cruz, even before he was lost to an ankle injury. They also used Marshall Newhouse as a jumbo tight end, and used Jerrel Adams and Will Tye in place of Larry Donnell, and Paul Perkins got as many carries as Rashad Jennings (11).
It paid off to an extent, and the Giants had moments where they would pick up 4, 6, or more yards at a time. But they just couldn’t sustain it. The Giants ran 24 times for 54 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.
Ultimately, their flailing running game did enough damage to make play-action passes effective, but it wasn’t enough to let the Giants end the game on their terms. The Giants are all alone in second place in the NFC East, but they absolutely need to figure something out in the running game.