It's almost hard to believe that the Giants that played Sunday against Philly was the same team that played so well all season and claimed the number one seed in the NFC.
They did not nearly resemble the team that went on an amazing playoff run last year and went on to win the Super Bowl as the underdogs. Maybe it's easier being the underdog in some way because you're not expected to win.
The Giants were expected to win, even against a tough and hot Philly team. However, Big Blue looked awful from the start, and they could never get far enough ahead to put Philly away.
So what exactly went wrong? There were several things that happened that contributed to the Giants' season ending early.
Unfortunately, when things go wrong everyone always looks at the quarterback. Eli Manning was definitely off his game. He overthrew passes, he couldn't convert on fourth down, and he threw three interceptions. It's almost impossible to win when your quarterback is that ineffective.
Jacobs was back in the line up, and Earth, Wind, and Fire (Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw) were expected to gain some serious ground, but that didn't happen.
Bradshaw opened the game up with that great return, and Jacobs and Ward had some good runs too—not enough though to get the Giants in the end zone. I can understand the Giants being concerned about overusing Jacobs because of his knee, but this is the playoffs—go big or go home. Jacobs should have had the ball in his hands a lot more than he did yesterday.
Since the Eagles defense closed up many holes used for the Giants' ground game, they should've gone to the air a little more, even though Eli wasn't throwing his best.
Eli needed to be reminded that he is more than capable of making passes. Sometimes with a young quarterback, the offensive coordinator needs to force him to make those passes to gain necessary yards.
Some will say that the Giants missed Plaxico Burress, and it's true that Burress has a certain presence about him, but the Giants still had other offensive options.
Amani Toomer was barely used, and both Hixon and Smith who were open many times but were left empty-handed. Then there's Kevin Boss, the tight end who made at least two great receptions yesterday, but was also ignored most of the day. Boss has the ability to become open, gain yards, and run with a few guys on his back, if necessary.
And then there's Madison Hedgecock, the fullback who is known as "the Preacher" because he baptizes people when he hits them. He never got the ball yesterday. Now, I know that he's not usually the one who runs the ball. But, considering how tough the Eagles' defense was, it wouldn't have hurt to give the ball to a guy, who much like Jerome Bettis, would run people over while running for yardage.
Penalties were also a huge factor in the game yesterday. Antonio Pierce had two penalties alone.—hurting the Giants. A captain should know better than to grab someone's face mask. Anytime the Giants got decent field position, they ended up losing it because of penalties.
Then, there were the missed field goals.
Now, I'm not sure why Lawrence Tynes was doing kick returns while Carney was kicking field goals. Carney's two missed field goals definitely hurt the Giants. Perhaps, the Giants felt that they had to stick with Carney since he had been good for them all season. But, Tynes was the clincher in the playoffs last year, and maybe, at some point, they needed to put him out there since Carney missed not once but twice.
Aside from all of these other factors, what really did the Giants in was their defense's inability to shut down McNabb and the offense.
Defense wins championships, and the Eagles' defense was all over Eli and the offense, all day. For some reason, the Giants forgot about pass rushing and gave McNabb way too much time to throw. He never had any pressure put on him, and he was never sacked.
Yesterday was a reminder of just how much the defense was missing Osi Umenyiora. Osi is such a huge factor for the defense, and his absence is something the Eagles took full advantage of.
I've got to give a lot of credit to Justin Tuck who has been playing injured for most of the season. Tuck would've benefited the most from Osi being in the line up. He may have been able to rest for a series or two and not have to shoulder all of the responsibility. But, even when he went down, he always got back up and returned to the game.
Antonio Pierce was more effective at getting the referees to throw yellow flags yesterday, than he was at handling the Eagles' offense—really hurting the Giants.
So today, the Giants will hear all the major sports' media outlets talk about their failures and how they choked under pressure—something they thrived under last year. They will no doubt run that game over in their minds many, many times, and know that, if they had only done the things listed above, they would be playing the Cardinals next week— not the Eagles.
The offseason is long, but they say what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. So, hopefully, this will make the Giants stronger for next season.