5 Things We Learned from the Philadelphia Eagles' Win over the New York Giants
The Philadelphia Eagles came away with possibly their biggest win of the 2012 NFL season so far, outlasting the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football 19-17. After a sloppy first three weeks to date, the Eagles limited their mistakes and did not turn the ball over. They had some help with a missed long field goal but ultimately found a way to get the "W." That is all that matters when all is said and done.
Much can be deduced from Philly's win, which has put it at 3-1 and in the driver's seat of the NFC East.
Some of these observations are good, and some are bad. But all of them will give us important information about the team going forward and its goal of winning a championship.
1. The Eagles Can Win by Running the Ball
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Andy Reid is known for being a pass-happy coach, but he showed impressive balance against the Giants. He called 30 passing plays and 30 running plays (not counting quarterback rushes).
LeSean McCoy was not always able to find room, but by keeping the defense honest, he was eventually able to break out critical gains on the ground and end the day averaging around 5.3 yards per carry.
By not abandoning the run, the Eagles passing game also benefited, making it much easier for Michael Vick and the O-Line to be effective.
The key to winning is balance, and Reid has made great improvements in this area in the 2012 NFL season. By running the ball more consistently, the Eagles can better open up the defense and get the ball to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Furthermore, you win by getting the ball into the hands of your best offensive players, and the best player on the Eagles offense is McCoy.
After a low-scoring first half, the Eagles offense ignited in the third and fourth quarters of the game. This could not have been possible without establishing the running game.
2. The Eagles Will Go as Far as Michael Vick Will Take Them
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Vick came under fire for his inconsistent play during the first three weeks of the season, with Reid even suggesting that continued poor play could cost him his starting position.
Vick responded to all that with a strong performance against Philly's strongest divisional rival.
He completed 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. However, it is not just the numbers.
Vick looked just like the quarterback Philadelphia needs him to be. He was calm, poised and confident, although he was not reckless. He made smart decisions and did not turn the ball over.
Whenever he threw the football, he did so with great velocity and, for the most part, with good accuracy. He made good use of his legs to escape the pocket when he had room to scramble. Vick was not just a quarterback against the Giants, he was a game manager.
His most critical play may have been sliding to the ground and taking a sack on 3rd-and-goal. There was no running room and no open receiver, and he elected to ensure he did not commit a turnover.
A good defense and great talent on offense is how you win football games. If Vick can continue to play smart football, this Eagles team can win a lot of games this year.
3. The Secondary Still Has Problems
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As great as the cornerbacks have played, most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Brandon Boykin, the secondary still has some problems.
The Giants were able to catch up to the Eagles by executing big plays through the air. These plays exposed a few of the weaknesses in the Eagles secondary.
One weakness is the safeties. While the safeties have played much better this season, they are still far from perfect. On play-action fakes, both Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen bit hard, which matched up the Giants receivers one-on-one with the cornerbacks.
Also, the safeties have looked out of place from time to time, seeming to blow some of their coverages and assignments.
However, the problem does not just lie with the safeties. Nnamdi Asomugha was beaten deep on a few passes by Eli Manning. In fairness to Asomugha, perhaps he was still shaken up and rusty from being injured in the eye earlier in the second quarter. He seemed slow to react to the speedy Giants receivers, however, and lacks the speed to keep up if he misses a step.
Rodgers-Cromartie also committed his fair share of mistakes, being beaten on a few plays as well.
Of course, no unit in football can be entirely without holes or flaws. But the Eagles defense seems to still be a work in progress. While there is great talent across the board, there are still many ways to exploit the secondary.
4. The Eagles Will Win If They Limit Mistakes
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The 2012 Eagles have as much talent as anybody. If they come together as a team, rather than just a hodgepodge of talented athletes, they are as good as anyone in the NFL.
The Eagles followed San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's model of combining a stingy defense with mistake-free football against the Giants, not turning the ball over a single time and limiting the opposing offense to only 20 points.
If they continue to play like this, good things will happen. The team has more talent than most other teams in the NFL. As long as they do not turn the ball over and commit frequent penalties, they can beat anyone.
5. Play-Calling Is Still Questionable
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The Eagles entered the red zone five times against the Giants but only managed to score one touchdown. In one instance, they were only a few yards away from the endzone.
But instead of running the ball, they chose to pass. And they did not call a passing play in the shotgun formation, which would have given Vick the option of running the ball.
This resulted in a 4th-and-goal and their going up to 19 points, giving the Giants, with 17 points, the chance to win the game with just a field goal.
Clearly, the coaching staff needs to make some changes to its play-calling. When a team can only score a touchdown 20 percent of the time, it is up to the coaches to devise ways to put the offense in a better position to succeed.
Whether the solution would involve using McCoy more, increased quarterback draws or quicker passes, the Eagles must find a way to make an adjustment in their red-zone offense or they will find themselves hard-pressed to beat the elite teams of the NFL.