Giants vs. Eagles: Takeaways from New York's 15-7 Win over Philadelphia
The New York Giants won their second game of the season on Sunday, pushing past the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, 15-7, thanks to five Josh Brown field goals. Neither team scored an offensive touchdown in the contest, as Philadelphia's home losing streak was extended to 10 games and New York's year-long drought as visitors was snapped.
The win was the Giants' second in a row, and it boosted their season record to 2-6—a mark they'll look to improve on the other side of the Week 9 bye. After beating the Minnesota Vikings and now the Eagles in consecutive weeks, the Giants are beginning to crawl out of the six-game hole they dug to start the season.
How did the Giants come across their most recent "W"?
The Giants now have two wins in 2013. As I alluded to in the intro slide, the win over the Eagles was the Giants' first road victory since Oct. 28, 2012, when they beat the Dallas Cowboys, 29-24, in Arlington, Texas. Sunday's win over the Eagles also marked the first time New York won back-to-back games since that very same Cowboys contest in October 2012.
So savor the experience, Giants fans. It may not feel like it, but the Giants are smack in the middle of their most successful stretch in a calendar year. They haven't exactly atoned for the six straight losses suffered to start the season, but New York has finally located a winning path. The Giants will do their best not to stray far from that path in the back half of the season.
It's hard to believe, but the Giants aren't dead with only two wins and the month of November almost upon us.
The Giants finally notched a valuable NFC East victory with their win over the Eagles, and the division-leading Cowboys are only two games up with eight games still to be played. The Giants can't start counting games, though; still four games under .500, the focus should be firmly set on the upcoming opponent.
That is now the Oakland Raiders.
The Giants will have two weeks to prepare for their West Coast visitors, who have had their fair share of troubles in 2013. Given the extra week of rest, New York will have a chance to re-evaluate the injury statuses of running backs Andre Brown, David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs. There's a good chance at least one of those backs will return to action when the Giants next take the field in Week 10.
Now, riding a bit of momentum, the Giants look poised to establish a different reputation in the second half of the season.
I find this ironic since head coach Tom Coughlin's teams have historically been knocked for their second-half slumps in non-Super Bowl-winning seasons—they are rarely criticized for the way they start seasons. In seven of the past eight seasons, Coughlin's Giants have posted a 6-2 mark or better at the midway point. Through eight games this season, however, they stand at 2-6.
I see what you did there, Tom.
It'd be interesting to watch the '13 Giants flip the script and finish the season strong, especially after so many promising seasons have ended in disappointment recently.
While the offense has made a concerted effort to eliminate turnovers in each of the past two weeks, the Giants' last two victories can be attributed to their stifling defensive play.
The Giants defense nearly pitched a shutout versus the Eagles, and New York hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown since the first half of the Chicago Bears game. As a team, the Giants have surrendered just 17 points in the last 10 quarters of competition.
It starts with the play up front. The league's premier running backs should dread the sight of the Giants approaching on their schedule. New York held Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy under 50 yards for the second time this season Sunday. McCoy, as well as the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte, have been effectively bottled up by the Giants' fearsome front in 2013.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who did not suit up when the Giants and Eagles last met, led all New York defensive linemen with four tackles (all solo). Joseph also recorded a sack versus the Eagles, as the Giants pass rush enjoyed its most successful day of QB-chasing this season. New York brought down the passer four times, including twice by members of the secondary.
Against the Eagles, the Giants assembled, perhaps, the most dominating effort possible without scoring a touchdown. For that, New York has its defense to thank.
Solid front-seven play against the run is finally beginning to pay dividends in the pass rush, which, in turn, has yielded a couple of wins. It's not all coming together at once, but the Giants seem to be re-discovering their old identity thanks to a timely defensive resurgence.
It should be noted, however, that the Giants defense hasn't faced an elite offense in either of the past two weeks.
While Minnesota's Josh Freeman was comically unprepared to quarterback the Vikings offense, Philadelphia's combination of a gimpy Michael Vick and rookie Matt Barkley hardly posed a greater threat. Yet, as inept as they may be, neither offense managed to score a single point—that cannot be downplayed.
The Giants will continue to win so long as the defense maintains the level of play displayed in Weeks 7 and 8. If they are equally stingy against some of the league's top talent, New York will be a team to keep an eye on in the second half of the season.
A Marked Man
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell shuffles his personnel in the secondary so often, it's impossible to predict which defensive back will dominate the stat sheet for a given game. This week it was Terrell Thomas, whose playing time has varied in recent weeks, as the Giants are carefully managing his return from a third torn ACL.
Philadelphia must have liked its matchup with Thomas because he was targeted quite a bit compared to other members of the Giants secondary. The comeback corner responded well to the additional attention, though, registering a team-leading 11 tackles (10 solo). He also added a strip-sack, forcing a turnover to cease one of Philadelphia's most successful drives.
Thomas has done whatever is asked of him by the Giants coaching staff in 2013. Just last week, he wasn't needed as much, as Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy and Will Hill formed a heavily utilized three-man safety unit which saw the field at Thomas' expense.
The week before that, however, he had a big, six-tackle game versus the Bears. And yet a week before the Bears game, he was on the sideline again, scarcely included in the game plan when the Eagles came to visit.
In the offseason, Thomas claimed he could be the Giants' "X factor," as he was open to the idea of filling any and all roles. That seems to be the case so far, as Thomas' involvement seems to be determined on a game-by-game basis. If the coaching staff thinks Thomas provides the team a favorable matchup, he's on the field somewhere—and usually making a difference.
Thomas was only part of a shutdown backfield which limited Philadelphia's offense to an average of just 4.4 yards per pass attempt. Rolle had yet another outstanding game, as he and Will Hill turned in a pair of interceptions from the safety positions. Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride have been sound on the outsides while Corey Webster patiently works his way back to 100 percent.
Although it takes a true team effort to curb the opposition's passing totals, it sure helps to have a utility piece in Thomas to plug in whenever and wherever he is needed.
Some Struggles Continue
It's not all champagne and confetti for these two-win Giants. They may be on a winning streak, but it's not the kind that instills fear in an opponent. The Giants are still making many mistakes that a bad team tends to commit, despite their recent success.
If you thought the Giants' issues on special teams were resolved when punter Steve Weatherford booted a career-long 68-yarder, pinning the Eagles back inside their own 5-yard line, you were probably rudely awakened by Zak DeOssie's inexplicable moonshot of a long snap late in the fourth quarter. The special teams gaffe cost the Giants a shutout for the second straight week.
While the Giants continue to shoot themselves in the foot on special teams, the mistakes on offense have been just as aggravating.
The Giants were penalized 11 times for 92 yards, including twice for something as simple as having the incorrect number of players lined up on the line of scrimmage. It's familiar to see Eli Manning frantically trying to organize the offense before the play clock expires; we've come to expect at least one "delay-of-game" and "intentional-grounding" call apiece per week.
Maybe I'm nitpicking here. Rome wasn't built in a day, and there's no way one could expect New York to clean up its entire act in just two weeks. I mean, did you see it in the first six games of the season? It was filthy. The offense hasn't turned the ball over once in the past two weeks; that alone is a massive improvement.
Good teams don't make the little mistakes, though, and future opponents will take advantage of them if the Giants still make them in the final eight games of the 2013 season.
Luckily, they've got a bye week to iron out some of those wrinkles before then.