New York Giants Lose Game and Destiny to Eagles
Every week I write a "Five Keys To Victory" article, which focuses on five aspects of the game that the Giants must concentrate on in order to win.
Let's take a look at my five keys to this game and assess how the Giants performed.
1. Sack McNabb
The Giants managed just one sack of Donovan McNabb, and it wasn't even a real sack; it was Osi Umenyiora's strip of the ball that was ruled an incomplete pass by one ref. The Giants brought no pressure, and McNabb was able to feel at home in the pocket.
Ever since that 12-sack game, I don't think McNabb has had an easier, more leisurely day than when he's facing the Giants.
2. Cover Jackson
DeSean Jackson was able to embarrass the Giants secondary for six receptions, 178 yards, and a demoralizing 60-yard touchdown reception. This play was the one that broke the Giants' backs, as they had just earned their first lead of the game on Domenik Hixon's 61-yard touchdown reception, only to have it taken away one offensive play later. Jackson also scored on a 72-yard punt return.
Verdict: EPIC FAIL
3. Run the Ball
Although they were playing from behind for most of the game, the Giants' offense still managed to churn out 133 yards on the ground.
Brandon Jacobs looked great, running hard and frequently pushing the pile for extra yards. Jacobs had 60 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Ahmad Bradshaw did his job as a change-of-pace back, scampering for 55 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. The two combined for only 4.0 yards per carry, which is okay, but not great.
Overall, the running game looked better than it had in recent weeks, and Eli Manning even added 18 yards on two runs.
4. Limit Poor Decisions
While Manning did not throw any interceptions, the spirit of this "key" was, "don't turn the ball over." I even ended this segment by saying this: "And let's try and hold on to the ball as well. No fumbles." Yet the Giants fumbled five times and lost four of them.
There is nothing redeeming to say about this aspect of the performance.
Verdict: EPIC FAIL
5. Block for Hixon
The Giants gave Hixon enough room to run for 172 yards on eight kick returns. The 21.5-yard average is good, but he was not able to break off a long one. Still, it seems as if he is always making the first guy miss and will never go down easily (sometimes to his detriment, as he fumbled twice trying to pick up extra yards). He also added 19 yards on two punt returns.
But Hixon's biggest play of the day came on offense, where he has not made much of an impact this year. Hixon took a short pass and broke away from a couple of Eagles defenders for a long 61-yard touchdown.
There were a couple of Giants in position to block for him, but there were no Eagles defenders to block. Hixon was able to waltz into the end zone on a touchdown that would give the Giants their first and only lead of the game.
But while Hixon personally had a good game statistically (minus the fumbles), the focus of this key was on the blocking. The overall blocking on special teams was only okay, and Hixon's almost 200 return yards were more a result of his 10 return opportunities.
The Giants were successful in only one of the five keys (running the ball), while their blocking for Hixon was pretty good, but not great. It's pretty clear that what did them in was their inability to stop the Eagles' passing game and their five fumbles.
Other game notes:
* The offensive game ball goes to Eli Manning, who did everything in his power to win this game. Manning completed 27 of 38 passes for 391 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 130.5 QB rating.
Eli looks fully healthy and may be on his way to his best season yet. He is completing 60.4 percent of his passes (barely a career high), has thrown 23 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and has a career-high 93 QB rating.
He may be overpaid, and he'll probably always be considered overrated by certain stubborn fans, but I am happy to have him as my quarterback.
* There is no defensive game ball this week, but I will give a thumbs up to Jonathan Goff, who caught his first career interception in only his second start. He did fail to record a tackle, however.
* Much has been made about Lawrence Tynes' struggles: The Giants have brought in other kickers to practice to give Tynes a shot in the arm. But the reality is, Tynes has been having a better season than Jeff Feagles.
I sure hope the Giants are bringing in punters off the scrap heap to come in and compete during practice, because the next best available guy has to be at least as good as Feagles. His 40.4-yard average is second worst in the league, and his 35.4-yard net average is third worst. What a shame.
* I've been saying for a while that, as early as next year, the wide receiving corps will be one of the strengths of this team. But as of right now, these young receivers are still a work in progress.
Hakeem Nicks had a bunch of ugly drops, even though his trademark is supposed to be his sticky hands that catch everything. Mario Manningham ran a couple of routes too close to the sideline, although he has shown an Amani Toomer-like ability to keep his feet inbounds. Even reliable Steve Smith, the new Giants single-season receptions record holder (85), had a bunch of ugly drops last week.
* Right now, we have a young, talented, but inconsistent group of playmakers. But in the near future, depth and talent at receiver will be the team's strength, and I hope that we do not waste our talent because of some false bravado idea that the Giants are a power-running football team.
There is no rule that the Giants cannot be a passing offense, and if the talent on the team dictates that they should be a passing offense, that is the direction this team should take. Eli has shown that he has the ability to throw the ball well in cold, bad weather games, and the NFL has evolved into a passing league.
I'm not saying that the Giants should abandon the run going forward. A balanced offense is always the most effective. But the idea that the Giants' franchise must always be built on a smash-mouth rushing offense is ridiculous and naive.
* Paging John Fox. Please return home to Giants stadium no later than March 2010, where you will resume defensive coordinator duty, with the understanding that you will take over as head coach once Tom Coughlin has moved on.
The Giants now need the Cowboys to lose at least once, or else all is lost. New York owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.
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