Eagles vs. Giants: 5 Keys to a Philadelphia Victory
Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles were in a must-win type situation, so I don't know what you call this week. Maybe an "Okay, we really need to win this week." The Eagles will travel to the New Meadowlands to face their division rival, the New York Giants. If the Eagles lose, you can pretty much stick a fork in them. Coming back from a 3-6 start is tough but manageable; coming back from 3-7 trailing the division leaders by four games (five if you count the tiebreaker) is pretty much impossible.
Last season, when these two teams last met in the Meadowlands, the Eagles pulled off a miracle comeback in the fourth quarter against the Giants. This season the Eagles can't protect a lead in the fourth quarter and will need a miracle comeback of their own just to make the playoffs.
When these two teams met in Week 3, the Eagles dominated the Giants, out-rushing them by 75 yards, making 11 more first downs and control the clock for over 36 minutes. The Giants still won the game after knocking out Michael Vick and holding the Eagles to just one red-zone touchdown in five trips.
It's all on the line for Andy Reid and his coaching staff Sunday night. A loss would mean Eagles fans will only have next April's draft to look forward to.
1. Run the Ball
The Eagles had a lot of success running the football in their first go around against the Giants. LeSean McCoy had 24 carries for 128 yards and the majority of that came in the first half. Michael Vick added 31 rushing yards, as the Eagles had 177 yards on the ground and dominated the time of possession.
This week the running game will be even more important. Michael Vick will either be out or in agonizing pain from his two broken ribs. The strength of the Giants defense is their pass-rush, and the best way to counter that is to take the ball away from the quarterback and play ground- and-pound football.
If Vick can't play and Vince Young gets his first start of the season, he will need a strong running game to take the pressure off. So far this season, Young has played in two games and has attempted one pass that was intercepted.
There's no reason why the NFL's top rushing attack should pound the football less than 35 times on the road against the Giants.
2. Protect the Ball
The Eagles have been a turnover machine this season, turning it over 19 times. In Week 3 against the Giants, they turned it over three times while failing to force a single turnover on defense. That stat has to change in order for the Eagles to upset the Giants on the road.
The Eagles have turned the ball over in every single game this season except their 34-7 beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys. Coincidence? Definitely not.
If the Eagles can take care of the football, they can beat the Giants. Turnovers have plagued the Eagles this season, but if they can take care of the football, they can turn their season around. It starts Sunday night against the Giants.
3. Don't Give Up the Big Play
In the first meeting between these teams, the Eagles fell behind in the first quarter 14-0 because of big plays. Brandon Jacobs burned Casey Matthews on a 40-yard touchdown reception. Jacobs ran a wheel route of a play fake, and Matthews bit on the fake badly and there was no safety help as Jacobs walked into the end zone to give the Giants an early 7-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, Victor Cruz burned the Eagles on a 74-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 Giants. Cruz ran a 10-yard out pattern and both Kurt Coleman and Nnamdi Asomugha whiffed on tackles before Cruz got to midfield.
The Giants scored four touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 3, but they only got inside the 20 one time. In order for the Eagles to be successful, they have to be a bend-but-not-break type of a defense. Giving up more big plays to Eli Manning and his offense will spell dome for the Eagles once again.
4. More Man Coverage
No Eagle was more to blame in last Sunday's humiliating loss to the Arizona Cardinals at home, then defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Because of Castillo's love affair with zone coverage, Fitzgerald was able to score two touchdowns against linebacker Brian Rolle and slot corner Joselio Hanson, while his 37-yard catch, where he was matched up against rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett deep, set up the go-ahead touchdown for the Cardinals.
In the first three quarters, Fitzgerald was held to just 52 yards on two catches in the first three quarters, as he was covered by either Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha the majority of the time. In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals' coaching staff got creative and moved him around. Nnamdi Asomugha did a good job shutting Early Doucet out in the fourth quarter, but Doucet isn't an All-Pro.
Castillo needs to abandon his zone coverage. Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Joselio Hanson are better suited for man coverage. Putting these guys in zone coverage limits their ability as shut-down corners. Had Nnamdi Asomugha exclusively covered Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter, the Eagles would be 4-5 right now and in position to get right back in the NFC East race this week.
If Castillo continues with his zone coverage, expect Eli Manning to carve the Eagles defense up for another four touchdowns.
5. Just Play Smart
The stupidity of the Eagles at times this season has been mind-boggling. Whether it's been penalties on defense that has kept drives going, or easy passes being dropped or just poor play-calling, the Eagles have played flat out stupid late in ball games this season.
The Eagles have made so many dumb mistakes this season, people are starting to forget about Ronnie Brown's attempted run/pass play on the goal line against the 49ers. The NFL is a tough, tough league. You can win games without a true quarterback, you can win games with several rookies at key positions, but you can't win games if you play stupid.
The Eagles need to avoid costly penalties that continues drives for the opposition. The receivers can't drop punts or catchable balls. They can't forget about their best player, LeSean McCoy, who had one touch on the final 20 plays of last week's 21-17 loss to the Cardinals.
If the Eagles can start playing smart football, they can start finishing off opponents in the fourth quarter. It starts with catching the football, not throwing into double coverage and not committing dumb penalties. It starts with Andy Reid. When a team continues to make critical mental mistakes, it falls on the coach to preach fundamentals and composure.
Let's hope the Eagles can play smart football for a change and take the first step to turning their season around.