The game that the New York Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night was certainly one you could get upset about. There the Giants were, on the Philadelphia 27-yard line on 2nd-and-9 with 25 seconds left in the game. Down by two. All the Giants needed to do was run up the middle to get a little closer to the field goal posts, spike the ball on third time with as little time as possible left on the clock, and watch Lawrence Tynes kick the team to victory.
Everything seems so easy in hindsight. The painful part is, it probably was that easy, at least on the surface. The problem is, 44-yard field goals seem like a lot more of a lock when you’re not the coach of the team that needs the kick to win a rivalry game on the road. That’s why I can’t blame Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride too much for choosing to throw the ball on that fateful play when a simple draw would have sufficed. After all, it was that same sort of aggressive play calling that led to a 30-yard gain on 4th-and-1 on the last play of the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Giants, neither of those aggressive play calls led to points.
If Ramses Barden doesn’t completely maul Eagles corner Nnamdi Asomugha on that play at the end of the game, the Giants probably go ahead and kick a 44-yard field goal on third down. Maybe it goes in, maybe it doesn’t. It certainly would have had a better chance of going in than the 54-yard try that Tynes ended up trying (and missing) thanks to the offensive pass interference as well as Coughlin’s fear of the clock running out.
If Manning doesn’t throw an interception on the first play following the 30-yard, 4th-and-1 completion to Cruz, the Giants might not even be trailing with 15 seconds left in the game. Manning misread Eagles corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the play and made a sloppy throw that cost the Giants at least three points.
Was it too risky for the Giants to run a play on third down with virtually no chance to spike the ball if they got tackled in bounds? There was another team playing on Sunday that didn’t think so.
The Falcons on Sunday were in a similar position as the Giants, and they successfully completed two passes that moved them into better field goal position
Trailing the Panthers by a single point late in the game, Atlanta had the ball on the Carolina 35-yard line with no timeouts and 19 seconds remaining. Here’s how it played out:
(:19) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short left to T.Gonzalez pushed ob at CAR 28 for 7 yards (J.Norman).
(:14) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short left to H.Douglas ran ob at CAR 22 for 6 yards.
Timeout #3 by CAR at 00:10.
(:10) M.Bryant 40 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J.Harris, Holder-M.Bosher
Rather than attempt a 52-yard field goal with former Giants kicker Matt Bryant, the Falcons moved 13 yards closer to the endzone thanks to Carolina’s soft defense.
Would the Eagles have been quite as soft? Maybe, considering how well the Giants had stretched the field in the second half. If there was nothing there, Eli Manning could have just thrown the ball out of bounds. Instead, Coughlin decided to attempt a field goal that was one yard longer than Tynes’ career best.
Here’s what else went right and wrong for the Giants on Sunday:
LeSean McCoy ran for 123 yards on 23 carries
Sealing the edge and covering cutback lanes are very simple concepts to understand, and yet actually doing these things can seem very difficult when facing a halfback as talented as McCoy. Too many times against the Eagles, the Giants were beat to the edge or overran a cutback lane and allowed McCoy to gain major yardage.
The most frustrating thing was that pretty much all of McCoy’s damage came in the second half, when the Giants were playing from behind and needed to stop the run more urgently. In the first half, McCoy ran six times for just two yards. That means in the second half, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry. The Giants were very fortunate to keep the Eagles out of the endzone in the second half while allowing those kinds of rushing numbers.
The Eagles never punted in the second half… but they also failed to score a touchdown
Despite a dominant performance from McCoy and an effective yet unspectacular game from Vick, the Eagles failed to reach the endzone in the second half. They had the ball four times (discounting the end-of-game kneel down) and kicked four field goals. Three of those were from inside the red zone, as the Eagles had little problem moving the ball down the field on the Giants.
On their first possession of the second half, the Eagles had a chance to take a 14-3 lead when Mathias Kiwanuka tackled McCoy on the New York one-yard line following a 22-yard run. However, the Giants defense came up big, stopping McCoy for three plays in a row to force an Alex Henery field goal. With the score now 10-3 instead of 14-3, the Giants were able to tie the game minutes later on Victor Cruz’s 14-yard touchdown reception.
The Giants didn’t punt in the second half either, but the Manning interception as well as the missed field goal at the end turned out to be fatal to their chances.
David Wilson appears, and Andre Brown disappears
While the Eagles were outstanding in the running game, the Giants went back to the plodding pace they were used to prior to Andre Brown’s breakout last week. Ahmad Bradshaw was healthy again and went back to being the feature back. He rolled off a couple of nice runs through the middle of Philly’s defense, but overall was quite bland and finished with 39 yards on 13 carries. Meanwhile, Brown was nearly invisible, getting just five carries despite Bradshaw’s general ineffectiveness. He only gained 14 yards on those carries, but I still figured from last week’s performance that Brown had at least earned half of the workload.
The boost the Giants’ offense needed in the second half actually game from special teams. David Wilson returned six kicks for an average of 36.2 yards per return, which gave New York consistently excellent field position. Nearly every time the Eagles scored, the Giants struck back with a great kick return to take the wind out of their sails. You’d think that Wilson’s special teams prowess would earn him some touches on offense, but Coughlin and Gilbride are still reluctant to unleash the rookie’s true powers.
Domenik Hixon caught six passes for 114 receiving yards
This is worth mentioning just because I thought that Barden had taken Hixon’s job after the Carolina game. However, in Philadelphia, Manning couldn’t stop throwing to Hixon, even when he was covered by Philly’s ace corner Asomugha. Although Barden was featured more on New York’s final series, Hixon seems like a good bet to continue as the third wide receiver when Hakeem Nicks returns from injury.
The Giants are now 2-2 on the season and host the Cleveland Browns next week. The Eagles are 3-1 and will head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Follow me on Twitter @apy5000.