I am sure this will be the first of several reviews of the Eagles game that I post, which is why I numbered this post even before I mapped out whether there will be a sequel. (It was Godfather, then Godfather 2; Superman, then Superman II... get it ... the first movies in the sequence should have been named... oh forget it.)
Anyway - I am positively ill about this game, or really, to be more accurate, about these last two games, against the Cowboys and the Eagles. They are a model of who the Giants are as a team, what the coaches and players are like and why I fear and now think that the Giants will have an unhappy ending to this season. The summary is that the Giants show lots of talent and even show lots of grit, never giving up on a game, always fighting through extremely difficult circumstances, but in the end, being undone by turnovers and mistakes. The turnovers are an absolute killer. The Giants have 30 turnovers this year, for a ridiculous average of three per game. In a way, it is remarkable that the Giants actually have a winning record with all these turnovers. They are at or near the very bottom of the league in total turnovers and poor turnover differential. By contrast in the 1990 season the Giants had 15 turnovers for the entire season and the 2008 Giants had only 13. That's 3 or 4 weeks' worth of turnovers for this year's team. You simply can't play this way and when it has lasted this long into the season, you have to presume the following:
1- it is more than just a momentary run of bad luck - when it has lasted 10 games, you have to say that it is deeply embedded into the character , the very DNA of the team. It is not enough for the coaches to say "we coach them not to turn the ball over, but they do it anyway". That means one of two things: either the coaches don't know how to coach them not to turn it over or the players are not listening to the coaching. Either way, the coaches are not getting through to the team and there is a problem with the coaching.
2-when it has gone on through 10 of the 16 games of the season, you also have to presume that it just isn't going to change. If you follow this blog, you all know that I think Eli is one of the elite QBs in the league. Well, I have to admit that he sure isn't playing like it this year. He has the talent of an elite QB - strong, accurate arm, great timing, ability to read the defenses, ability to make every throw a great QB needs to make. But 15 INTs and all those fumbles??? That is just unacceptable. When he fell forward instead of sliding and fumbled away the last chance the Giants had of winning, making the same mistake he made last year, it showed that he is just not playing well. In a way it was a microcosm of the season - he made a valiant attempt, showed running ability, made the first down but then gave it away. He has a lot of TDs and a lot of INTs - that's Brett Favre territory and is not the recipe or makeup of an elite QB. We've all analyzed that many of his INTs are the fault of the WRs, because of all the tipped balls. But when you have 15 INTs, regardless of whose fault some of them are - it's on the QB.
We said all along, when they were on their 5 game winning streak that the turnovers have to stop otherwise it would cost the team some games when they play against the better teams. Well, it just cost two games. Three, actually, if you include the Titans game which was also a gift to the Titans because of all the turnovers. You don't win games because of talent on the field. The talent on the field just gives you a chance to win - you win when the talent is productive and plays well. Turning the ball over undermines the yards and productivity that they pile up.
I was going to recommend that it's time for the Giants to sit Ahmad Bradshaw down. They just can't afford to play him anymore - he may be more talented than Jacobs and DJ Ware, but not so much better or so much more productive that it makes up for all the turnovers and missed blocks. Unfortunately, the news this evening is that Nicks had some kind of serious leg condition and required a surgical procedure to his leg which will cause him to miss at least three games. That may have saved Bradshaw's starting job, because sitting him under these circumstances may not be possible. Even though he makes mistakes, he is one of the play makers on offense and the Giants probably can't afford to lose him now in addition to Nicks. In fact, they probably have to work him more into the passing offense to compensate for the loss of Nicks.
These injuries are crazy, really. Every team has injuries, but what really kills a team is when all the injuries are concentrated in one unit and the team does not have a chance to compensate for it. You can stock good back up players one layer deep and demand that one substitute player step up, but not 3 or 4 in the same unit. From the opening day roster, the Giants have now lost: Nicks, Smith, Barden and Cruz. When you add in the fact that they also lost Hixon and Moss to injury, you're talking about 6 quality WRs that are not available to the team. They already re-signed Derek Hagan, but he won't exactly replace Jerry Rice on NFL Networks top 100 players list, if you get my drift. Maybe David Tyree is still available. Forget that - Hagan took his number.
I am really sorry I vented and ranted about the Giants in this post without really talking about the Eagles game at all. That will have to wait until tomorrow.
Just one note about the game itself - even though this game was really close and a play here or there could have easily given the game to the Giants, from the big picture, the Eagles outplayed and outgained the Giants. Giants were kept in the game by their defense, holding the Eagles to 9 points on four first half drives when they could have had 28. One egregious drop of a sure TD pass by Avanti was pure fortune for the Giants and not the residue of any brilliant design. Even though the Giants had a lead in the 4th qtr and were one off-sides penalty away from actually winning the game, they still lost. More tomorrow.