As distasteful as it was, I watched the game again, recorded on my DVR, in order to review what really happened and where the Giants lost the game. Watching the game live I had the feeling that the Eagles completely dominated, were much more talented than the Giants on both sides of the ball and that the Giants were lucky to even be in the game. I got a much different impression when I was watching the game a little dispassionately, for some analysis and not rooting hard while watching it live. The truth is that the Giants defense played really well. They had a very good game plan and executed it very well. They did make a few mistakes and did have the big blown assignment on the 50 yard TD run that turned out to be the winning TD, but they really contained the Eagles offense very well. The Giants turned the ball over several times leading directly to 9 Eagles points. They got a first quarter TD and the 50 yard run after the Giants stopped the Eagles on the play before, but gave it back because of the off side penalty on JPP.
The strategy that Fewell used was not dissimilar to what we discussed in the pregame posts. Use the 3 S / 2 LB formation almost as the base defense to combat the Eagles speed. Keep DBs back on passing downs, playing more zone than usual and keeping the dangerous WRs in front of them. Don't be afraid to blitz Vick, but when you do, bring a S or CB instead of LB who will be quicker and therefore have a better chance of containing him. The idea was that it would be OK to give up some yardage on the underneath passes, but take away the long balls that Vick throws well. Rely on the athleticism of the DL to combat Vick's running and do not use a spy to track him down. All that worked very well, we saw Rolle blitzing often from the right side of the defense, forcing Vick to run to his right where he could not throw the ball on the run - that was a very smart wrinkle by Fewell. Eagles got one TD early and after that only four FGs, three of them gifts after Giants turnovers, until that last run. That sequence was an absolute heart breaker. Eagles had 3rd and 6 with 4 minutes left and Vick got chased and forced into an incomplete pass but JPP was off side on the play. They reran the play and the Giants stopped them again on 3rd and 1 but then gave up the long 50 yard TD run when Reid went for it on 4th down. That is two weeks in a row where a minor, inconsequential penalty at the line of scrimmage cost the Giants a TD two plays later. Last week the false start by Beatty negated Jacobs rushing TD and two plays later the pick 6 cost the Giants the game. This week the off side by JPP took a 4th and 6 and gave the Eagles a 3rd and 1 which they hit for the long play.
The other disheartening part of that play was how close the Giants came to stopping it for a loss. Osi saw the pitch and broke to the ball, missed tipping it by about an inch. If he knocks it down, the Giants win the game.
Boley had a poor game missing contain on a few outside runs, though he did get a few good blitzes and hits on the QB. Rolle played very well in run support and disrupted Vick's passing game with his blitzes. Tuck was outstanding. He had a few sacks, the forced fumble which led to the TD that put the Giants ahead early in the 4th quarter and had a few other excellent plays disrupting the Eagles offense.
Overall, while the defense played really well, on offense, the Giants made a ton of mistakes. I am not limiting myself to the turnovers, there were also lots of mental errors, physical mistakes and a strategic issue which the Giants have to address. The WRs made a few plays but had several mental mistakes. On the Giants first drive of the game, Eli hit Nicks on 3rd and 10 for about 35 yards but Nicks did not keep his feet in bounds. On the second drive of the game, Eli hit Manningham for 6 yards on 3rd and 8 when Manningham had at least a 5 yard additional cushion to run the route deeper and get the first down. Later in the game, Eli threw a crossing route to Nicks about 1/2 foot high and too far out in front of him, but the defender had fallen down and Nicks could have caught the ball after which he would have run for 40 yards. Manningham and Boss missed blocks on a WR bubble screen to Calhoun that was set up perfectly and would have gone for a big gain.
Physically, the Giants did get beat up in two areas: the first was the TE blocking for the running game, which was really poor and it affected the running game more than the OL. Boss has been getting better as a blocker but he had a real bad game Sunday night and Beckum was invisible. I am not going to blame Beckum because he is small for a TE, but if there was ever a time for him to step up and at least be a down field threat, which is why he was brought here, now is the time. Pascoe was defeated on several blocks also but did have some plays where he stuck his man and opened some space for the few effective runs that the Giants had. Strategically, it is hard to be a power running team when your TEs are average blockers and your RB has a shifty cut back style. I don't understand why Gilbride only runs the ball inside. Think about it - the only time the Giants run wide is when they are in 3rd and 2 or 3 and they throw the little pitch to Bradshaw which they think will surprise the defense. Giants did not run outside once against the Eagles, it was all behind the T and off the C and G. I don't get why Gilbride does that: with a shifty, speedy back like Bradshaw; you have to run outside occasionally. The strength of the Giants OL, I think is the athleticism at the G position. When you run inside only, you minimize their ability to pull and get out in front of an occasional outside run. I understand that things may be different now with the beat up OL, but being predictable with the running plays is not good either.
As to predictability of the running game: the Eagles flowed to the ball so smoothly, it was almost as if they were in the huddle and knew the play call. On one play, as Eli was handing the ball to Jacobs, the Eagles already had both S running up to the line of scrimmage and were in the box. The play had no chance.
Note to Gilbride for Eagles rematch: a trick play where the RB gets the ball and pitches back to the QB for a down field pass will be wiiiiiide open based on the way the Eagles guess and attack the line of scrimmage on running plays.
The second area where the offense was defeated was at the LG and C position. Boothe was OK in pass blocking but was not quick enough to get out and block in running plays. Seubert was not awful and I will give him a pass for playing out of position, but there were several running plays going to the right side which were blocked fairly well by the RT and RG which did not work because Boothe and Seubert did not effectively seal the back side of the Eagles defense and LBs flowed over to stop the play.
Giants have a real challenge with how to remake the offense in the next few games with Manningham as the only WR who was on the opening day roster able to suit up this Sunday. Your first instinct is to go to the power running game, use double TE sets and maybe Giants get lucky and Hedgecock comes back to help with that. But with the weak blocking performance of the TEs last week and the injured OL, it's a lot to ask. I would throw the ball early in the downs because the Jaguars defense will surely be up at the line to stop the run. When the Giants are in 3rd and long, they should be conservative, go to screens and draws and if they have to kick it away and rely on their defense, so be it.
I would also try to use the RBs in the passing game and load up with an extra OL-man for extra pass protection so the RBs can release out of the backfield with more confidence. The Giants have been talking all season about team first and accountability. If there is real accountability, the Giants should sit Bradshaw and play Ware.
This punter is making me (and everyone else) crazy. He shanked a 25 yard punt this week and also nailed a few long ones. He dropped one snap and, luckily nobody was rushing him. He picked it up and hit his longest punt of the game, which of course shows that this is all mental with him. When he has too much tome to think, he misses them. When he picks it up and has to just "grip it and rip it" he hits a 65 yarder. On average, his distance was pretty good, but average does not indicate consistency. One 65 yarder and a 25 yarder comes out to an average distance of 45. But the 25 yard punt puts your defense in the whole, while the 65 yard punt went into the end zone, came out to the 20 and did not give the team a great field position advantage. I understand why the Giants are smitten with Dodge; he has a huge leg. But it is 10 games into the season and he has not settled down yet. Time for some action.