Despite the combined record of 1-7 posted by these two teams heading into the Week 5 tilt, this was one of the biggest games on the docket on Sunday. The NFC East is a division that is still up in the air. Furthermore it is all but a certainty that the only team of the four involved will have to take the division crown in order to sneak into the playoffs. This puts a great importance on the head-to-head games that take place between these rivals. The Giants were in search of their first win heading into this contest, but if they were to pull off a victory, it would have catapulted the team right back into the thick of things. As it turns out, the Eagles were victorious and because of that (coupled with a Dallas loss), Philly is once again tied for first place sporting a 2-3 record. This was a very interesting game, and the intrigue did not vanish until late in the fourth quarter.
To start, the Giants had a couple of separate boosts of momentum in the game. The first burst came early when their defense was able to force a three and out and the offense jumped on the board immediately with a touchdown (a five yard David Wilson bolt which followed a 49 yard bomb ticketed for Hakeem Nicks). In the third quarter, New York was able to recapture some of the steam when they took a 21-19 lead (courtesy of two Reuben Randle touchdown receptions). It is certainly worth mentioning that the Eagles had every chance to put this game away early, but instead were forced to settle for a handful of field goals. The G-Men had their rivals from Philly right where they wanted them too. Late in the second quarter, Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick left the game with a hamstring injury. He scampered out of bounds with about five minutes left and came up holding his leg. This set the stage for second year quarterback Nick Foles to come in, so one would think that the Giants could have taken this game down the stretch as long as they could slow the Philadelphia running game. Surprise, surprise, New York completely bottled LeSean McCoy up from that point on but the Eagles still won because of some sloppy play out of Tom Coughlin’s squad and some stellar play out of Foles.
The Giants made a plethora of mistakes in this game; not one of them directly leading to the loss, but the cumulative effect made a great contribution. For example, in the first quarter on a third and nine, the Eagles ran the ball for five yards and were flagged for a holding penalty. Rather than declining the penalty to bring up fourth down, Tom Coughlin decided to accept it (perhaps he thought Chip Kelly would have gone for it on a fourth and four in New York territory?). This made it a 3rd and 20 and instead of forcing the punt, Michael Vick scrambled up the middle for 34 yards. This lead to a field goal. Next on the list was the situation that took place early in the second half. On a third and ten, LeSean McCoy made a toe-tapping grab on the sidelines. Coughlin wanted to challenge the ruling on the field, and instead of throwing the flag right away, he burnt a timeout; one the team could have used down the stretch. After spending their first team timeout, the head coach then threw the flag and ultimately lost the challenge (and their second team timeout). To me, it was odd that Coughlin took his first timeout to begin with. I can’t figure out why he didn’t simply throw the flag first. I understand that he took the first timeout to buy some time to determine whether or not he should have the officials look at the play again, but it would have been smarter if he just challenged the play right away. This left me and many Giants fans scratching our heads. Some of the more obvious mistakes that took place in this game were the three interceptions thrown by Eli Manning (elevating his total on the season to an unsightly 12). Brandon Jacobs fumbled in the second quarter as well (this lead directly to another Philly field goal putting the Eagles up 16-7 at the time). Manning was flagged three times for intentional grounding and New York accumulated 12 penalties for 136 yards. All of these mistakes were a huge reason as to why the Giants lost this game, and it is really a snapshot of their entire season and why they are still in search of their first win.
The Eagles looked pretty good on offense for the most part. When they weren’t throwing the ball well (namely early in the game, before Vick sustained the hamstring injury), they were running it well. Later on in the game when the Giants were attacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run, Chip Kelly had Nick Foles throwing it. For the most part, the Philly O-line played very well. They allowed just one sack and little pressure throughout the day on either quarterback. It is also interesting to not that the Eagles really made it a point to attack the Giants outside the numbers. This was brought up on a couple of separate occasions during the telecast, but throughout the years this has always been Philadelphia’s plan when taking on Perry Fewell’s defense. The Eagles ran all of their 77 plays out of the shotgun (excluding the two kneel downs by Foles at the end of the game). This is the first time all year that Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur ran an entire game-plan exclusively out of the gun. Apparently it worked, as the Eagles pick up their second win of the season. It is also interesting to note that in both of the games this year where Philly has won the battle of time of possession, they one the game. Much has been made about how the Eagles do not need to win in this category in order to dominate a game, but they are 0-3 when they don’t hold the ball for over 30 minutes… just saying.
The big question heading forward for the Eagles is the health of Michael Vick. Will he be well enough to play next week versus Tampa Bay? If not, how will the game plan change with Nick Foles at the controls? Much is still to be discovered with regards to this Philly team, but at least they have the comfort of being tied with Dallas for first place. The Giants will need to hit the road and take on Chicago next Thursday as the team tries to salvage something out of this season that has started off in such an ugly fashion. At 0-5 they are not dead in the water, but it is going to be awfully tough for them to turn things around, even in the fissure that is the NFC East.