Tom, a Philadelphia Eagles blogger at Eagles Eye, provides us with a scouting report on Sunday’s game.
Here we are again, Glenn… the NFC East showdown game late in the season that involves the Eagles and Giants. It’s almost a holiday tradition in Philly…and when the cold wind starts swirling around the Meadowlands, we know it’s time to strap it on and find out who’s peaking late and who’s fading from contention…
Eagles have won the last 5 matches…but that won’t mean a thing on Sunday. These are different teams, even from a month ago. Injuries have piled up on both sides. Eagles have just lost MLB Stew Bradley and DE Brandon Graham for the season, and CB Asante Samuel and RT Winston Justice are still doubtful for Sunday.
A few injuries for the Giants to keep an eye on: Hakeem Nicks came up lame on a long pass against Minnesota, Mario Manningham suffered a hip injury, defensive tackle Chris Canty was rolled up with a burner and then limped off, and special teamer Clint Sintim looks like he won’t play on Sunday with a knee injury. And when Justin Tuck’s a little banged up, it has a big impact on the game. (After suffering a serious knee injury, Steve Smith will undergo microfracture knee surgery. Needless to say, Steve Smith is done for the year.)
And my point is: it always seems lately, when the Eagles meet the Giants in December and January for the “big game”, the injury impact is worse for the Giants. Call it bad luck or bad timing in the schedule. But this time around, with huge holes caused to their defense by recent injuries, the Eagles may actually be at disadvantage.
The Eagles should be concerned after watching the Giants dismantle the Vikings. Antrel Rolle has great timing with his blitzing. The Giants used him effectively in the first game against the Eagles, too. It is something the Eagles need to watch for this time around.
Eli Manning threw two interceptions and looked out of sorts in the passing game until Eli used Brandon Jacobs for an outside run for 73 yards and then Ahmad Bradshaw for a big gain, then a touchdown and a 7-3 lead— insurmountable against the Vikings awful offensive performance.
Jacobs and Bradshaw are healthy at the same time in December. That fact alone will concern the Eagles defense. Add Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith to the mix, and there’s really no good reason the Giants can’t put up some decent offensive numbers on the Eagles young and somewhat untested secondary.
To me, the true winning identity of the Giants is and always will be their pass rush. In past December games with the Eagles, the Giants’ pass rush wore down late in the game. Maybe Tuck is affected by the nagging injury a little, but I don’t see the Giants’ DL and LB’s fading away this time. The Eagles better protect Vick by throwing a lot of screens to McCoy and Maclin. Vick’s about one big hit away from disassembly.
Finally, the biq question that won’t go away: Why does Eli seem so inconsistent against the Eagles in late-season games?
First off, nobody on the Eagles has a “secret read” on Eli…that urban legend got started a few years back in those huge games in 2008. Sportswriters make stuff up sometimes… What I think the deal with Eli is: he can carry the Giants with his arm when he’s hot, but so many times the Giants win earlier in a season even when Eli is struggling, nobody really considers his “inconsistency” as a liability. But as the season wears on, with its normal toll of injuries and fatigue, Eli’s margin of error for victory decreases when he struggles. Now, add in those swirling cold winds in North Jersey I mentioned before, and the urgency of a “mini-playoff” game… I just think Eli has a great difficulty throwing the ball in the wind, and then his timing is thrown off further by the late-season “importance” of the game. Eli has a personality that presses under duress. It’s just Eli. Take the cold winds away and he’d probably settle down and do just fine every time. Mix it all together, and you get the inconsistency…
What are your thoughts about Giants’ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride?
Here’s the thing about Gilbride…he only seems to get criticized when the Giants lose. (Note: Whether the Giants win or lose, UltimateNYG has questioned Gilbride’s puzzling playcalling.) That doesn’t seem fair to me, because the Giants usually win most of their games. That being said, let’s go to the game films when the Giants lose…the thing that jumps out at me is, you have a running game good enough to make the defense constantly account for the run. What’s the point of putting fear of the run into the defense’s mind if, when passing, you go to empty backfields? That if anything is what the Eagles defense keys on. They see the empty backfield package come in, and as John Madden would say, “Boom!…we know Eli’s gonna throw it, and we have a pretty good idea from studying film what his progression will be…” The Giants game plan should be simple and successful— run between the tackles, and when Gilbride wants to mix in a pass, run play action off his established running success. Time goes off the clock, Giants score touchdowns and FG’s, and they win the game. What Gilbride does is segregate his run game from his passing attack. His package formations give it away every time. Other quirks in Gilbride’s play-calling: why do the Giants have an aversion or inability to throw a 5-10 yard pass off a quick drop? Where are the quick slants and the screens? Mixing plays like those in with the runs and deep patterns would just kill the timing of the Eagles linebackers and corners…and provide Eli with the extra confidence he could use in tough game conditions. But like I said, Gilbride is a pro and he usually wins, so I defer to his experience and expertise. I just see things go wrong sometimes and I wonder…but I’m just a fan…and a sportsblogger.
I’d say turn the offense over to Jacobs and Bradshaw and the offensive run-block game for 60 percent of the plays…and you would negate any inconsistency factor on the part of Eli. But that’s unrealistic. Then you’re taking away the great weapons—Eli’s receivers. That’s not a good trade. And your O-line would be gassed in case you needed them for a late winning drive. Nope…Eli’s got to step up and establish a passing rhythm early, even if conditions aren’t perfect for his best game. If he does that, and the Giants defense can hold Vick in check for at least half of his possessions, the G-Men have a good chance to prevail on Sunday.
Thank you, Tom.