In what has been a topsy-turvy season in the NFC East, and indeed the entire NFL, it was somewhat foolish for people to be writing off the Philadelphia Eagles heading into this crunch game with the New York Giants. Consistency has not been the Eagles’ strong point this season but every time they have been declared dead they have risen up to win and keep their heads just above water. Two games out of first place in the NFC East, with six to play, is still an uphill struggle with only four wins to their name but if the fourth quarter went the other way, they would have been four games outside of first place, a massive swing.
What it took from an Eagles team that mimicked their entire season for much of the game – showing great talent and dominating the flow of the game but failing to finish off the Giants – was one of their best drives in nearly a decade. Their game winning drive featured more plays, 18, than any drive since the 2002 season. The Eagles showed the sort of patience on ball control that we rarely see from them and all this with their backup quarterback under center. Overall, Vince Young was unconvincing but when it really counted he came through and, with a devastating defensive performance, reeled the Giants back in to the pack in the NFC East race.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Shock and Awe
In a game this big for your season, everything on the line without your starting quarterback, you need someone to stand up and be counted to carry the team. What’s better than one player doing that? How about an entire eight man rotation on the defensive line? Every single player on the Eagles’ defensive line made a contribution this week. Five players registered sacks, including the game clincher from Jason Babin (+4.8). Backups Juqua Parker (+3.9) and Derek Landri (+5.4) both knocked down passes. The octet combined to make 14 defensive stops in the game and did not miss any tackles. The ability to run in such high quality was too much for the Giants’ offensive line in this game.
Lightning in a bottle
His return to the field was never likely to go under the radar and so it proved that DeSean Jackson (+0.7) had an eventful evening in New York. As ever Jackson mixed the sublime with the ridiculous, helping the Eagles as much hurting them on occasion and encapsulating in a single performance why the Eagles have such a tough decision on their hands as to whether to pay Jackson or not and, if so, how much? His ability on a single play is undeniable, his speed is dangerous and at times uncontrollable for his defense. It only took a couple of bad angles for him to turn a solid punt from Steve Weatherford into a long return to set up a touchdown.
His 50-yard gain to get the Eagles off of their own goal-line earlier in the second quarter showed his ability to turn the game in the blink of an eye, only to then wipe it out with his poor discipline. Does the talent outweigh the self-inflicted wounds? A third down conversion at 3:45 in the fourth after which he again went off to taunt the crowd suggests that lessons, if they will be learned, won’t be learned quickly. The Eagles may have to live with the downside if they wish to keep Jackson’s undeniable, game changing talent.
Keeping the aces up their sleeves
Ever since the Giants rode their pass rush to the Super Bowl their defense has been all about their ace pass rushers, be it individually or in a “four aces” package. Well, this week the Giants pass rush was kept extremely quiet, the Eagles had them firmly under wraps. Evan Mathis (+2.6) yielded no pressure and only Jason Kelce (-0.3) conceded pressure more than once in the entire game. For a unit that has been much-maligned this season, and in recent years, they really upped their game. Both teams came in with fearsome pass rushers but one’s offensive line more highly thought of than the other. While the Giants crumbled, the Eagles stood tall and with a backup QB who, though not particularly au fait with the offense, stood in the pocket they kept the Giants’ pass rushers quiet. The only sack came on a third-and-five play at 9:32 in Q3 where Young attempted to hold the ball for more than five seconds and was taken down by Jason Pierre-Paul. An almost flawless performance in protection by this Eagles’ unit.
New York – Three Performances of Note
It wasn’t just the Giants’ top line pass rushers that struggled to make an impact in this game. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty may have combined for only one sack and four pressures but the supporting cast was invisible as well. In fact the only Giant defender to gain a positive grade for his work as a pass rusher or blitzer was debutant Mark Herzlich (+0.9) who recorded two pressures on his five forays after Vince Young. As a team the Giants registered pressure 10 times on 40 Philadelphia pass plays, sending 177 players at Young for the entire game. On average they sent an extra rusher every other play but only recorded pressure on one in four pass plays, an extremely poor return for a team usually so adept at pressuring the opposition passing game. This may be an aberration from the Giants pass rush, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The arrival of a new Prince
A foot injury has kept Giants fans waiting to catch a first glimpse of their much-heralded rookie cornerback but last night Prince Amukamara (+2.9) informed Giants fans that he was worth the wait. His debut wasn’t seamless and the Eagles were not frightened to test him on debut but in 18 plays in coverage he was targeted six times, yielding only 2 receptions, only one of which went for a first down. The highlight will be his interception of Vince Young on a deep route by DeSean Jackson at 9:08 in the first. Amukamara located the ball quicker than Jackson and, unlike Jackson, went to the highest point to grab the underthrown pass, stealing it from the Eagles’ speedster. It’s early days yet but the early signs are encouraging from Amukamara, and with none of the Giants’ corners setting the world alight in coverage he may see more and more snaps in the coming weeks.
What’s the Diehl?
The move back inside to guard was supposed to re-invigorate the career of David Diehl (-9.8) but if anything this season has shown that if Diehl ever was any good at guard his time out at tackle has taken it out of him. Diehl’s return to the interior of the offensive line has been far from seamless and his display on Sunday night was as bad as any he put in during some shoddy seasons at left tackle for the Giants. Diehl gave up two hits and five pressures in pass protection but it was his work as a run blocker that was most alarming (-6.1). Diehl is often lauded as a good run blocker out at tackle but his play this week was borderline abysmal. The Giants gained only 19 yards on seven carries to either side of him and he had particular trouble with Derek Landri, giving up two tackles to the Eagles’ back up of two yards or less.
– The solitary pressure that Jason Peters held Osi Umenyiora to was his lowest pass rush output since Week 16 last season in Green Bay.
– After throwing one interception under no pressure Eli Manning has now thrown five picks when the defense doesn’t get in his face this season. This is a sharp decline on last season where he threw 16 interceptions on plays with no pressure.
– On seven rushes to the right side of the offensive line the Giants amassed zero rushing yards.
PFF Game Ball
The entire Philadelphia Eagles defensive line takes the award for this one. There were fantastic individual performance along the entire line but it would be wrong to single out one above the crowd. The entire eight man rotation put on a dominant display this week.
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