The Giants’ loss to the Eagles, on Sunday was bad enough, but how they lost is what makes it harder to accept.
For all intents and purposes, this was a game the Giants could have won if they had executed half as well as they had during that mid-season seven-game win streak. But on Sunday, the defense couldn’t stop Philly on critical third downs and the entire offense looked out of sync, failing to score a single touchdown.
We all know this weekend was a crazy one for the NFL—full of catastrophic late season disappointments. The top seeded Tennessee Titans lost to the Baltimore Ravens 13–10 and then the highly rated Carolina Panthers were crushed at home by the Arizona Cardinals 33–13.
On Sunday afternoon, the visiting Philadelphia Eagles kept the trend going and put a knife through the heart of every Giants fan as they beat the Giants 23–11 in the Meadowlands.
The Giants failed to match the Eagles’ enthusiasm for four quarters and were beaten in the physical match-ups.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin was succinct regarding his team’s loss, “Disappointing finish to our season, not a whole lot to say other than that.”
Truth be told, Eli Manning had his the worst game of the season throwing two interceptions and going 15 of 29 for 169 yards. His 40.7 passer rating was his worst since December 2007. One of those costly interceptions occurred deep in Giants territory and set up the Eagles’ opening touchdown in the first quarter.
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s play calling wasn’t much better. In fact it was atrocious.
Why Gilbride couldn’t recognize the effectiveness of Brandon Jacobs was confusing. Jacobs only touched the ball 19 times, and even then he gained 92 yards. If he was given at least 20-plus carries, the outcome of the game could have been different.
Instead, Gilbride favored screen passes to Derrick Ward against a speedy Eagles defense and continued to abandon the run just when it seemed to create a tempo.
At times his game plan seemed completely backward. Throughout the first half, he decided to call passing plays when they should have established the run. And in the fourth quarter, when time was running out and the Giants were trailing, he opted for the run when he needed to call passing plays.
Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka refused to point fingers at the offense’s woes however, “There are times when the offense picks us up and there are times when we pick them up. We just had to do more as a team. It is not one group. It was a collective failure to execute.”
As for the Eagles, their offense wasn’t spectacular but they were able to keep the chains moving when it mattered, converting seven of 13 on third down.
Despite poor play on third downs, the Giants defense played well against the run, limiting Eagles star running back Brian Westbrook to 36 yards rushing on 18 carries and holding the rest of the Eagles offense to under 20 points for most of the game.
Giants defensive tackle Fred Robbins wasn’t satisfied, “We did a pretty good job of containing them on the run but we didn’t really do a good job of getting pressure on him [McNabb].
“We might have gotten a few hits on him, but not enough. They came out here to play, they made the big plays when they needed to make them.”
The defense scored a safety early in the second half and nearly scored a touchdown, courtesy of a Fred Robbins interception. But they could only do so much.
Giants kicker John Carney, who has been rock steady all season, uncharacteristically missed two field goals while his Eagles counterpart, David Akers didn’t miss any.
Green Zone Woes
Overall, the Giants defense played pretty well but they didn’t get any help from the Giants offense and on this day and that’s what the loss basically boiled down to.
Tom Coughlin gave his assessment of the team’s failure to score, “I think once again the inability to score touchdowns in the green zone was quite evident. We were there enough times to get it done. We needed to score touchdowns to be able to separate ourselves and that just didn’t happen.”
Aside from the disappointment of the loss though, he was admirable in his post-game comments, “As always, [it’s] difficult to see the season come to an end, especially on a game such as today. We felt like we had a great opportunity to come in here and win.
“But no one guy, no one person, lost that game out there today, and no one person does. As I tell the players, the losses are mine. They are my responsibility. The wins are the players’…the coaches’ and the players’.”
It is now apparent that the loss of Plaxico Burrress had a huge impact on the efficiency of the offense.
Manning in particular has looked mediocre without Burress. Eli Manning is still a very good quarterback but if the Giants fail to bring in a comparable receiver to Burrress during the off-season, their offense will continue to struggle and Eli will lack that go-to receiver he had in Plax.