Regression is defined by dictionary.com as “The act of going back to a previous place or state; return or reversion.” The Giants regressed in their game against the Eagles last night, to their preseason and opening night form, with both the offensive line getting dominated, Eli Manning harassed every time he dropped back to pass and being sacked 6 times, no running game to take the pressure off, and LeSean McCoy looking like his old self while rushing for 149 yards. When the brutal night ended, Victor Cruz was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon, and the Giants lost in embarrassing fashion, 27-0, to their bitter division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The game started innocently enough with the Eagles taking the opening kickoff and mixing four McCoy runs and four Nick Foles completions to move the ball from their own 20 to the Giants 13 yard line where they faced the only third down on the drive. The bugaboo for the Philadelphia offense this season, the drive stalled there when Jacquain Williams batted down a pass intended for Darren Sproles. Rookie Cody Parkey came on and kicked a 31 yard field goal to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
The 10 play, 67 yard drive foreshadowed what was to come in the game. Missed tackles plagued the Giants defense. On the third play of the drive, Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Williams appeared to have McCoy trapped behind the line of scrimmage for a loss, but the elusive back managed to squirt through the tackle attempts and gain 12 yards. Pierre-Paul and Trumaine McBride seemed stunned on the next play as McCoy ran by them up the middle for a gain of 18. When the drive ended, McCoy has accumulated 36 yards on 4 carries and had sent a message to the Giants defense that his slump was over.
The Giants offense got the ball at the 20 following a Parkey touchback and it seemed like it would be business as usual when Manning found Cruz for a first down over the middle and two Andre Williams runs netted 9 yards and set up a 3rd and 1 at the Giants 42. Ben McAdoo called a pass play and it went awry when Manning’s first read was covered. As he pump faked and rolled to his left, the Giants pass protection broke down with Trent Cole beating Will Beatty and Conner Barwin beating Just Pugh. As Cole flushed Manning left, Barwin broke free of Pugh’s block and sacked Manning, chopping the ball free, Pugh recovered it, but the Giants drive was stalled. Weatherford punted.
Weatherford’s punt traveled 50 yards, and Zack Bowman made a perfect diving tackle on Sproles at the Eagles 19 for no gain. After an incompletion on first down, Foles found Riley Cooper for 14 yards and McCoy gashed the Giants defense with runs of 5 and 18 yards. At the end of the 18 yard run, the ball popped free when McCoy hit the turf and the Giants fell on it. It was an obvious down by contact non-fumble and ruled as such, but an emotional Tom Coughlin, stunned by the Giants poor start, challenged and lost, costing the team a time out. Momentum was clearly on the Eagles side and the Giants defense back on their heels.
Foles found tight end Zach Ertz for a 23 yard catch and run down the right sideline and then on 3rd and 8 from the Giants 15, under pressure from Cullen Jenkins up the middle, threw a perfect pass to him in the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had good coverage, but Foles floated the pass out where only Ertz could catch it, he reached up and pulled it in over Rodgers-Cromartie, ending the 10 play, 81 yard drive with a 10-0 Philadelphia lead.
On the third down play to Ertz, the Giants blitzed and failed to get to Foles, Quintin Demps was on the opposite side of the field and even with his speed couldn’t come across to cover or tackle the speedy tight end before he picked up the first down plus a sizable gain. The Giants generated pressure on Foles during the game, but were unable to make the plays to sack him, and the third year quarterback showed great maneuverability in the pocket and either found his receivers on the move or threw the ball away before being tackled for a loss.
Another Parkey touchback gave the Giants the ball at the 20 and Manning found Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham for back to back gains totaling 27 yards to move it quickly to the Giants 47. A Williams stuff for no gain and another sack set up 3rd and 19 but Manning converted, finding tight end Daniel Fells in the seam for 20 yards. Pugh was again beaten by Cole for the sack, this time badly as the linebacker faked an outside move and blew past the second year tackle inside and made a beeline to the Giants quarterback.
With a first down at the Eagles 42, following the completion to Fells, it appeared that the Giants would make a game of it, until the second big issue of the night emerged – penalties. Back to back flags, one on John Jerry for holding, followed by a delay of game penalty pushed the Giants into a 1st and 24 at their own 44. The holding penalty on Jerry, who pulled to block linebacker Casey Matthews, was not blatant. The first quarter ended with another Manning sack, this time by defensive end Vinny Curry, who broke off a Pugh block when Manning stepped up to avoid pressure from Barwin, who beat Weston Richburg on the play.
The sequence of errors set up a second and 26 at their own 42 as the second quarter for underway, but a neutral zone infraction on Philadelphia gave the Giants 5 yards back. The penalty obscured a horrible snap by J.D. Walton, which went far over Manning’s head and could have been an utter and complete disaster, if not for the flag. Another sack on Manning, the fourth in just two offensive drives, lead to a hand off to Peyton Hillis on third down. Barwin notched this sack, beating Pugh with a spin move and easily sacking Manning.
An exchange of punts with only one notable play in the team’s two series, a 24 yard pass the tight end Brent Celek by Foles, left the Giants pinned in at their 9 yard line. Celek found a hole in the Giants zone on a play action pass and caught it in front of Prince Amukamara. Aware of the Eagles two blocked punts for touchdown in the past two games, Weatherford’s rushed punt went off the side of his foot and traveled only 38 yards, giving the Eagles starting field position at the Giants 47 yard line.
Nick Foles needed only 3 plays to extend the Eagles lead to 17-0, a McCoy counter for 15 yards, a pass to Cooper for 6, and a 26 yard pass to tight end James Casey for the touchdown. On the McCoy run, he juked McBride out of his undershorts to keep from being tackled for a loss. On the touchdown, the Eagles set up in a three tight end formation on 2nd and 4, and faked a hand off to McCoy. Casey got a free release off the line of scrimmage and ran between Demps and Amukamara, neither of whom were within 3 yard of him. Foles lofted the pass easily to the tight end for the touchdown.
The Giants appeared to me mounting a comeback on the subsequent drive, moving the ball from their own 20 to the their 46 until Richburg dove on top of defensive end Fletcher Cox and drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness, turning a make-able 3rd and 5 into a deep 2nd and 20 hole. It was an egregious metal error by Richburg, and one the team could ill afford on a night filled with them. The Giants couldn’t dig out of it and punted back to the Eagles, and a special teams breakdown cost the Giants 3 points. Darren Sproles, one of the NFL’s premier punt returners slipped through the Giants coverage behind a lights out block by tight end Trey Burton on Zak DeOssie and returned the ball 46 yards to the Giants 43 yard line.
There were several comments on Twitter last night that the Burton block was illegal. It wasn’t – he pancaked DeOssie from the front hard, but cleanly in a textbook example of how to block on a punt return and sprung Sproles for the big gain on the play. Re-running the play several times both during the subsequent commercial and today, it’s confirmed upon review – just a good, hard football play. After Burton spring him, Sproles cut through the Giants return team until Larry Donnell stopped him inside Giants territory, saving the touchdown.
Foles only managed to gain 16 yards on 6 plays, but it was enough to set up a Parkey field goal and extend the Eagles lead to 20-0. A three and out by the Giants gave Philadelphia the ball back with 2:39 left in the half and it looked as if the Eagles would all but put the game away before halftime until Antrel Rolle stepped in front of a pass intended for Sproles and stopped the Eagles drive at the Giants 16 yard line.
Had Manning been able to convert on the turnover before the half and cut the Philadelphia lead to 20-7, it would have been a game again, but an obvious holding penalty on Pugh, and another sack, this time surrendered by Jerry to Curry stalled the drive, and the Eagles took their 20 point lead into the locker room at the half. Jerry had ridden the defensive end out of the play, but was able to hold his block, and as Manning scanned down field for a receiver, Curry closed from behind for the Eagles fifth sack of the night.
The second half opened with a three and out and Manning was hit as he threw a third down pass an it fell incomplete. The Giants hope for a comeback was bolstered when Bowman intercepted an underthrown pass intended for rookie Jordan Matthews and returned it to the Eagles 21 yard line. The Giants appeared to capitalize for the touchdown when Donnell made a brilliant juggling catch, but a highly questionable holding penalty on Beatty wiped it off the board. Two plays later, on fourth down, Coughlin elected to go for it, and Manning found Cruz wide open for an another apparent touchdown, but as the receiver planted to go up for the ball, his patellar tendon ruptured and, in excruciating pain, the ball fell to the ground.
The image of Cruz, tears rolling down his face, being driven off the field on the cart with a trainer comforting him is one that will be emblazoned in football fans minds for eternity. It’s today’s feature image up top. Controversial Philadelphia radio talk show host Mike Missanelli tweeted out, “Hey Giants Fans: Victor Cruz is over. Dance to that.” just moments after Cruz’s season ending injury. He later deleted the tweet, shown at left, and claims to have been in the parking lot and not aware of the injury at the time. I’ve not heard Missanelli’s show, and only know of his reputation by hearsay, but it fits the profile of many, not all, but many Eagles fans encountered throughout the years and is one of the reasons this rivalry is so bitter. I’m inclined to take Missanelli at his word that the tweet was a mistake.
After the Cruz injury, the Eagles took over on downs and the Giants were obviously shocked and dismayed over the loss of a team captain and leader. Minimal resistance was offered by the Giants defense as Philadelphia moved 97 yards in 8 plays culminating in a 15 yard Sproles touchdown run that closed out scoring for the night at 27-0.
The Giants were heavily penalized, and while the officials do not share any culpability for the loss, Clete Blakeman and his crew were particularly poor last night. Two documented examples are the first down called on the measurement shown below on the left. Obviously short, Blakeman gave the Eagles a first down on the play. Later, he called holding on the Giants, while giving the signal for offsides. It’s shown below on the right, with the time index of the penalty. Check the game log ot the video Giants360 tweeted out for the penalty call. It’s blatant errors such as these that cause fans, and surely NFL coaches to lose confidence in the men entrusted with ensuring that these big money events run fairly and smoothly. The NFL needs to address this growing issue before an incident threaten the integrity of the league. It’s coming.
Comedic officiating is confirmed
Manning was sacked for a sixth time in the third quarter, again by Barwin who ran around Pugh to bring down the Giants quarterback. It’s one of four sacks Giants360 attributes to the Giants right tackle on the night, statistics that will be confirmed when we do our deep stat dive tomorrow and review the Pro Football Focus assessment of the game. Pugh was a turnstile, allowing Barwin and Cole easy access to Manning all night long in the kind of performance that could ruin the mental toughness of the second year player if the Giants coaches don’t handle it properly. Winston Justice was never the same after surrendering six sacks to Osi Umeryiousa in 2006 and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty needs to take steps this week to avoid the same fate for Pugh.
Ryan Nassib relieved Manning with under two minutes left in the game and was sacked twice in six drop backs, giving the Eagles their total of eight for the night. One was surrendered by Beatty, and the other given up on a Nassib scramble towards the sideline on fourth down. The Giants offensive line has their worst outing of the season and needs to bounce back quickly as next week’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, are 5-1 and fresh off an impressive upset victory of the Seahawks in Seattle. A loss at Dallas next Sunday afternoon will severely damage the Giants changes of competing for the NFC East division crown.
Rodgers-Cromartie suffered back spasms and left the game in the second quarter, Giants360 will update his status during the week. He was already suffering from a variety of leg injuries. Sproles was taken into Philadelphia’s locker room with an apparent serious knee injury, a blow to the Eagles offense and special teams.
Replacing Cruz will be a challenge for the Giants, and one that cannot be met with a single player. Beckham and Randle will have to step up, and Preston Parker will again realize additional snaps due to injury, as he did when Jerrel Jernigan went down with a season ending foot sprain. Expect Donnell and preseason darling Corey Washington to both see increased targets in the passing game. Julian Talley will also be active on game days for receiver depth.
We have a sad Superfan Corner for you today. Jessi, @jwheels91, shared this picture at halftime, capturing her mood following the Giants first half performance. It obviously did not improve, despite her changing at half time (We won’t say what) and steadfast belief that Big Blue would rally in the second half of the game. She’s promised a smiling picture when the Giants return to their winning ways. It’s motivated us here at Giants360, are you paying attention, Tom Coughlin?