It was a meaningless game as far as the NFL post season was concerned. Both teams were eliminated from the hunt, the Giants for more than a month, and the Eagles following their loss at Washington last Saturday night. Based on the intensity displayed on the field, you’d never have known, as both teams played hard for four quarters, and put forth their best effort to win. For the Giants, the game was a microcosm of the season. Strong offense, showing promise, poor defense giving up big play after big play, and a special team error that ultimately cost them the game, 34-26, to division rival Philadelphia. It closed out the Giants 2014 campaign at 6-10, one fewer win than last season, but the arrow is pointing up, mostly on the promise of Odell Beckham, jr.
There were bright spots for the game, the offense put up 505 yards, with Eli Manning completing 28 of his 53 passes. Beckham caught 12 for 185 yards and a dazzling 63 yard catch and run touchdown. Rueben Randle registered his second straight 100 yard game with 158 yards on 6 receptions. The offensive line did not give up a sack, after giving up 8 to these same Eagles in October. Manning lead the offense to a touchdown on their first drive, a 6 play, 80 yard march that ended with an Andre Williams 1 yard plunge.
The skies were darkened early, as Philadelphia needed just three plays to drive 85 yards tie the game on a 44 yard pass to Jordan Mathews. The Giants defense looked confused and disorganized as Mark Sanchez picked them apart and LeSean McCoy ran through with little resistance. After a Giants punt, the Eagles quickly made it 14-7 on a Zach Ertz one yard touchdown after an apparent Stevie Brown interception was overturned on questionable pass interference call on Chykie Brown.
The teams put up some field goals before the half, and Philadelphia lead 17-16 at the intermission. On the Giants first drive in the third quarter, disaster struck, when a high snap to Steve Weatherford resulted in the first blocked punt of his nine year career. Reserve tight end Trey Burton scooped up the loose ball and ran it 27 yards for a touchdown and a 24-16 Eagles lead. Although both teams scored, this was the final margin of victory. The Giants special team were improved during the second half of the season, but broke down in critical juncture again, leading to speculation that John Mara and Steve Tisch may ask for Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn to be replaced.
Beckham’s 63 yard catch and run down the right sideline in the fourth quarter brought the Giants to within 5 points. The Eagles tacked on a field goal, and the Giants had the ball with 3:45 remaining, 2 timeouts and a chance to tie with a touchdown a 2 point conversion. Manning was intercepted by safety Nate Allen on the second play of the drive, his 14th of the season, ending the drive, the game, and the Giants season.
All signs points to Tom Coughlin returning for his 12th season as Giants head coach, however, he may be pressured into replacing both Perry Fewell, who coordinated the 28th ranked defense in the NFL in 2014, and Quinn, who’s special teams were lackluster for the 2nd consecutive season. If Coughlin bristles at the changes, it may push Mara and Tisch into making across the board changes on the coaching staff, save offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who revived Manning’s career, developed Beckham despite his being injured for all of training camp and the first month of the season, and having a sub standard offensive line and no running game. Manning has 30 touchdown passes for just the second time in his career.
The answer will be clear tomorrow, when Coughlin, General Manager Jerry Reese, and Mara are scheduled to address the media. If Fewell survives, it will be the biggest upset since Super Bowl 42. Quinn’s survival would be less of a shock, as special teams have shown improvement in the second half of both of the past two seasons.
The Giants will pick 9th in next April’s draft, and can only hope to find a player that makes the impact that Beckham did in 2014. There is a lot that needs to happen between now and then, including the juniors declaring for the draft, the scouting combined, and free agency, but if a top offensive tackle were to fall to them, it would complete the offense. The rest of the draft could focus on taking the best defender available to rebuild that devastated unit.