Two weeks ago when I sat down to write this column, I knew I had to get past my frustration and dig deep to find some positives that came out of a very disappointing opening game. Now I am riding an emotional high that can only come from beating the Eagles in Philly, and it will be a struggle to comment on areas of improvement the Giants need to focus on moving forward. This is a great problem to have!
All week the writers at GMenHQ have been discussing what the Giants needed to do to win the game, and much of it was accurate. The Giants executed these key areas well and found ways to win by using their strengths and capitalizing on mistakes from the other team.
While the secondary played its best game of the season, there is still plenty of room to grow. This week the problem was tackling. I noticed an improvement in the second half, but there were too many missed opportunities early in the game. This is an area that often plagues the Giants and will need to be improved upon in the coming weeks. The biggest weakness of the day, though, was against the rush. McCoy ran for 128 yards on 24 attempts. Some work will need to be done against good rushing teams.
It’s as inevitable as death and taxes that there will be fighting between the Giants and Eagles whenever they occupy the same space (and sometimes when they don’t, thanks to twitter). But the Giants need to know this and be smart about how they respond when it happens. I get that emotions run high in any competitive situation, but they have to be able to control their tempers. In this game, it wasn’t much of an issue. But when these two teams square off in November, the Eagles will come to New Jersey especially angry and looking to embarrass the Giants at home, and they will resort to any means necessary to get into their heads. The Giants will have to be smart and not openly retaliate.
Vick was uncomfortable all day, and it showed in every aspect of his game. He went 16 for 23 for 176 yards with an additional 31 rushing yards on seven attempts. He had no touchdowns and one interception. By his standards, these are pedestrian numbers, and the Giants defense can be credited for putting the pressure on him early and often. I am also very impressed with their red zone defense which once again saved multiple touchdowns and forced field goal attempts. The big stop on 4th and 1 early in the fourth quarter was especially exciting and spelled the beginning of the end for the Eagles. To know the defense can step up when it matters most is a confidence that affects the entire team.
Special shout out to former punching bag Aaron Ross for using his benching from last week as motivation. Neither of his interceptions were a gimmie, but he had great awareness when Steve Smith (HA!) mishandled the ball and Ross was able to grab it and add a 19 yard return. The second interception was just a nice athletic play that set up the final Giants touchdown. I also saw improvement on his coverage, with less open field allowed to the receivers. I want Ross to succeed and live up to the potential the Giants saw when they drafted him. I am hoping he has finally turned that corner with this performance.
The Giants’ offense isn’t so good at the fourth down. They almost never convert, and when this happens there is almost always a major an noticeable change in momentum. The Giants were up 14-3 in the middle of the second quarter when they failed to convert a 4th and 3. This play was actually more harmful because they executed the play perfectly, but Travis Beckum ran the route incorrectly by not making sure he would catch the ball past the first down marker. The Eagles used this momentum to score 13 more unanswered points before the Giants rallied in the fourth quarter. The offense has to execute those big players better every time.
Despite the injuries, the offense really stepped up the way they had to. Eli needed to be at the top of his game, Bradshaw and Jacobs needed to run hard, catch the short passes and gain extra yards, and the offensive line had to create holes and push to the second level to get the running game going. All three things happened, and the Giants won the game. Eli especially stepped up with a career-tying four touchdowns an d no interceptions. He made good decisions most of the day and managed the game with his usual calm, confident demeanor.
A big congratulations goes out to Victor Cruz for his first two career touchdowns. Both touchdowns were hard fought, and there is no question he earned those 14 points. After a slow start to the season I am really hoping he has turned a corner here and will fill in for all the injuries.
One of the best plays of the game, however, came from Zak DeOssie. With just under four minutes left in the game, the Giants were lined up for a field goal attempt. DeOssie caused an encroachment by giving the ball a squeeze ahead of the snap, causing the Eagles to jump offside. The five yard penalty was enough for a first down. Five plays later, the Eagles had no timeouts and the Giants had seven more points instead of three, and the game was theirs.
The Giants have improved every week of the season so far, and with no new injuries as of right now (finally), Manningham possibly coming back this week, and inching ever closer to Osi’s return, things are looking up for the boys in blue.