By Curt Macysyn
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin knows the path to respectability contains many small victories along the way. For instance, for the second game in a row, Giants quarterback Eli Manning did not have a turnover, and New York’s defense kept the opposition out of the end zone for the 10th straight quarter. By defeating the Eagles in Philadelphia 15-7, the Giants gained ground on every NFC East team this weekend and raised their overall record to 2-6.
Even for the naysayers who will undoubtedly point out that New York has faced two less than capable quarterbacks in the past two weeks, there are some other tangible statistics to look at. First, New York was credited with four quarterback sacks on the afternoon, after coming into the contest with a mere six on the season. Secondly, the G-men held the leading NFL rusher, LeSean McCoy to 48 yards on the ground and a meager 3.2 yards per carry. These are all positives that New York can take into their bye week, and build upon in the second half of the 2013 campaign.
On the downside, New York gave up another special teams touchdown, as long snapper Zak DeOssie snapped the ball over punter Steve Weatherford’s head, allowing Najee Goode to pick the ball up and score from two yards out to reduce the Giants lead to 15-7 with 4:11 to go in the fourth quarter. But New York’s defense stiffened, and Eli Manning connected with Brandon Myers on a critical third down conversion to nail down the victory.
Offense Grade: C+
Even though New York won the time of possession battle by 16 minutes, the Giants had only one more first down than the Eagles. The offense is still having difficulty scoring touchdowns in the red zone, a problem that has plagued the team since pre-season. Most worrisome, however, are the sheer number of unforced errors that come in the way of penalties against New York’s offense.
The Giants were whistled for 11 penalties for 92 yards in the game. Moving forward New York will have to clean up errors like Eli Manning letting the play clock expire and setting the G-men back for a delay of game, when the offense was trying to milk time off the clock with four minutes left in the game. Fullback John Conner was also flagged for a careless illegal motion penalty when the Giants were first and 10 on the Eagles 17-yard line, and New York once again settled for a field goal.
It would appear that New York’s inability to score in the red zone, which lead to five field goals, has become a mental block for the offense.
On the positive side, running back Peyton Hillis carried the ball 20 times for 70 yards, as New York had a more acceptable run to pass ratio than they normally do. Hillis also caught three passes out of the backfield on the afternoon, and he handled his blocking assignments well.
Defense Grade: A
Antrel Rolle forced a Matt Barkley fumble and intercepted Michael Vick in the first quarter. Safety Will Hill had an interception of Matt Barkley in the fourth quarter, as New York won the turnover battle three to one.
The defense had four quarterback sacks on the afternoon, and the unit had its best overall effort of the season against the Eagles. Up front, the defensive line clogged the running lanes, which restricted the dangerous LeSean McCoy to 48 yards on 15 carries. McCoy came into the contest as the league’s leading rusher.
The last touchdown that the defense surrendered was in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears, and the unit has played progressively better since the addition of Jon Beason at linebacker. Cornerback Terrell Thomas had 11 tackles and a quarterback sack on the afternoon.
Special Teams Grade: B
The special teams unit was dropped a full letter grade due to Zak DeOssie’s poor snap, that handed the Eagles a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. It was the fourth touchdown given up by the punt team in eight games this year.
Josh Brown tied his own personal best by hitting five field goals, just one field goal shy of the team record set by Joe Danelo in 1981. Steve Weatherford’s 68-yard punt in the third quarter may have been the turning point in the game. The punt was downed at New York’s three-yard line, and the Eagles found difficulty stringing plays together after that punt.
Weatherford punted five times for a 43.8 yard average and dropped three punts inside the Eagles 20-yard line.
Victor Cruz hurt his neck in the third quarter, but returned to the game after x-rays were negative. Giants running back Andre Brown is eligible to come off the injured reserve-designated for return list after next week’s bye.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.