By Ernie Palladino
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The Giants may not be headed to the playoffs because of their 0-6 start, but at least they’ll have a decent bye week.
It’s just too bad that the defense failed to play as well as it did the past two weeks at the beginning of the season. If it had, Tom Coughlin’s crowd would have far different thoughts going through its collective head during the upcoming long weekend.
The Giants beat the Eagles 15-7, with Philadelphia scoring its only points off a horrible special teams mistake. Zak DeOssie sailed a snap so far over Steve Weatherford’s head that he was lucky it didn’t land at Pat’s Cheesesteaks instead of the Giants’ 2. Actually, he was unlucky in that aspect, since the former scenario would have produced only a safety instead of the touchdown Najee Goode scored when he picked up the ball after Weatherford overran it.
At any rate, the defense couldn’t be blamed for that, or much of anything else, on a day when Eli Manning’s unit failed to produce a touchdown. Indeed, had the Eagles produced any kind of offensive threat at all, the Giants might have been staring straight into their ninth consecutive road loss since 2012.
Instead, for the second straight week, they played some decent defense.
They had a couple of good breaks along the way. Josh Freeman had practiced exactly four days before starting for the Vikings last week. It wasn’t a surprise, then, that he barely came within his receivers’ zip code on most of his passes. Michael Vick, coming off a two-game absence with a hamstring injury, simply did not look like his dangerously mobile self, and was eventually pulled for rookie Matt Barkley.
Though the Eagles did maneuver better under Barkley, the defense made plays when it needed to and kept Philadelphia out of the end zone.
The run defense stepped up and held Shady McCoy to 48 yards. The pass rush, held to a league-low six sacks over the first six games, came up with four.
Antrel Rolle came up with a huge game and proved he’s got a little more than a big mouth. His interception off Vick on the Eagles’ first possession led to Josh Brown’s first of five field goals. He added a sack, his first of the season, and a huge recovery of the onside kick succeeding the Eagles’ only score to keep the margin safe.
There was Terrell Thomas coming in from behind Barkley to force a fumble that Jacquian Williams recovered at the Giants’ 12 to keep the Eagles from a score just before halftime.
Oh, the possibilities of what might have been had the Giants received similar efforts from the get-go. Instead, they head into the bye at 2-6 and thinking about how they might scrape their way to .500 against teams such as Green Bay, Dallas, Seattle, and Detroit on tap for the second half of the schedule.
The blame for the bad start never completely fell on the defense, of course. Manning took more than his share of the blame with that boatload of interceptions. But he hasn’t committed a turnover in two games now, and the results show exactly what happens when a quarterback takes care of the ball. Even though he didn’t get his unit into the end zone Sunday, at least he didn’t give the Eagles any extra opportunities for mischief-making.
Still, there are issues that need to be ironed out. The running game compiled just 88 yards, and one wonders if that will improve much even after the bye, when Brandon Jacobs’ hamstring should be ready. Then again, Peyton Hillis did make some bruising runs in a 20-carry, 70-yard day Sunday. Perhaps there is hope.
The stalling of five drives against a weak Eagles defense was also disturbing, as the Giants can no longer afford to settle for field goals.
They will rest now. But it will not be a placid interlude. The disastrous start saw to that. And the memories of all those second-half collapses of the Coughlin era will sober up any victory-hazed thoughts of a guaranteed run at the postseason.
The Giants won two straight games. Let them be content with that over the idle week.
And let them remember that they still have four wins to go before they see anything that looks like daylight.
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