Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:07 am
Edited on: November 10, 2008 10:48 am

GIANTS @ EAGLES RECAP: Giants 36, Eagles 31

Running down a dream

"Earth, Wind and Fire" run wild as New York starts to run away with the East 

When the Giants and Eagles match up, you can count on three things: A physical game, fumbles by Giants running backs, and a few whacky surprises. Tonight's game was no different, and with the additional element of all four NFC East teams in the mix for postseason appearances the intensity level was palpable. In the end, the Eagles lack of a classic power running game and a brilliant challange by Tom Coughlin (and Eli Manning's persistence in challenging it) would play major roles in the outcome.

The physical aspect of this game was the Giants running game. 45 carries for 219 yards of rushing offense - lead by Brandon Jacobs with 26 carries for 126 yards - unseats the Falcons as tops in the NFL. But there were some tense moments for "Earth, Wind and Fire" as well; the fumblitis portion of the bill was also a part of the show as each member of the power trio coughed up the ball, losing one on a turnover. And now for the whacky: how about Tom Coughlin challanging (and winning) an illegal forward pass penalty call on Manning? Or his declining an encroachment penalty in the fourth quarter that would have given the Giants a 4th and inches while they're trying to hold possession and put the game away? It was all a part of the thrilling Sunday night affair that saw the visitors hold on to a six-point lead and - more importantly - take a huge step towards solidifying a first place finish in the NFC East with a 36-31 Giants victory at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Giants went into this game without starting LB Gerris Wilkinson or CB Kevin Dockery, while the Eagles were relying on less than 100% versions of Asante Samuel and Joselio Hanson in addition to deactivating Lito Sheppard due to a groin injury. There were still plenty of big hits to go around - and even though both defenses, combined, tallied just one sack (Philadelphia's DE Trent Cole), both quarterbacks took a number of hard hits throughout the night.

The game started off on an ominous note for New York, as Eli Manning's second pass of the game - from the Giants 35 yard line - was tipped and hauled in by DT Mike Patterson who rumbled for 21 yards before being tackled at the Giants 9 yard line. First and goal for Philadelphia. Two plays later, the Eagles lined up in the "flavor of the month" Wildcat formation and talented rookie receiver DeSean Jackson sprinted to the pylon to put the Eagles ahead 7-0. 

The Giants did not wait too long to respond and drove 80 yards on 10 plays, taking 4:57 off the clock - thanks to 37 combined rushing yards between Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, and a 22-yard completion to TE Kevin Boss. On 3rd and 9 from the Eagles 17 yard line, Manning called the defensive formation and changed the play at the line; he took three steps back and fired a pass over the middle between two defenders to number 17 Plaxico Burress for the touchdown - Giants 7, Eagles 7.  

On the ensuing kickoff, return man Quintin Demps was cutting from the sidelines at the 25-yard line when Ahmad Bradshaw stripped the ball, which bounced a few times before being scooped up by Chase Blackburn who ran it down to the Philadelphia 13. The Giants got a bit too conservative at this point; high on their success running the ball in the previous drive, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride called three straight Brandon Jacob's runs which only produced 4 yards. On 4th and 6, John Carney was brought in to kick the field goal and put the Giants ahead 10-7.

The Eagles proceeded to go 3-and-out in their next possession, and the Sav Rocca punt sailed 62 yards into the Giants end zone for the touchback. The Giants mounted another 10 play, 80-yard drive; a key 3rd and 7 completion to Amani Toomer for 10 yards put the Giants at Philly's 1-yard line, where on the next play Manning found Kevin Boss over the middle for the touchdown to put the Giants up 17-7.

Philadelphia puinted on their next possesion, as did the Giants. As did the Eagles. The Giants started that drive from their own 22, and on the second play Jacobs - who appeared to have the first down - made a rarely seen maneuver and leaped over an Eagles defender who was coming in low. Jacob's lost the ball after he was was popped high by linebacker Chris Gocong at the NY 45-yard line, who also recovered it. It would prove to be a costly fumble by Jacobs - and a costly (and stupid) unnecessary roughness call on CB Sam Madison would give the Eagles 1st and 10 at the Giants 20. two plays later Donovan McNabb hit Jason Avant on a 10-yard TD strike to make it 17-14 in favor of the Giants. John Carney and David Akers exchanged field goals before the half, and at halftime the score was 20-17.

Philadelphia got the kickoff to start the 3rd quarter, and Quintin Demps made up for the earlier fumble a little bit with a 37-yard return to the Eagles 40.  McNabb wasted no time in giving control of this battle back to the Eagles, hitting Kendra Wilkinson's fiance WR Hank Baskett for a 7-yard touchdown to put the Giants in the hole, 24-20.

The Giants next drive would prove to be the key to this game; not because of a particular play or performance, but because of the afforementioned challange by Tom Coughlin. After an 11 play, 49-yard drive, New York found itself faced with a 3rd and 10 from the Eagles 20-yard line. Manning dropped back to pass and appeared to have both the time and the open field ahead to run with it. He decided to pull up short of the line of scrimmage and fire a low 19-yard pass to Kevin Boss down to the 1. Flags immediately flew to the turf and Manning was called for what appeared to be a clear-cut illegal forward pass. Manning headed to the sidelines to plead his case to Coughlin, and moments later Coughlin conferred with the referee and threw the red flag. The play was reversed because the rule states that the quarterback's entire body must be over the line; the replay showed that Manning's right foot was still behind it upon release. "I think the way the rule is written, it was worth taking a shot at it," Manning told NBC sideline reporter Andrea Kraemer after the game. "If you have one toe on the line of scrimmage, then it's a legal pass. I thought it was worth the risk."  Two plays later, Jacobs broke through the line for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 27-24 lead.

John Carney booted his third field goal of the night 1:26 into the 4th quarter to extend the Giants lead 30-24. McNabb and company went 3-and-out again on the next possession, and Rocca's punt was fielded by Domenik Hixon, who's 73-yard return for a touchdown was nullified because of a holding call against SS Michael Johnson. Ahamad Bradshaw came into the game and immediately ripped-off a 23 yard run to the Philly 17; Bradshaw contributed his fumble of the night at the tail end of that run, but the ball sailed out of bounds so the Giants retained possession. A Jacobs run to the Philadelphia 6 was challenged by Andy Reid - "out of desperation" as John Madden put it  - who thought jacobs fumbled on the play. The challenge was for naught as Jacobs' elbow and knees were obviously down as the ball came out. The very next play, Reid thre the red flag again to challenge the touchdown signaled by the refs on Jacobs' 3-yard run. Reid lost his 2nd timeout after losing that challenge, and Jacobs' 3-yard touchdown run stood as called to put the Giants ahead 36-24. Coughlin decided to go for the 2-point conversion, but the pass attempt to Plaxico Burress was defended nicely by Asante Samuel.

McNabb passed for 57 yards and scrambled for another 11 on the next drive, and his 2-yard touchdown pass to WR Kevin Curtis pulled the Eagles within five, 36-31. Time and timeouts worked against Philly from that point, however. LB Chase Blackburn looked like he was shot from a cannon as he cut across the line and nailed Brian Westbrook on 4th and1 for no gain. The Giants took over on downs and ran out the clock.

The Giants victory tonight  - along with their road win in Pittsburgh and dismantling of Dallas a week ago - was the exclamation point on a statement they've been trying to make since Thursday, September 4th: No Super Bowl hangovers, no slowing down, no resting on past achievements. They intend to go right back to the big game, and this new defense is every bit as good as the old one. This win in Philly solidifies their rightful place as the elite team in the NFC. There's no swagger, no over-confidence. Tom Coughlin and his crew has this team focused, has them believing that a trip to Raymond James Stadium on February 1st is not only a possibility, but an expectation. It's too bad that the Giants won't face the 9-0 Tennessee Titans this year unless both teams meet in Super Bowl 43.

Then again, maybe it's not so bad after all.



*Mission accomplished: Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka had been quoted all week regarding the importance of stopping RB Brian Westrook. "Obviously we know that he is the catalyst of that offense" said Tuck in an interview with Michael Eisen on Thursday. "Everybody wants to talk about McNabb. McNabb is great in own right, but what they want to do and do well is get the ball to #36.  So we definitely have to (stop him); everybody else has tried to stop him and now it is our turn.  It is a great challenge for us and we are looking forward to it." The Giants held #36 to 26 yards rushing, 33 yards receiving and no touchdowns.

*No back left behind: Jacobs 126 yards and 7.2 per carry average once again led the way, but as per SOP Derrick Ward chipped in 17 carries for 53 yards (3.1 yards per carry, his lowest single game average of the season) and Ahmad Bradshaw made his usual 4th quarter appearance with 5 carries for 38 yards (7.6 yards per carry). The Giants have to be considered the best running game in the NFL hands down. They don't have the raw talent of an Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook, or the speed of a Marion Barber - but they have a game plan that works, and three bruising backs that can all shoulder the load when called upon. Even Clinton Portis, with the unbelievable season he is having, can't match the yardage or physical impact on an opposing defense.

*Time changes everything: The Giants dominated the game clock, holding possession for over 39 minutes. In the first quarter, Philadelphia had the ball for exactly 63 seconds.

*It can drive you Mad-ison: As previously mentioned, CB Sam Madison made a bonehead play in hitting an Eagles reciever out of bounds to take a penalty at a crucial point in the game. While it wasn't flagrant, it was certainly - to quote the rule book - unnecessary. While it can happen to anybody, Madison is supposed to be the "veteran" on this squad. FB Madison Hedgecock has turned out to be an upper-echelon blocker in the NFL. This is a good thing, because if his job depended on him making catches he'd be posting on carrerbuilder . com : Entering the game with a team leading 5 drops, Manning (or Gilbride perhaps) inexplicably called Hedgecock's number on a 3rd and 6 from the Philly 19-yard line early in the first quarter. As expected, the pass sailed right through his hands, forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal. When will Gilbride catch on? Better yet, when will Hedgecock catch it ?

*Blackburn bookends: LB Chase Blackburn had another solid performance in his limited defensive role and on special teams. He recovered the Quintin Demps fumble in the first quarter on a heads-up play, and his tackle on Brian Westbrook on 4th and 1 in the games waning moments sealed the deal. Blackburn has quietly put together an impressive year.


Eli Manning quote courtesy of NBC  -  Justin Tuck quote courtesy of Michael Eisen & giants.com  -  stats source: sportsline.com


Posted on: October 19, 2008 8:59 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2008 1:27 am

Giants/49ers Recap: All That Glitters Ain't Gold

29-17 not as good as it sounds

NY wins 5th in Sloppy Fashion - with a strong pass rush and a lot of luck.

Watching the game between the Giants and 49ers today conjured up memories of two of my favorite movie moments. Do you remember the opening scene to "Office Space", where Peter Gibbons and his coworkers are stuck in morning rush hour traffic? Peter would swerve out from his lane when he saw movement to his left, only to find himself at a dead stop watching cars pass him to his right. The other scene is from "Meet The Parents", as Gaylord Focker sped from red light to red light in a race to beat Jack back to the house before he discovered that it wasn't the "real" Jinxy.

For anyone unfamiliar with these movies, I apologize for such an extraneous reference - at the same time, I suggest you visit your local Blockbuster once in a while. For those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about but did not see the game, you get an idea of what it was like; there were periods of complete stillness followed by bursts of exitement that eventually came to grinding halts. When two teams combine for 24 penalties totaling 214 yards, it tends to slow the tempo a little.

San Francisco came into the Meadowlands with Frank Gore - 4th in the league in rushing with 524 yards and an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. They also brought J.T. O'Sullivan, who's lost some of the luster he had earlier this year following 7 interceptions in his last three games. O'Sullivan also leads the NFL in fumbles. On the other side of the ball, the Giants were taking the field without their defensive leader, linebacker Antonio Pierce (quad), and their starting weak side LB Gerris Wilkinson (mcl strain). Chase Blackburn and Bryan Kehl started in their place, respectively.

The good news for New York was that the relentless pass rush - that was non-existent in Cleveland - returned full force. They tallied six sacks on the day, including 2 from Justin Tuck and one from Fred Robbins, which ties them for the team lead with 5. The secondary was suspect, but all-in-all Steve Spagnola's crew managed to force four turnovers - an element of their game that has been lacking so far this year.

The Giants started off sluggishly on offense. Eli Manning was more accurate than his stats would indicate (16 of 31, 161 yards, 1 TD), in part the result of three dropped passes by Plaxico Burress, Brandon Jacobs and Amani Toomer in the first two drives alone. Manning was far from looking sharp, however. He had 4 passes batted away and was very close to being picked off three times - one on an out pattern to Steve Smith that Nate Clements read perfectly but couldn't leap high enough to grab. Another of Eli's throws seemed to be purposefully targeted at a white road jersey that simply couldn't hold on to the gift it was given. In the 4th quarter, Manning threw towards the right sideline for Toomer, but FS Keith Lewis cut off the pass and knocked it down - there's no reason why he shouldn't have caught that ball.

On the Niners second drive of the game, an illegal motion penalty and two Frank Gore runs that resulted in negative yardage pinned San Francisco back to their own 15. The Niners punted and Domenick Hixon took it in at the NYG 46. Four plays later, Brandon Jacobs found a seam on the right side of the line and rumbled toward the sideline, untouched, for a 26-yard touchdown to put them ahead 7-0.

On the ensuing possession, O'Sullivan (16 of 28, 256 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) appeared to find a rhythm remeniscent of Derek Anderson on Monday night; quick drops and quick releases on slant patterns as he marched the Niners up the field. The drive stalled and San Francisco settled for a 40-yard Joe Nedney field goal. The Giants scored again on the next drive with another Jacobs TD run of 2 yards to make the score 14-3. The drive went 8 plays for 73 yards, but 46 yards of it were the result of two Nate Clements penalties - an unnecessary roughness for 15 yards and a pass interference call on Plaxico Burress for 31 yards.

Speaking of Burress, the Giants nearly had a potential meltdown on their hands. Following an undeserved offensive pass interference call with 7:19 left in the half that had Burress visibly upset, he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as New York was lining up to punt. His jawing continued as he passed Tom Coughlin heading back to the bench (leaving himself a 10-foot buffer between the two). Coughlin appeared to be asking him what the hell he was thinking out there. I haven't been able to decipher what Burress said in response, but the look on his face indicated it wasn't of the "rated PG" variety. Though the exchange was never heated, Eli Manning and others had to calm Plaxico down for some time before the next possession.

Rookie wide receiver Josh Morgan (5 for 86, 1 TD) and O'Sullivan started clicking in the 2nd quarter, connecting on 3 passes for 58 yards on the next possession - including a 30 yard TD strike to make it 14-10. John Carney kicked his 13th consecutive field goal to put the Giants up 17-10 at halftime. Carney's streak would come to an end in dramatic fashion later in the game.

Aaron Ross, who was covering Morgan, struggled all day along with the rest of the Giants secondary. Despite two Michael Johnson interceptions in the 2nd quarter (which were more a result of exrtemely poor decision making by O'Sullivan), the Giants pass coverage looked very beatable this afternoon. San Francisco receivers were open more often than not. Had it not been for O'Sullivan's inexperience and some timely drops, San Fran's passing stats may have looked quite exceptional; it seemed like Steve Spagnola was in zone coverage, with d-backs always converging on the receiver after he'd already made the catch over the middle and gained some yardage. The loss of Pierce no doubt had a hand in this, but the speed we saw earlier in the season has not been there for the past two games.

A Manning-to-Burress hookup for 6 yards at the 9:13 mark of the third quarter extended the Giants lead 24-10. Despite O'Sullivan's success in finding open receivers in the second half, his penchant for fumbling and Frank Gore's inabitlity to penetrate the Giants front line pretty much sealed the 49ers fate. Their only other score was on a blocked field goal attempt with 2:03 left in the 3rd quarter when Jeff Feagles appeared to bobble the snap from Jay Alford, and Carney booted a line drive right into the open hand of Manny Lawson. Nate Clements scooped it up within a second and dashed 74 yards into the Giants end zone to make it 24-17.

O'Sullivan fumbled four times resulting in two turnovers; the last one happened as he was sacked by Justin Tuck at his own 20 yard line. The ball squirted out and rolled quickly towards the end zone when Josh Morgan intentionally kicked it past the end line, resulting in a safety for New York which gave them the 29-17 victory.  


*Niners RB Frank Gore was held to 11 yards on 11 carries. It was his lowest yardage output as a starter in his career - and the least amount of yards he's rushed in a game since December 11th, 2005 when he had 2 carries for 5 yards.

*Derrik Ward had another impressive day: 4 carries for 19 yards & 3 receptions for 50 yards. It makes you wonder; if Ward were to take the majority of the snaps, would he be nearly as effective?

*Eli Manning - again - didn't appear to recognize when he was potentially throwing into trouble. It wasn't as noticeable as it was in Monday night's performance, but for the second game in a row he failed to utilize pump fakes, and wasn't checking off as often as he usually does. Maybe he felt he didn't have to, but as I stated above he was very lucky to escape this game without an interception.

*One of the characteristics of the Giants defense the past few years had been giving up the big pass at the most inopportune time. While that trend had reversed itself toward the end of last season, the 21-yard completion from O'Sullivan to Arnaz Battle in the 4th quarter was a bit frightening. Why? Because it was 3rd and 20, and the Giants were leading by 10 points early in the fourth quarter. That play won't be remembered, only because Josh Morgan - who had been solid all day - let a 40-yard pass that was right on the money slip through his hands. Had he hauled that ball in, San Francisco would have had 1st and 10 on the Giants 19 yard line.  

*The Giants were flagged for 11 penalties totaling 80 yards.  

*Plaxico Burress caught his 3rd touchdown this season, but had less receiving yards than Ward (50), Steve Smith (39) and Toomer (31). 


Posted on: October 5, 2008 5:16 pm

Manning, Giants shoot down Seahawks

Hixon, Jacobs shine as G-Men start season 4-0

Coughlin & company sent a clear message to the rest of the NFL - "We ARE the champs, and I got your '6th seed in the NFC' predictions RIGHT HERE!" - in trouncing the Seahawks 44-6 at the Meadowlands Sunday. It was their largest margin of victory since defeating the Eagles 62-10 back in 1972, and puts an exclamation point on their first-place status in the NFC East.

There was no question from the git-go who was in control. On their first posession, Brandon Jacobs 44-yard run was immediately followed by Manning's 32-yard TD strike to Domenik Hixon. The Giants landed the first punch and never stopped swinging, beating up on the Seahawks 44-6. New York scored on their first six posessions, and as I had pointed out in my "Giants to do list" posting for this game, exploited the Seattle secondary early and often. In his first 7 completions, Manning connected on passes of 32, 22 and 29 yards. David Carr replaced Manning to start the fourth quarter, and even threw TD pass of his own to Sinorice Moss (yes, I said Sinorice Moss). Moss had two TD's on the day.

Manning set a personal best with 215 yards passing in the first half, and Brandon Jacobs' (15 carries, 136 yards, 2 TD) 44-yarder was his longest career run from scrimmage.

Manning got everyone into the act, especially Domenick Hixon who started in place of the suspended Plaxico Buress. Hixon had 4 catches for 102 yards and a TD before the half. He also had a nice run on an end around for 16 yards. Hixon left the game with just under 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter after taking a shot from behind courtesy of Josh Wilson. Hixon was sitting on the ground after making a sliding catch; before he could get to his feet, Wilson came flying in and rammed Hixon in the back of his helmet. Hixon was diagnosed with a concussion, but was on the sidelines late in the game with a big smile on his face.

Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie also suffered a concussion, leaving early in the first quarter. 3rd year man Kevin Boothe filled in admirably in place of McKenzie, and held his own against Seattle lineman Patrick Kerney. In total the Giants racked up 523 yards of offense (compared to the Seahawks187), including 254 on the ground. Derrick Ward played his role as the change-of-pace back with 7 carries for 40 yards, and as become the SOP Ahmad Bradshaw took it home in the 4th quarter with 11 rushes for 65 yards. The line pushed the Seattle front four clean off the ball, clearing gaping holes all day and despite allowing a sack, Manning had nothing but time in the pocket.

Matt Hasselbeck (11 for 21, 105, 1 INT) found early success with his favorite WR's Deion Branch (3 for 31) and Bobby Engram (8 for 61), both of whom returned from injuries and played their first games of the season. Hasselbeck had really struggled in his first three outings without Branch (foot) and Engram (shoulder), but their return today had little impact on Seattle's offensive woes. Even Julius Jones (17 for 61) ran well for the most part. The Giants hit Seattle with too many haymakers early on, pinning them to the ground and stifling their offense at  just the right moments (Seattle was 1-11 on 3rd down conversions).

Thoughts and conclusions

*The Seattle defense, while problematic in the secondary, has a very strong front seven. The Giants had no trouble in the ground game today, and EWF (Earth, Wind and Fire) are obviously a force the rest of the NFL will have to worry about. Is it gauche to go out on a limb and proclaim this threesome the most dangerous running game in the league?

*Eli Manning has four games under his belt in '08 and so far we've seen no signs of those "WTF" moments. As each successful game goes by, it's getting easier to beleive that yes - in fact - his time has come.

*Plaxico Burress will not pull a Shockey: Unlike Jeremy, Plaxico will take what he witnessed on the field at the Meadowlands today and be driven to come back with a vengance and make his mark in the Giants offense. Let's just hope he finds his rolodex before his next sick day.

*It's nice to know that Lawrence Tynes will be available should anything happen to John Carney. Carney is 12-12 in FGA this season and will not be replaced unless absolutely necessary. I know the old saying - you don't lose your starting job due to injury. But this isn't exactly Phil Simms & Jeff Hostetler here.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com