In this edition of "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we break down the Giants' 25-22 loss in Philadelphia.
JOHN SCHMEELK: What stuck out to me yesterday was how a game seemingly took a 180-degree turn after one play, when there was absolutely no reason it should have. Up until the Giants' final play of the first half, their offense was playing the best it had all year long. On their first four possessions, the Giants gained at least 70 yards and scored a touchdown or field goal on each one. They didn't punt once in the first half.
Until his final pass, Eli Manning had a stat line that would have looked good at the end of a game, completing 19 of 24 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley, thanks to runs of 51 and 26 yards, had nine carries for 94 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. had three catches for 63 yards. Manning completed passes to eight different receivers. Then Manning threw an interception, forcing the ball to Beckham on a deep post and trying to squeeze it between two deep safeties in a shell coverage. Pat Shurmur blamed himself for a bad play call in his postgame press conference, and Manning took the blame for a bad decision to try to squeeze the ball into that area in a situation where the team was already in field goal range. Mistakes and bad plays happen on the football field. There was no reason for everything to fall apart afterwards.
In the second half, the Giants gained only 56 yards. They were 1 for 6 on third downs (after being 4 of 6 in the first half). Barkley carried the ball just four times for seven yards. Manning completed 7 of 12 passes for 61 yards. Beckham had just two catches. The Giants first three possessions of the second half featured 11 plays for -12 yards. There was only one penalty in those three series, a false start. The Giants were able to overcome seven penalties for 66 yards in the first half and still score on every possession.
The team just didn't execute well enough on offense. Manning was sacked for a seven-yard loss on the Giants' first possession of the second half. A Corey Coleman drop on a slant helped short circuit their second drive, and a third down sack ended their third drive. On their fourth drive, the Giants had to settle for a field goal after getting in the red zone. They looked like a different team in the second half, and that's why the Giants lost the game.
DAN SALOMONE: The third quarter just completely evaporated, opening the door for the Eagles to get back into the game at a stadium where they are 31-14 since the last time the Giants beat them there in 2013. After gaining more yards in the first half (346) than they had in five entire games this season, the Giants ran 11 plays for a net loss of 12 yards in the third quarter. Our Paul Dottino always says you have to peel back the layers of the onion that is a NFL game. Nothing happens in a vacuum. You don't just get from Point A (dominant first half led by Saquon Barkley) to Point Z (the terrific rookie only touching the ball five times in a 56-yard, three-point second half) without Points B, C, D, etc..
In Sunday's case, it was Points P(enalties) and S(acks). A sack knocked them off schedule on the first drive to start the second half. A penalty derailed the second. Another sack ended the third, which stretched into the fourth quarter. And just like that, the offense regressed in the second half to where they were in the 1-7 start of the season. It happens. The problem was that the defense didn't come through at the biggest point. The 12-yard completion from Carson Wentz to Nelson Agholor on fourth-and-one – it was his first and only catch, mind you – is the play the defense would like back as it led to what turned out to be the game-winning field goal. If that didn't happen, who knows? The "little buzz" around the Giants could have turned into realistic hope after a critical week in the NFC East race.
LANCE MEDOW: Although it may be a cliché, the phrase a "tale of two halves" is extremely fitting for the Giants' performance against the Eagles in Week 12. In the first half, the Giants posted 346 total yards of offense and 22 points compared to just 56 total yards and three points in the second half. So the big question is: how is that possible? Well, unlike the first half, in the final two quarters of the game, the Giants reverted to issues that plagued the offense in the first half of the season, specifically penalties and negative plays.
To put things in perspective, the Giants had four possessions in the second half of the game prior to a last-ditch attempt to get into field goal range. They had at least one negative play on each of those four possessions. On the first drive of the second half, Eli Manning was sacked; on the second possession, the offensive line committed two penalties (one was declined); drive number three was stalled due to another sack, and on the fourth and final possession, they had a delay of game penalty and a negative run. As a result of those mishaps, down and distance completely changed in the final two quarters. On three straight second half possessions, the Giants faced a third-and-18, a third-and-18 and a third-and-10. Those situations aren't conductive to running the ball, which was a big reason why Saquon Barkley's opportunities on the ground were much more limited in the second half.
While the offense struggled across the board in the final two quarters, it's important to not overlook the defensive breakdowns as well. In last week's Cover 3, when recapping the Bucs game, I wrote the following: "Takeaways can do wonders in covering up defensive issues, but keep in mind opportunistic plays can also be fluky and come and go as was evident in the Giants' first half of the season." A week later, that very statement came to the forefront. The Giants had no takeaways against the Eagles and the defense continued to struggle in getting off the field, stopping the run and getting after the quarterback. All those issues were evident on Philadelphia's final two drives of the game, which resulted in 11 points. Last week against the Bucs, the Giants surrendered over 500 total yards and 35 points, but the defense collected four takeaways and turned one of them into a touchdown. When the takeaways aren't there, you have to make consistent stops. That was a big determining factor in Sunday's loss to the Eagles.