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Sidelines Notes

Giants vs. Eagles: Film review notes and observations

The tape of the Giants' 34-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was not pretty. Anyone trying to tell you that one player is to blame for the Giants' struggles, or that one change can fix the issues might also have a bridge to sell you. It was a team loss with a lot to correct on both sides of the ball. 

• I want to start with the defense this week because the Giants gave up 31 points in the first 37 minutes of the game. It's very hard to win a football game when that happens. The Giants forced only three punts in the first three quarters and did not have any takeaways, despite having opportunities to get the football.  

• The Giants knew the Eagles look for chunk plays, especially in the middle of the field, so they played softer coverages that dared the Eagles to run and forced them to throw underneath. The Eagles did so very efficiently and moved the ball up and down the field thanks to their 9 of 16 conversion rate on third down (an area the Eagles had struggled heading into the game). The Eagles had only three passes of over 20 yards, one of which went for 58. The 58-yarder over the middle was off play action where Wentz had time to hold the ball until free safety Curtis Riley vacated the middle of the field, and cornerback Eli Apple allowed separation to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. 

• A 32-yard pass occurred when Kareem Martin hit Carson Wentz's arm, forcing the ball to flutter in the middle of the field. Safety Landon Collins, who appeared to have a chance, was unable to get to the ball and a very aware Agholor jumped in front of him to grab the pass out of the air and convert a 3rd and 7. It was a real chance at a takeaway. In the third quarter, the Giants failed to recover a Wendell Smallwood fumble that could have given them great field position inside the Eagles 30-yard line. 

• The third takeaway opportunity the Giants couldn't take advantage of took place at the start of the second quarter on a 3rd and 4 from the Eagles 26-yard line. Wentz fumbled the ball on a play action fake, and scooped it up quickly. As Wentz was hit by linebacker Alec Ogletree, he tried to throw a short pass to the running back Smallwood and hit linebacker Connor Barwin right in the chest. The ball bounced off and right to Smallwood. The Eagles wound up punting, and the Giants missed an opportunity to start their drive deep in Eagles territory.

• Philly took advantage when they had a similar opportunity in the first quarter when linebacker Jordan Hicks stepped in front of a route by tight end Scott Simonson, who did not come back to the ball. Hicks deflected the ball in the air to fellow linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. A 24-yard return gave the Eagles the ball on the Giants 16-yard line, setting up Philly's first score and an early 7-0 lead. The Eagles were -4 in turnover ratio heading into this week, but were +1 in this game, their lone takeaway leading directly to a touchdown. 

• The red zone performances by both teams in this game was really the difference. The Eagles only outgained the Giants by five yards in the first half, and both teams missed field goals. The aforementioned turnover gave the Eagles a short field for an additional touchdown, but the only reason the Giants were down 24-6 was their poor red zone performance on offense and defense. The Eagles had struggled in the red zone this year, but not in this game. Philly scored on their first three red zone opportunities. On the first Eagles touchdown, Landon Collins lost coverage on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery when he looked back at the quarterback. The Eagles ran it four straight times from inside the 20 on their second trip. Their third score came after cornerback Janoris Jenkins bit on a Zach Ertz double move, faking a slant before running to the corner of the end zone for an easy catch and score.

• The Giants, on the other hand, failed on their two first half red zone trips. The first started with a Wayne Gallman three-yard run before a second down pass play couldn't get anyone open. On third down, Manning threw a nice pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard on a corner route, but Shepard's feet got clipped by cornerback Sidney Jones and sent him to the ground, forcing an incompletion. The second trip, started with a one-yard run by Saquon Barkley on a first and goal from the four-yard line. On second down, Manning's pass was disrupted by a quick rush from his right. On third down, no one was open and Manning threw a contested pass to Simonson that fell incomplete. 

• Olivier Vernon played well in his return and had his way with Jason Peters in the first half of the game. Kareem Martin got his hands on Carson Wentz a couple of times as he tried to throw the football in the first quarter, but aside from that the Giants did not apply enough consistent pressure to Wentz. 

• Aside from their red zone failures, negative plays short-circuited a couple of first half drives as well. On the Giants' third possession of the game, Eli Manning didn't have a chance to do anything with the ball before he was sacked. It turned into a 2nd and 18 from the one-yard line, effectively ending that drive. 

• Two drives later, the Giants started perfectly with runs of nine and six yards by Barkley. On the third play, Sterling Shepard was called for an illegal block in the back, putting the team in a 1st and 20. The offense tried a screen for Beckham that went for no yards. There was an opportunity for Manning to throw it deep to Barkley, who was lined up one on one with cornerback Ronald Darby (a running back on a cornerback is not an ideal matchup), but he threw it short to Cody Latimer instead. On third and 15, the Eagles played the sticks and Manning had to dump it down to Barkley with no one else open. 

• Going into the game, the Giants knew they would have to slow the Eagles pass rush by throwing a lot of screens, and running play action passes. The screen part of the equation worked, including an amazing 55-yard gain by Barkley. The play action wasn't nearly as effective. The offensive line struggled protecting on play action. Using extra blockers on certain plays did not work well on a few different occasions for the Giants.

• There was one play action pass in the first half, where Beckham and Latimer both had double moves outside. Beckham beat Jalen Mills and would have had a chance at a deep ball for a touchdown, but three Eagles defenders penetrated the backfield. Manning was flushed out of the pocket immediately after completing the fake and didn't have time to get the ball down the field to Beckham for what would have been a big gain. 

• Right guard Patrick Omameh had his hands full with Fletcher Cox the entire game. There looked like there was some confusion between left guard Will Hernandez and center John Greco on the Destiny Vaeao sack. The Eagles did not run a lot of pass rush games and rarely blitzed, getting home with their down linemen more often than not. 

• Manning was under constant pressure, but he also missed on some chances for completions. On a third and five at the end of the first quarter, Sterling Shepard was grabbed by the defensive back coming out of his break, but the pass was overthrown. At the end of the second quarter, Manning underthrew Beckham when he tried to get a pass over the head of cornerback Ronald Darby and in front of the safety. Darby knocked the ball down. On the final drive of the half, Manning underthrew Latimer on a deep post, a pass Latimer caught but but could have gone for more yards if the ball was in front of the receiver. He threw high for Jawill Davis on a deep post three plays later.

• I saved the best for last. Saquon Barkley was amazing. His balance was off the charts. His ability to hurdle (three defenders on one play), change direction, run away from would-be tacklers and run through tackles is without peer in the NFL right now. During the draft process, I always apologized before comparing Barkley to Barry Sanders, but I shouldn't have. He has Sanders-like moves and runs with a similar style, except that Barkley is almost 30 pounds heavier. It is a pleasure to watch him run the football and make people miss. On his touchdown run, an excellent linebacker in Nigel Bradham had him lined up, but Barkley blew by him using his speed to get to the outside and past an Eagles safety for a 50-yard score. He is special. (I also want to give an assist to Sterling Shepard for a nice block on Malcolm Jenkins on Barkley's 46-yard run on the Giants second drive). 

• It is a shame that on a day when the Giants dynamic running back had 229 yards from scrimmage, including three big plays of 40 yards or more, the team could only muster 13 points. It shows how football is the ultimate team sport. There simply were not enough good plays to turn that production into enough points. A running back cannot do it alone. He needs help. 

• A couple of special teams notes. It looked like Latimer injured himself on the play, which might explain why he did it, but if Latimer would have stopped near Eagles returner DeAndre Carter in the fourth quarter when he muffed a punt, Latimer would have had a chance to recover it. Instead, he ran right past Carter, who recovered his own muff. 

• Aldrick Rosas has a huge leg. You have to figure coming up short on his 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half had everything to do with the quad injury that forced him to miss practice time this week.

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