EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' offense is certainly capable of contributing to a victory when the defense plays as superbly as did Sunday in MetLife Stadium.
In a short week following a Monday night loss at Tampa Bay, the offense was in the news for losing its coordinator, not identifying its new play-caller and creating much anticipation about what it might do. But the defense was the game's dominant unit in a 13-7 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants improved to 4-7 and will play their next two games on the road, next week in Miami and seven days later vs. the Chargers in Los Angeles. Philadelphia slipped to 5-7 and returns to MetLife next week to face the Jets.
The Eagles rushed for 208 yards, gained 332 overall and finished with 19 first downs. But the Giants defense did not allow a point until the fourth quarter, kept Philadelphia off the board on nine of 10 possessions, forced four turnovers and made two big fourth-down stops.
"We needed it bad, obviously," safety Julian Love, who accounted for one of the four takeaways, said of the victory. "But not just for a win in the column, but to just set a standard for who we are as a team. I think we've been preaching that we want to be a physical, tough, resilient team and I think that showed today in a lot of ways. We're happy how we recovered."
It was not a complete recovery. The offense was limited to one touchdown from an unlikely source for the second straight week, plus two Graham Gano field goals, but received plenty of help from the relentless and opportunistic defense.
"I think that was huge," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I think 'help' is an understatement. They played great all day and came up big for us."
The Giants scored on Jones' one-yard pass to tight end Chris Myarick, who joined tackle Andrew Thomas as players who have touchdowns the last two games on their first career receptions.
"That was a play designed for a couple different reads and (Myarick) ended up being involved in it, and did a good job making it right there," Judge said.
View all the action from the Giants' Week 12 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The day after losing to the Buccaneers, the Giants dismissed offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens called the plays, though coach Joe Judge declined to reveal that prior to the game.
"I was pleased with the way the offensive coaches worked throughout the week," Judge said. "I was pleased with how they communicated on the sideline, made some adjustments."
Jones also adjusted, wearing a wristband with the plays on it.
"It was the first time I've done it, but I thought it went well," Jones said. "Something we practiced throughout the week and got used to over the course of the week. It went well and thought the communication was good."
The Giants did not turn over the ball and Jones was not sacked until 1:19 was left in the game. They scored on all three trips into the red zone.
Judge's objective was to score more points by getting his top playmakers the ball in space.
"That was the emphasis, period," Judge said. "…It's all about players, that's it. It's what we do our job for. It's about the players. We want to put them in a position to make plays, give them a chance to be successful. In terms of the plan, there's not going to be a secret. The reality is we're going to always look for a way to get the ball to our players, that's it."
The Giants were missing some of their best ballhandlers, notably wideouts Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney with quad injuries. Jones completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards. Saquon Barkley had team-high totals of 40 rushing yards and four receptions (for 13 yards). Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton each had three receptions, for 50 and 40 yards, respectively.
Golladay had back-to-back 18-yard catches on a fourth-quarter drive that ended with Gano's second field goal, extending the Giants' lead to six points.
"Thought Kenny made some huge catches for us down the stretch," Judge said.
The defense made big plays all day. The unit set the tone on its first possession when the Eagles didn't gain a yard and punted after holding the ball for just 1:05.
After Gano gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, Philly drove to the Giants' 20-yard line. Jalen Hurts' pass for Quez Watkins was intercepted by Darnay Holmes at the five. The Giants didn't turn the takeaway into points because Gano was wide right on a 51-yard field goal try.
The Eagles seemed poised to take the lead just before halftime after a pass to Jalen Reagor gave them a first-and-goal at the two. But on third down from the one, linebacker Tae Crowder picked off Hurts' pass for Boston Scott at the goal line on the final play of the half.
The defensive dominance continued in the second half. On the first series of the third quarter, Philly coach Nick Sirianni tried to keep a drive alive on fourth-and-two from the 50-yard line, but Hurts' pass to Reagor fell incomplete. Later in the period, another pass to Reagor ended poorly for the Eagles when Xavier McKinney picked it off at the Giants' 46.
The excellent secondary play is even more noteworthy considering safety Logan Ryan missed his second game on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, and Adoree' Jackson (quad) and Holmes (chest) left the game with injuries in the first half.
"Just next man up mentality, making sure that everybody is prepared and ready." McKinney said. "You know that is something that we emphasize in practice, making sure that everybody is getting reps, everybody knows what they're doing, and you know there were times like when it didn't happen when the switches were made, we just had to communicate with each other off the field just to make sure everybody knew exactly what they were doing on what call, so I feel like we did that. We played well. We didn't miss a beat, which was a really good thing for our unit."
The Eagles scored their only points on Scott's one-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, which cut the Giants' lead to 10-7.
Philly had three more chances to win the game. On the first possession, they punted. On their next series, they advanced to the Giants' 49-yard line, but on a first-down run, Dexter Lawrence forced Scott to fumble and the ball went into Love's hands at the 37 with 1:34 left.
But the Giants couldn't close it out, losing eight yards when Jones was sacked by Javon Hargrave. After a punt, the Eagles took possession at their own 41 with 1:11 left. They advanced as far as the Giants' 27, where, after a spike to stop the clock, the defense forced Hurts to throw three straight incompletions to seal the victory for the Giants.
"We knew it was going to be a dog fight," Love said. "We knew what Philly has been doing in previous weeks. They've been kind of getting their stride. Coming out of Tampa, we knew we could've played better on defense. We played solid. We knew we could take the next step and we knew we were going to have to this game, so that was our mindset going into it and through the entirety of the game. Just really getting after it, especially versus their offense."
It worked well enough for the defense to bring the Giants' offense along for the triumphant ride.