EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In a game in which points were a scarce commodity, the Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday with a splendid defensive performance augmented by one touchdown and two field goals from the offense.
But is the formula used for that 13-7 triumph practical for sustained success in the NFL?
"No," coach Joe Judge said today. "We need to keep trying to score more points. I was pleased with the way the offense came together last week in terms of working together, coming up with a plan. I was pleased with the way our players responded and went out there and was able to get the ball in the hands of a lot of guys. Had some plays to push it down the field – I think we had eight or so plays over 17 yards, so we were really able to move the sticks and spread the field a little bit.
"That being said, no one's ever satisfied. As coaches, you always try for the perfect game. I've never seen one of those that exist, but that doesn't stop us from preparing every week and demanding execution and perfection in terms of how we go about it. The offense is in here right now already preparing, getting on to Miami (the Giants' next opponent), and looking for the best ways for us to go ahead and put the players on the field to go out there and make plays."
The offense was under intense scrutiny yesterday after last week's dismissal of coordinator Jason Garrett. Senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens was assigned play-caller duties. Quarterback Daniel Jones wore a wristband with the list of plays for the first time. The Giants entered the game with the goal of getting the ball to their top playmakers more often.
The results were mixed. Most importantly, the Giants won.
The offense totaled 264 yards, their third consecutive game with less than 300. The rushing attack generated just 70 yards and a 2.6-yard average (in part because of a 13-yard loss on a Darius Slayton end-around). Jones completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards. He threw to Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram, Slayton, and Saquon Barkley 22 times, and the foursome totaled 13 catches for 140 yards.
Philadelphia scored its only touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull within 10-7. After each team punted, the Giants responded with their best possession of the game, a 12-play, 70-yarder that took 7:22 off the clock. Consecutive 18-yard receptions by Golladay and shorter throws to Slayton and tight end Chris Myarick – who scored the Giants' only touchdown – resulted in two more first downs.
The drive ended with Graham Gano's 39-yard field goal, which forced the Eagles to try – unsuccessfully – to score a touchdown in the final three minutes.
"I was pleased with the way we did push the ball down the field, and we got some things going," Judge said. "Some of the bigger ones will come with time, but Philadelphia did a really good job of really playing deep or over top of a lot of things and taking that away. I thought Daniel did a good job of hitting some of the underneath things that weren't necessarily check-downs, but some of the underneath routes that were in-cuts with Golladay or hitting the slant right there when he was lined up as number two in a trips formation to give us an opportunity that could have been a big breakout play. Saquon on the ISO, hitting that thing down the sideline for a big chunk run (2 yards) for us. So, there are some plays that came here or there."
"In the red area, there are some opportunities with Kenny in the end zone right there. We're going to keep on having guys that are going to go ahead and start leaning to Kenny and maybe open up other opportunities for us. We'll see what the defense presents us with right there. But those things will come in time. We're not going to be sitting back here on our heels and waiting for them to show up for us, but we'll look for opportunities to get our players in a position to force it down the field. I'm not afraid at any point to go ahead and throw that thing down the field, I assure you on that right there, but I was pleased with the progress the guys made. Guys are in here working hard right now, so when the players show up on Wednesday, they've got the best plan going forward."
The offensive upheaval took place on a short week after a Monday night game. The Giants now have a normal timeframe between games.
"I think as we go through the remainder of the season, there's going to be a little bit of evolution just with the usage of our players and the personalities of some of the coaches within the play calling and the development of the game plan will probably come on out," Judge said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it's going to be flipped on its head immediately, but over the course of time that will naturally take place.
"That being said, having a normal week does allow a lot more freedom to kind of get in there and kind of dig into some different things. Yesterday being, obviously, a transition week and the first week of doing this for the coaches as well as the players, you couldn't go in there and really radically change it too much. There are some little things that you found schematically to make a difference. That all being said, on a short week it's not realistic that we go in there and just flip everything over."
Last week at Tampa Bay, the Giants' Pro Bowl cornerback gave up a short touchdown pass to Mike Evans and missed an open-field tackle. Yesterday, he was given the difficult assignment of covering DeVonta Smith, the 10th overall selection in the 20201 NFL Draft who had averaged 4.4 catches and 62.4 yards in the first 11 games. Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, had just two receptions for 22 yards.
View photos of the special halftime ceremony honoring Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.
*Consider James Bradberry redeemed.
"I was definitely a little disappointed in my performance against Tampa," Bradberry said. "So I definitely wanted to put a good performance together this week since I had another opportunity to go out there and perform. DeVonta Smith, he's a really good receiver, he runs good routes. I feel like he's a savvy type of receiver, he's very crafty with his releases and whatnot. Really, I just watched film on him. Tried to study him the best I could. I know the coaches, they put us in good situations against them. After that I just tried to, when I was in press, just tried to get hands on him because I knew how quick he was. When I played off, I just tried to make sure I kept my eyes on him because I knew they were running a lot of double moves throughout my preparation that I did on them."
*Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney missed the game with quad injuries and tight ends Kaden Smith (knee) and Kyle Rudolph (ankle) were also inactive. Cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson (quad) and Darnay Holmes (chest) and linebacker Trent Harris (ankle) all left the game yesterday.
"For most of those guys, including Shep, KT, Rudolph, guys that weren't active for the game, it's going to tie more into just when we see them Wednesday and Thursday and how they move around," Judge said. "So, we're going to have to see these guys and can they get on the grass and how they feel. We don't have anything right now that we would rule anybody out. We're hopeful for all the players right now and all the guys that weren't active. All made progress throughout last week, so it puts us in a position that as we start game planning, they'll be part of the game plan until we're told otherwise."
*Safety Logan Ryan, who missed the last two games while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, was "in the building today," said Judge.