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Film Review: Third down was the difference on MNF

The Giants fell to the Eagles on Monday Night Football, losing 23-17 in overtime after holding a 17-3 lead at halftime. It was truly a tale of two halves on both sides of the ball on a night that featured rain throughout the game.

* The Giants went three and out on their first drive after Eli Manning missed on a throw to Saquon Barkley on a quick-out on a 3rd and 7. The Giants second drive looked promising until a Jon Halapio holding penalty negated a 17-yard Saquon Barkley run. The Giants eventually punted.

* The Giants finally got something going on their third drive. After a couple of first downs on Barkley runs and an end-around to Shepard that featured some slick play design, the Giants got into a 3rd and 13. The Eagles put seven men at the line of scrimmage, showing blitz, with a single high safety deep and man coverage. The Eagles blitzed six and played man to man across the board. Cornerback Ronald Darby was in off-coverage against Darius Slayton, and Manning hit him with a slant short of the first down marker. Manning put the ball slightly behind Slayton, which allowed him to turn and pivot back to the outside and evade Darby for a long touchdown run after the catch. Slayton had a monster first half, with five catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted twice with no catches in the second half.

*Aldrick Rosas kicked a 34-yard field goal on the next drive. The big play was a 42-yard completion to Slayton. Darby had him in off-man coverage once again, and Slayton just ran past him on a nine-route (go route). Manning put the ball on the mark on his outside shoulder. Slayton couldn't stay in-bounds after making the catch despite having a couple of steps of separation on Darby. Two more first downs put the ball on the Eagles nine-yard line when Malcolm Jenkins made a great play on a pass over the middle on a crossing route to Golden Tate. Manning tried to put the ball slightly behind Tate to get it past Jenkins, but the Eagles safety got his hand outstretched just enough to make a great touchdown saving play. Jalen Mills knocked away a pass to Shepard on 3rd and 16 to hold the Giants to a field goal.

* Despite starting their next drive on their own five-yard line, Manning had a chance for another big play, but he overthrew Golden Tate by a couple inches on a deep pass. Tate could only get one hand on the ball and couldn't bring it in. Tate almost had another long catch on the next play but he was pushed out of bounds before getting his feet down on what would have been a 30-yard gain.

* The Giants got the ball back with 1:46 to play in the first half. It took four plays for the Giants to move the ball from the 16-yard line out to the 45. Shepard had a physical block on Avonte Maddox to spring Barkley for a 10-yard gain on a run, and Manning hit Slayton on a 12-yard hitch route. On 3rd and 8 from their own 45, Slayton ran past Darby and safety Rodney McLeod, who both looked like they were playing a short zone. Manning put the ball on him for a 55-yard touchdown. It was the Giants' first touchdown in a two-minute offense situation this season.

* Manning was sharp in the first half. He was getting the ball out of his hands quickly, and took advantage of single high coverage schemes. The Eagles pass rush was a non-factor thanks to how Manning operated the offense.

* After losing three yards on his first carry, Saquon Barkley ran decisively and downhill for the rest of the game. He might have only finished with 66 yards on 17 carries, but he grinded out some tough yards and earned first downs after contact. Barkley continues to look healthier as the season goes along.

* The Giants ran only 20 plays and gained just 30 yards in the second half. The Eagles defensive line began to dominate the game and put consistent pressure on Manning. The Eagles played more two safeties deep to prevent big plays, while their cornerbacks were more aggressive closing on shorter passes in front of them and getting their hands on the football.

* Manning missed on a couple of third down passes that could have extended drives.

* The Giants best chance to score was on their drive that started with 9:55 left in the game. On the first play of the drive, Nate Solder and Kaden Smith got tangled up, which allowed Vinny Curry to sack Manning for an 11-yard loss. On 3rd and 14, the Giants ran a flea flicker. The Eagles were playing their normal third and long defense where their defenders in the secondary were all lined up along the first down marker to play the sticks. On the hand-off to Barkley, every single Eagles defender playing deep except for Rasul Douglas, who was covering Slayton, crashed towards the line of scrimmage. When Manning got the ball back from Barkley, Golden Tate was running past the Eagles deep safety and their last line of defense, Marcus Epps, down the middle of the field. If Manning had time to throw the ball, it would have been an easy 67-yard touchdown. But on the play, Josh Sweat got a good rush and Manning quickly got the ball back to Barkley to avoid a sack. A touchdown would have given the Giants a 24-10 lead.

* The Giants got one more offensive possession with 1:53 remaining. After a 7-yard completion to Smith on first down, Sweat forced Manning to throw the ball away. On 3rd and 3, Sidney Jones made a nice play knocking the ball away from Slayton on a slant to force a punt. The Giants managed just two first downs in the second half.

* According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles only blitzed on five of the Giants' 32 dropbacks, the second fewest blitzes by any defense in the league in Week 14. 

* The Giants defense played an excellent first half, holding the Eagles to a field goal, five first downs, and 116 yards. Markus Golden was unblocked and sacked Wentz on 3rd and 13 to end the Eagles' first drive.

* On the next possession, Golden beat left guard Isaac Seumalo on first down on an inside rush to force a Wentz incompletion. Alshon Jeffery was open on a double-move outside, but Golden hit Wentz as he threw to save the potential big play. Three players later on 4th and 1, Wentz was stopped on a quarterback sneak and fumbled.

* The Eagles third drive ended when Wentz couldn't complete a 3rd and 5 slant to Jeffery. DeAndre Baker, who was the third cornerback, played press on Jeffery and stayed disciplined with his inside technique and didn't let the big wide receiver get to his spot to make the play.

* Both Janoris Jenkins and Julian Love did a nice job throughout the game coming up and making stops in run support. Jenkins was also used to cover tight end Zach Ertz inside one on one when the Giants brought Baker on the field and did well in those situations. Other times, Love was charged with covering Ertz. When they were on him, he was quiet.

* The Eagles finally got on the scoreboard on their fourth possession. The two big plays came on back to back long catches by Ertz. On 1st and 10 from the Eagles' 37-yard line, an inside rush from Leonard Williams and outside blitz from Michael Thomas flushed Wentz to his right. As Wentz escaped the pocket and rolled right, no one was open until Ertz leaked open behind the defense for an easy 24-yard gain. Jeffery injured his foot on the play and would not return, leaving the Eagles with only two healthy wide receivers: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. On the next play, Ertz caught a deep corner route for 30 yards to the Giants 9-yard line.

* A touchdown pass to Ward was called back on first and goal from the nine. Brandon Brooks was called for holding when Dexter Lawrence tried to disengage from his block on a Wentz rollout. With the ball backed up to the 19-yard line, Alec Ogletree made a good open field tackle on Miles Sanders to force a 3rd and 12. Oshane Ximines and Leonard Williams ran a T-E twist (a stunt where the tackle goes outside to pick off the end's blocker) that allowed Ximines to win inside and sack Wentz to force a field goal.

* On the Eagles next possession, a Dalvin Tomlinson inside pressure prevented Wentz from hitting Arcega-Whiteside, who was open on an intermediate crossing route. On third down, Tomlinson pressured Wentz again before Lawrence batted down a throw over the middle to force the punt. Eagles starting right tackle Lance Johnson injured his knee on the play and would not return. The Eagles went three and out on their next possession thanks to a DeAndre Baker pass break-up on a quick out to Ward.

* The Giants pass rush was the difference maker in the first half. Wentz was under constant pressure and the rush prevented him from settling in the pocket. They were also sound lining up, and aside from the two Ertz plays, did not allow anything easy down the field.

* The Giants forced two three and outs to start the second half. Philly had opportunities to extend their drives but Wentz threw low to Ertz on a crossing route on a third down on their first drive. On the second drive, a high snap from Jason Kelce soared over Wentz's head to turn a 2nd and 1 into a 3rd and 13. Baker broke up a pass intended for Ward to force a punt.

* The tide began to turn on the next possession. A combination of Miles Sanders and Boston Scott runs, along with a few short completions from Wentz, moved the ball to the Giants two-yard line. Scott ran it in from two yards out to cap a 10-play, 58-yard drive. The Eagles were starting to win the battle of the line of scrimmage up front with the running game.  

* The Eagles moved the ball from their own 13-yard line to the Giants 28-yard line on their next drive. The Eagles went to a shorter passing game, and Scott and Ward were effective at eluding tackles in space. On 2nd and 11 from the Giants 29-yard line, an Ogletree blitz forced Wentz to scramble right, and he couldn't complete a pass down the field. On 3rd and 11, Wentz tried to hit Ward on a deep cross that was similar to the plays Aaron Rodgers completed the week prior. This time, Antoine Bethea came over to contest the catch, and distracted Ward to the point where he couldn't make the catch. Jake Elliott missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.

* On the Eagles first play of the Eagles next drive, Ximines beat Lane Johnson's replacement at right tackle, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, with an inside move to put the Eagles in a 2nd and 19. On 3rd and 10, Sam Beal was too physical with Ward down the field and was called for illegal contact to give the Eagles a first down. The two game changing plays came later in the drive. On a 3rd and 4, Arcega-Whiteside beat Beal off the line, which forced Beal to hold him. The receiver fought through the hold and still caught the pass from Wentz over the top for 22 yards. On the next play, Dallas Goedert ran uncovered down the seam for a 28-yard gain to the 13-yard line. Four plays later, Wentz squeezed in a slant to Ertz past good coverage by Julian Love for the touchdown. 

* The Eagles had one more chance to win the game in regulation and got into a 4th and 1 at their own 45-yard line but opted to punt after milking some time off the clock. There was some controversy on the Giants use of their timeouts on the Eagles final possession of the game, but they handled the situation properly. I will cover that in detail in Cover 3.

* The Eagles won the coin toss and their initial drive in overtime went 75 yards on only 8 plays for the touchdown. The Eagles only faced one third down, a 3rd and 2 at the Giants 18-yard line that Miles Sanders converted on an eight-yard run behind a block from Vaitai. The Eagles challenged the perimeter of the Giants defense throughout the drive and had success. The game-winning score came on a slant to Ertz that the Giants failed to cover.

* DeAndre Baker had one of his better cover games of the year, breaking up a few passes and doing a good job anticipating inward breaking routes and closing from off-position. His play to cut off Jeffery's slant out of press coverage in the first half was reminiscent of what he did in college. It was a strong game for him.

* Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams were both active in the middle of the defense. According to PFF, Lawrence had four pressures and a quarterback hit, while Williams had three pressures. Markus Golden led the team with a sack, three quarterback hits and seven pressures. Dalvin Tomlinson was active rushing the passer, too. The Giant blitzed on 14 of their 53 coverage snaps.


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