Sunday’s NFC East battle at the Linc between the 1-1 Eagles and 0-2 Giants pits a pair of teams on very different Super Bowl timetables.
The Eagles, with their 24-going-on-25-year-old quarterback, Carson Wentz, are in the infant stage of prying open the ever-popular Super Bowl Window Of Opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Giants and their quarterback, Eli Manning, who will turn 37 in January, find themselves with a much greater sense of SBWOO urgency.
With no successor to Eli in sight at the moment, their future is now. As in this season, and maybe the next if his offensive line doesn’t get him killed before then.
So, the fact that they’ve come out of the gate with consecutive double-digit losses to the Cowboys and Lions, has added a sense of desperation to their weekend visit to Philadelphia.
“I think we’ve got a veteran enough group that they understand what the deal is,’’ Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said earlier this week. “I mean, we’ve got to find a way to win a football game. Winning can be contagious and so can losing.’’
Indeed. In 2007, the Giants started out 0-2, then won 10 of their next 14, stormed through the playoffs and beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. But they also lost their first two in 2014 and 2015 and finished 6-10 both times.
This 0-2 has a bad smell to it. The Giants have scored just one touchdown in 22 possessions. They spotted the Cowboys a 16-0 halftime lead and were down at the half to the Lions Monday night, 17-7.
They’ve had no run game to speak of, partly because they’ve had to play catch up and partly because they’re just not very good at it. They’ve only run the ball 30 times in two games and are averaging 3.2 yards per carry.
General manager Jerry Reese apparently forgot to put “improving the offensive line’’ on his offseason list of things to do. Manning, who was sacked just 21 times last season, already has been sacked eight times in the first two games and has been under pressure on 24 of his 78 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
“It’s been hard for us to get any level of consistency and there are a number of reasons why,’’ Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “But when you look at the fact that we’ve turned the ball over in both games [Manning threw interceptions against both the Cowboys and Lions, both of which were converted into points] and we’ve struggled on third down in both games [8 for 24 on third-down conversions], it’s not surprising.’’
Manning has a 72.9 completion percentage, but is averaging just 6.56 yards per attempt and has only one touchdown pass and those two interceptions. He’s completed 16 of 20 passes on third-down, but just seven of those 16 completions have resulted in first downs.
After the Giants’ loss to the Lions, head coach Ben McAdoo criticized Manning, calling his play “sloppy.’’ He was specifically referring to Eli’s second-quarter interception, which led to a Lions’ touchdown, and a costly delay-of-game penalty in the third quarter on a fourth-and-2 at the Detroit 2-yard line with the Giants down by 10.
Manning took no offense to the criticism. Felt he had it coming.
“It’s part of being in the NFL,’’ he told reporters earlier this week. “You can’t be sensitive, and I think everyone’s gotten very sensitive – players, everybody.
“Coach McAdoo and I have a great relationship. I told him when he first got here if I screw something up, let me know. I want to be coached. So, we’ve talked about things and there’s some things I’ve got to do that I’ve got to be better at.’’
It would be easier to do that if he had better protection. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has been horrendous. Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah had him for lunch last week. It’s not going to be a picnic for him this week against the Eagles’ Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett and perhaps even Fletcher Cox, who might occasionally move outside to join in on the fun.
Jon Gruden was critical of McAdoo during the Monday Night Football broadcast for not giving Flowers help.-
“Tackles block ends in this league,’’ McAdoo said. “You have to pick your spots when you help. Especially in a two-score game.
“Obviously, we’d like to help all five of those guys up front. It’s very challenging. The toughest thing in football is for an o-lineman to block a d-lineman in the pass game when they know it’s coming.’’
They know it’s coming because the Giants aren’t running the ball. They have run the ball on just 27.8 percent of their offensive plays in the first two games, which is the lowest run percentage in the league.
While McAdoo said this week they need to run the ball more, the fact is he clearly prefers to put his money on Manning rather than a running back troika of Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen.
Even last year, the Giants only ran the ball 38.4 percent of the time, which was the 10th lowest run percentage in the league.
“We need to get the rushing attempts up,’’ McAdoo said this week. “We haven’t had a ton of plays early in the first two ballgames [19 plays in the first half of the Dallas game, 20 against Detroit], which affects things. And then, when you fall down in the second half, you throw more than you’d like to.
“But we need to get the rush attempts up to help move the chains and take the pressure off the passing game.’’
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had two touchdown catches in the first game against the Eagles last season and 11 catches for 150 yards in the second, missed the Dallas game with an ankle injury and played just 34 snaps against the Lions. He’ll play Sunday. How effective he’ll be remains to be seen.
Brandon Marshall, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, has just two catches for 27 yards.
“There is no fear in my heart about being 0-2,’’ Beckham told reporters this week. “It’s just time to dig deep, make plays when we need to make them, turn things around.’’