Eagles defense steps up
If there's a bright spot in the Eagles' 15-7 loss to the New York Giants, it's the way the defense performed. The Eagles held the Giants without a touchdown. One week after holding the Cowboys to 17 points, a defense maligned early in the season has appeared stout in consecutive games.
"Fifteen points is a good number in the NFL," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "We just have to continue to work and get better to where we can win the game."
The Giants totaled 325 yards but they ran 71 plays. One of the keys was keeping the Giants from hitting deep passes. Eli Manning's longest pass was for 27 yards, and it was to the tight end.
Who starts at QB for the Eagles next week?
|Nick Foles, if healthy|
|Michael Vick, if healthy|
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The Eagles' only score came on special teams. Punting from their own 37-yard line with 4 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, the Giants had a snap sail over punter Steve Weatherford's head. Weatherford tried kicking the ball out of the back of the end zone, but he whiffed. Eagles linebacker Najee Goode scooped up the ball and jumped into the end zone.
"I was just going to go hit him," Goode said. "I was going to knock the mess out of him to get the ball into the end zone. I saw he tried to kick and missed it with his foot. . . . Then the ball came through, and I saw it, and my eyes got big, and I scooped it up."
The Eagles threatened to block the punt, which might have contributed to the poor snap. Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie is a two-time Pro Bowler.
"I don't think I've ever seen him do that, not even on the practice field," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "And the timing was terrible."
Going the wrong way
On third and 8 in the third quarter, Matt Barkley connected with DeSean Jackson on a crossing pattern. Whether Jackson was trying to avoid a hit or elude the defender, he stepped backward and was tackled 1 yard short of the marker. Had he continued running forward, it potentially would have been a first down.
The Eagles needed points in the fourth quarter, and they appeared to convert a crucial fourth and 10 when Barkley connected with Avant for 11 yards to the 25-yard line. But Avant was flagged for offensive pass interference, making it fourth and 20. Avant said officials judge the rule based on the defender's body language.
"That's not a fair rule, because anybody who lift weights or is a strong receiver, it's going to benefit a defender," Avant said.
The Eagles could not convert the fourth and 20 and turned the ball over to the Giants.
No happy returns
The threat of Jackson returning a punt was enough for Weatherford to angle an early first-quarter kick and shank it out of bounds 30 yards downfield. It's pretty much been that way the few times Jackson has spelled Damaris Johnson this season.
But late in the third quarter, Jackson was back to field another punt and Weatherford booted a beauty that landed around the 10-yard line. Jackson tried to catch the ball, but it went through his hands and bounced out of bounds at the Eagles 3. Jackson later said that the wind aided the kick, but it appeared as if he nonchalantly pursued the bouncing ball.
In any event, Jackson probably owes the Giants a few punt-return blunders after the Miracle at the new Meadowlands.
No time to dance
It was third and 1 at the Eagles 14, and LeSean McCoy had a strong start to the third quarter following a first half in which he was held to 7 yards on six carries. The Eagles running back had rushed six times for 29 yards in the second half up until the third down, and coach Chip Kelly went back to his horse.
There didn't appear to be much running room, but McCoy needed just one yard. He danced in the backfield, though, and was dropped for no gain rather than lowering his head and plowing ahead.
Who knows if he would have gotten the first down that way, and there have been countless times he has escaped for extra yards. But that was likely an example of when McCoy should have simply dived ahead.
The Eagles lost the time of possession battle, 38 minutes, 5 seconds to 21:55. Kelly is mostly right - time of possession is a vastly overrated statistic, or at least overrated by those who believe it's an indicator of success.
But his offense has controlled the ball more than its opponent in two of the Eagles' three wins and has been on the field significantly less in five losses. The inability to sustain drives is the primary cause, and increasingly the necessity to throw when trailing, but Kelly must find a way to slow things down and help out a defense that becomes taxed by the fourth quarter.
Barkley said the Eagles ran their usual amount of zone-read plays. But Kelly's bread-and-butter run play has been grounded since Michael Vick injured his hamstring in the first Giants game. It wasn't the same with a less-than-100-percent Vick on Sunday.
And when Barkley went in, he didn't prove much of a threat to a defense that wasn't buying the quarterback-option part of the play. In the third quarter, the Eagles faced second and short, and Barkley rode Bryce Brown during the handoff. But Giants defensive end Justin Tuck - the unblocked defender Barkley was to read - simply ignored the quarterback and went straight for Brown, whom he dropped for a 5-yard loss.