By Curt Macysyn
These days, there is not much room separating the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, both literally and figuratively. The long time rivals have both sputtered along this season, and both are on the outside looking in at the NFL playoffs again this season. In addition, both teams will likely be commencing a coaching search this week. We already know that Philadelphia will be doing so, as team owner, Jeffrey Lurie, fired mercurial Chip Kelly last week, and expectations are that the Giants will be looking to fill its head coaching position after tomorrow as well.
The Giants compiled 502 total yards for the game, and still lost. Perhaps that statistic alone tells the story of the season, where the team accumulated yards and yards of total offense, but it never seemed to be enough.
Odell Beckham was held to one catch for 12 yards in the first half. No problem, just dial up Rashad Jennings’ number. Jennings had 116 yards on the ground with one score in the first half alone, and he ended up with 170 yards on 27 carries (6.3 yards per carry). Tight end Will Tye played his best game of the season, with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown to his credit.
Beckham was justifiably low key, and he had five catches for 54 yards. This off season, Beckham will work on controlling his emotions while maintaining his competitive edge. Rueben Randle auditioned for a return next season with a productive four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. It remains to be seen if Randle is a legitimate number two receiver and can play Robin to Beckham’s Batman.
Manning ended the season with the second most passing yards in his career (4,436 yards), and he has surpassed 4,400 passing yards in both seasons he has worked in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system. Manning’s interception was caused by Conor Barwin who blew past Ereck Flowers on the quarterback’s blind side. Flowers’ play at left tackle needs major improvement next year.
The Achilles heels of the Giants bit them in the rear end right on the first drive, as a missed tackle by Jonathan Casillas and a poor angle by Brandon Meriweather allowed DeMarco Murray to run untouched on his 54-yard touchdown. For the most part, the middle of the defense was open for business, as Meriweather and Landon Collins took turns missing coverage assignments on the afternoon. The prime beneficiary was tight end Zach Ertz, who had 101 receiving yards in the first half alone. Ertz finished with 152 receiving yards on the afternoon, and he had nine catches on nine targets for the game.
The pass defense, mostly the safeties, allowed Sam Bradford to complete almost 80 percent of his passes on the afternoon (30 of 38, 320 yards, 2 TDs). The safety play was epic in its failure this season, followed closely by the linebackers. Whether folks want to blame the lack of a safety partner or not, Collins’ lack of coverage skills are still going to be a problem in the future. The linebacking corps needs an immediate speed upgrade, but the franchise apparently no longer believes that linebackers are important enough to invest a high draft pick.
Casillas grabbed the Giants only interception on the afternoon on a deflection, and keep in mind that the veteran linebacker from Wisconsin was only supposed to be a depth signing by New York. Casillas was pressed into service as a regular this season, and always gave 100 percent effort.
Special Teams: B+
Punter Brad Wing had his pitching wedge working on the afternoon, as all three of Wing’s punts checked up inside the twenty yard line. Odell Beckham returned punts in the absence of Dwayne Harris, but only had one return for five yards.
Kicker Josh Brown was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts (22, 30, 48), and he hit all three point after touchdown attempts. Mostly Brown’s kickoffs caused touchbacks, with the exception of one kickoff.
The rumor surfacing at the game was that Tom Coughlin would resign as Giants coach on Monday. That speculation was seemingly supported by an unusually large contingent of “Coughlin’s Crew” that attended the contest. It remains to be seen if Coughlin falls on his sword that somehow preserves Jerry Reese’s job this week.
Coughlin’s third quarter challenge of a Ryan Mathew’s fumble was foolish, as it was clear from replays that the ground caused the ball to come loose.
As for the game, it went according to form for 2015. Steve Spanuolo tried to minimize the glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball, while Ben McAdoo tried to figure out the right combinations on offense to put up more points than the defense gave up. The reality was that Walter Thurmond’s fumble return for a touchdown was more than the Giants could overcome.
The Giants all-time record against the Eagles dropped to 83-79-2, as the Giants have dropped five of the last six contests between the teams. With starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse out with a concussion, the G-men started Justin Pugh at his former right tackle position, and gave veteran offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds the start at left guard. Reynolds had a previous start at center when Weston Richburg was injured earlier this season.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.