For the second-straight season the Giants had the chance to extinguish the Eagles’ season in their home stadium, only to have that opportunity slip through their hands in the waning moments.
While the ending wasn’t as miraculous as last year’s DeSean Jackson walk-off punt return, the ending was nevertheless heartbreaking in a 17-10 loss to their hated rivals.
Vince Young, who was subbing for the injured Mike Vick (broken ribs), looked every bit as rusty as a guy who hadn’t played much in a calendar year, but he still showed his mettle in Philadelphia’s penultimate drive. Young, who went 23-of-36 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, led the Eagles (4-6) on the eventual game-winning drive that spanned 18 plays, 80 yards and almost nine minutes. Young found reserve wideout Riley Cooper for the eight-yard touchdown with 2:45 remaining in the game. Cooper, who was subbing for the injured Jeremy Maclin (shoulder/hamstring), came into the game without a catch, but finished with five catches for 75 yards.
Such circumstances is what most troubled head coach Tom Coughlin, who was as despondent last night as he was following last year’s collapse to Philadelphia because he knew the Eagles rose to the occasion – despite their myriad of problems. Coughlin said while the Eagles kept fighting, his team played as if they were entitled to win.
“I told the team, ‘Look at yourselves here,’” said Coughlin, who peppered his team with rhetorical questions afterwards. “My main question to them afterwards was, ‘Why?’ What would it take for them [Giants] to understand what it would take to win this game, knowing that the Eagles were coming in desperate? You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know at 3-6 and [their] backs to the wall to know we had to play harder and we didn’t.”
The Eagles weren’t a finely-tuned machine, but they played with more urgency, particularly in the second half. The Giants (6-4) tied the score at 10-10 following Victor Cruz’s 24-yard touchdown reception with 11:36 remaining in the third quarter. Cruz, who finished with six catches for 128 yards and the score, was about the only productive Giant and almost became the hero on the Giants’ final drive. It was Cruz’s 47-yard reception with 1:33 remaining, and the Giants down 17-10, that put Big Blue within striking distance for the tie. Alas, Manning was stripped-sacked by Jason Babin to effectively end the Giants’ night and knock them back into a first-place tie with the Cowboys.
Manning, who was harassed all night and never got in synch, finished 18-of-35 for 264 yards, one touchdown, one interception and the fumble. The veteran signal-caller lamented the fact that his offense waited until production was needed most to show any kind of urgency. He also acknowledged the Giants should do whatever it takes to avoid making heroic comebacks an every-week occurrence.
“We can’t keep waiting until the fourth quarter to start playing,” said Manning. “We’re confident we can move the ball then and have the chance to win, but you shouldn’t want to put yourselves in position to keep doing that.”
Perhaps such shouldering of the load wouldn’t have been necessary for Manning had the running game helped out. Heading into the game, New York was averaging less than 85 yards per game, but last night was a new low, as they could only tally 29 total rushing yards. Brandon Jacobs started in place of the injured Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and ran as if he was the one burdened with the injury. He only mustered 21 yards on 12 carries.
Coughlin was appalled about a lot of things last night, but perhaps most disturbing was the fact his team was out-muscled by the Eagles.
“We had 29 yards rushing, which is as pathetic as it can get,” said Coughlin. “It was a very poor performance. We didn’t do anything.”
Talking about the final offensive play for the Giants, Coughlin tried hard to not name names but it was obvious he was not happy with the way the play broke down. Defensive end Jason Babin whisked past right tackle Kareem McKenzie, who blocked Babin right into the direct line of Manning, who then lost the ball. The play ended what could’ve been the sixth game-tying or game-winning drive by the Giants this season.
“That was not very good [and] not what you’d like. We put ourselves in position for a chance to tie and go into overtime, but that didn’t happen,” said Coughlin. “I know our offensive line was completely outplayed. Again we had penetration, breakdowns in protection [and] somebody gets beat and the quarterback doesn’t see him … the quarterback also didn’t protect the ball.”
When asked if he felt his team came in with a feeling of overconfidence, Coughlin said he was assured all week by the players themselves that they’d be ready to match the intensity of this rivalry.
“I am very disappointed because coming out of San Francisco the talk – by the players – was we will fight, we will play hard and we will do all those things,” said Coughlin. “But I didn’t see that. I saw the penalties. I saw the skirmishes and the things that become a thing of discipline and the things that take away your focus from the game. … I would have expected to rally, but I didn’t see that either.”
What the Giants saw was a rusty backup quarterback lead his team down the field on the road in a hostile environment, converting all six of his third-downs on the game-winning drive. The Giants’ vaunted pass rush was not there for most of the night, as Jason Pierre-Paul tallied the lone sack. Young might’ve had three interceptions – including one to rookie Prince Amukamara – but his jersey was otherwise clean, as Big Blue defenders rarely touched him.
“I didn’t see that either,” Coughlin said of their pass rush. “They blocked us. I think they got us three times and we got them once. … We got physically handled.”
Big Blue notes
» Adding insult to injury was the fact that former Giants wideout Steve Smith scored a touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 10-3 lead heading into the half. Smith, who left via free agency last summer on bad terms, relished the situation: “It’s a great feeling. It’s like a cherry on top of the win, to be able to make a play and contribute. Especially against my old team.”
» Amukamara made a nice debut, picking off a pass and adding five solo tackles. Amukamara was making his first official appearance of his rookie campaign following a broken foot suffered in his first practice in training camp.
» Victor Cruz may not be the best wideout on the team just yet, but he’s making a push as the biggest playmaker, following yet another stellar performance. Cruz led all receivers with six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown and was on the verge of being the late-game hero until Manning’s untimely fumble. It was the third time in 10 games that Cruz surpassed the 100-yard mark, while three other times he’s come close (98 yards in Week 4, 99 yards in Week 8, and 91 in Week 9).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.