American Football

Giants-Eagles: 5 plays that led to the Giants’ loss

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Giants-Eagles: 5 plays that led to the Giants’ loss
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Even in a blowout, there are a few plays that mattered

Well, that was rough. The New York Giants seemed disconcerted throughout their 38-7 Divisional Round loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. Big Blue was outclassed by a better roster that also has quality coaching. The Giants couldn’t stop the run, the Eagles easily applied pressure on Daniel Jones, and miner mistakes plagued the Giants throughout the game.

Big Blue’s success in 2022 was predicated on relatively mistake-free – efficient – football, but the team failed to execute to that level against a much better roster. Philadelphia out-gained the Giants 416-227 while possessing the football for eleven more minutes.

The Eagles led 28-0 at halftime, and the Giants seemed despondent to start the second half. Daniel Jones underthrew Darius Slayton before overthrowing Richie James to go three-and-out. New York eventually led a touchdown drive in the third quarter, but it was too little too late.

It was a humbling loss to conclude a successful season. Despite the way it ended, the Giants shouldn’t feel ignominious in defeat. Here are the five plays, or sequences of plays, that led to the loss.

Play 1: James Bradberry’s payback

James Bradberry is one of the best cornerbacks in the league when he’s reading routes in front of him. Bradberry’s click and close ability, eye discipline, and overall intelligence as a cornerback allow him to break through catch points in a prompt manner. The Giants have successfully established a quick passing attack offense over the last several weeks. Bradberry’s skillset coincides excellently to defend the quick game.

The Giants use Saquon Barkley (26) to the flat to open up passing windows near the hash. It’s a simple read; if a defender doesn’t match Barkley, throw the ball to 26. Typically, a defender expands with the flare, creating a window outside the hash between the numbers.

From a 2×2 set with a Y-TE, the Giants attempted to do this against the Eagles’ zone defense. Bradberry read the quick hitch from Darius Slayton (86) and jumped the route. Daniel Bellinger’s (82) in route occupied the linebacker, and Jones saw that Slayton had some space between himself and Bradberry. Slayton expanded outside into space, and Jones threw the ball into Bradberry.

Jones’ job was made difficult by an excellent disguised blitz where the creeper, DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23), blitzed the A-Gap with Josh Sweat (94), taking Barkley to the flat. Both Nick Gates (65) and Andrew Thomas (78) kick out, but Sweat doesn’t rush, resulting in two Giants’ offensive linemen on one pass-rusher with a wide-open A-Gap for the blitz. Jones threw it quickly, took a hit, and Bradberry was reading it the entire time.

Play(s) 2: Giants’ inability to stop the run

It wasn’t a secret or an unknown vulnerability – the Giants can’t stop opposing rushing attacks. The Eagles exploited the Giants on the ground to the tune of 268 yards, 15 more yards than they rushed in Week 14. Kenneth Gainwell had 12 carries for 112 yards; Miles Sanders had 17 carries for 90 yards, and Boston Scott had six carries for 32 yards and a score – because, of course.

Big Blue has serious question marks in their front seven, and it also appeared as if the Giants did not know exactly how to defend spread zone-read where Jalen Hurts ultimately finished with nine carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. Here are the Eagles’ three rushing touchdowns.

Play(s) 3: Early start for DeVonta Smith

Quarterback Jalen Hurts connected with DeVonta Smith (6) for a 40-yard gain on the second play of the game. Hurts went into the play action, and Julian Love (20) was isolated against Smith for the explosive play. The Eagles struck that quickly on an explosive play, which set a tone the Giants could not match.

Later in the first quarter, the Eagles led an eight-play, 52-yard drive that resulted in a Smith touchdown from a reduced stack to the field off play action. Nick McCloud (44) shaded inside upon seeing the play action, and that gave Smith enough space to run outside, following the block of AJ Brown (11).

Play 4: Fourth-and-8 decision

The Giants drove the football down the field to the Philadelphia forty-yard line – no man’s land. After two runs by Saquon Barkley, the Giants were in a third-and-3; Hasson Reddick and Josh Sweat sacked Daniel Jones to put the Giants into a fourth-and-8, where Brian Daboll opted to go for it. Jones was sacked by Reddick on fourth down.

I am not going to chastise the aggressive decision of Brian Daboll; he’s had success on fourth down this season in similar spots, and I applauded him for his thought process and gumption. However, this was a one-score game at the time, and not converting put the Eagles into a more advantageous offensive situation, which they capitalized on.

Furthermore, not putting any points on the board in a second-and-5 situation on your opponent’s 37-yard line is an issue. Those two sacks – both great individual efforts by Reddick – helped stifle the Giants’ offense on the fringe of scoring position.

Play 5: Dallas Goedert’s touchdown

The Eagles’ first drive went for eight plays, 75 yards, and this 16-yard touchdown to Goedert. The Giants’ defense suffered a similar experience against the Minnesota Vikings in the Wildcard round, but the Giants’ offense was able to establish a rhythm and possess the football. Unfortunately for the Giants, they turned the football over on downs, threw an interception, and had four consecutive three-and-outs on the offensive side.

The Giants were playing 1-Robber, with Jason Pinnock (27) dropping from a two-high spot at the snap. Xavier McKinney (29) fell down on the double move against Goedert, and the talented tight end scored the opening touchdown for the Eagles.

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