Giants’ break-out defense holds off Eagles in Metlife showdown

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After a classic come-from-behind win against the Rams in London, the New York Giants entered their bye week in Week 8 of the NFL Regular with their attention set on the rest of the NFC East division. At the time, Big Blue was last in a competitive division.

So much was at stake for the G-men in the divisional matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. As it turned out, the Eagles lost in a last-minute heartbreaker, and much to the delight of Giants’ fans, the Redskins’ tie meant that the G-men would go on to leapfrog the Cowboys and Eagles to relinquish the second seed in the division. Yet, the Cowboys’ win also meant that they now extended their lead over the league to two games.

The win was crucial when the Giants returned to host the Eagles at MetLife Stadium the following week. Not only would it be a defense of their divisional ranking, the win would also ensure that the team stayed within striking distance of the surging Cowboys.

Still, the Giants faced an uphill battle in their first of two meetings with the Eagles, as the bitter rivalry now featured a sensational rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz taking snaps for the Philadelphia offense.

Wentz came out firing from the starting whistle, putting together a promising opening drive as the Eagles marched down toward midfield. Just when it seemed that the Giants’ defense was off to yet another characteristically slow start, defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison and the Giants’ front seven flushed Wentz out of the pocket and sent him scrambling to the right—an attempt to escape a sack on second down and third.

As Wentz looked to dump the ball off to his check-down receiver, safety Landon Collins dashed in front of the pass to complete an interception and send MetLife Stadium into a frenzy.

This was the third interception in two games for the hard-nosed Alabama product, who also leads the league in sacks from his strong safety position.

With the momentum taking an early shift to the Giants’ advantage, it did not take long for quarterback Eli Manning to find his favorite target in Odell Beckham Jr., who made a spectacular catch with defenders draped on his back.

Beckham has come alive as of late, despite a rough start to the season characterized by frustration and a lack of productivity. Beckham would return later in the game to score his second touchdown on a spectacular pitch and catch, which mirrored his slant-route touchdown earlier in the season against the Baltimore Ravens.

The first drive would set the precedent for the rest of the game, as the Giants took the league and never looked back. The Eagles passed on many opportunities to put points on the board thanks to a series of questionable decisions made by head coach Doug Pederson.

The win was by no means a blowout. The Eagles had the opportunity to steal the lead in the very last drive of the game, yet a strong Giants defensive play spelled the win for Big Blue.

Throughout the game, the Giants’ defense worked effectively to neutralize the Eagles rushing attack, which forced Philadelphia into third down many times. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon set the edge on the defensive front, making sure a speedy Wentz was kept in the pocket under duress. Additionally, the Giants’ expensive secondary, highlighted by offseason acquisition Janoris Jenkins and veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, gave up few deep plays to a rather speedy Eagles’ receiving corps.

Granted, the one glaring weakness for the Giants was the pass defense over the middle of the field, as tight end Zach Ertz had a field day, finishing with eight catches for 97 yards. This is due in large part to the Giants’ lack of a sufficient nickel corner.

As Rodgers-Cromartie has solidified his outside cornerback position, the nickel role has often been passed down to much slower linebackers.

Walking away with the win, the Giants were able to gain sole possession of second place, pulling away from the now third place Eagles who sit at three games back of the first-place Cowboys. Dak Prescott’s latest in-game heroics were enough for the Cowboys to defend a two-game lead over the Giants. Yet, the two are scheduled to meet again in December. 

The Giants are set to host A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals on the night of Monday, Nov. 14. In order to secure the win, the defense must build on its Week 9 outing by neutralizing the one-two punch of running back Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. It also needs to disrupt the deep pass pipeline to Green.

As for the offense, the Giants are going up against a seasoned Bengal’s defense, so it will be crucial that they put up touchdowns early in the game in order to avoid a blow-out. They need to give themselves a better chance of winning against one of the league’s marquee teams in the 2016 season.

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