Monday, April 29, 2019

Going Viral at the 2019 Draft and being forever linked with Daniel Jones

For those that have read this blog for the past few years, I'd like to think that I've provided some insight, education, entertainment and scratched that nostalgia itch that we all have as we get older.  Particularly when the Giants have had a long stretch of losing as we have seen since the 2011 Super Bowl ended with Kenny Phillips batting down Tom Brady's Hail Mary that was inches outside Rob Gronkowski's reach. 

From that point in 2011 to the 2019 NFL Draft, there are some unavoidable facts that Giants fans have to accept

  • 47-65 record
  • Double digit losing seasons 4 of the last 7 years
  • 3rd place finishes twice and finished last in the NFC East that past two seasons
  • 2016- at 11-5 and a playoff appearance was clearly a fluke
The Giants are an also-ran.  A doormat.  All the jokes that the NFL fans lobbed at the Jets and Browns for years have landed, rightly, on the Giants feet.

So, now that has been established, there has been very little for NY Giants fans to enjoy for 7 years.  When you have a track record like this, you have to look at the team and decide who is worth keeping, and honestly, as I looked at the roster coming in, I was speaking with a friend and I told them "unless you came from the 2018 draft class (Saquon, Hernandez, etc), I"m not really attached to any of these guys".  Apparently Dave Gettleman agreed.  So when they let Landon Collins walk to the Redskins and trade Odell to Cleveland, while still shocked that they did it, I understood it.  And perhaps that's the theme.  We all knew what the Giants were going to do.  The hints were there.  But we were surprised they did it anyway.  And that's a perfect transition to Daniel Jones, the QB prospect out of Duke.

7 years is a long time in the NFL.  That's a lot of losing.  There is lots of turnover, and the Giants saw it, as they are on their 3rd head coach in this span, and 2nd front office.  But there is one name who was the same.  Eli Manning.  7 years is far longer than the average NFL career, yet represents less than 50% of Eli's actual career with the Giants, starting back in 2004 and now going into the 2019 season, with the exception of a the highly controversial Geno Smith start in 2017, which was the final straw for Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese, Eli has been the man.  

Eli, for a generally boring guy, no twitter account, good family man, an charitable enough to be named the NFL Man of the Year, he has a great deal of controversy.  Whether it was his handling of the 2004 draft to force himself away from the Chargers, in which no doubt his last name provided the privilege to do something that other players could never dream of that made him an enemy for some people who have never forgotten.  For others, the issue was just around Eli's play.  Eli can make dumb plays with the best of them.  Horrible red zone INTs.  Fumbling when any pressure comes near him.  Not waiting for guys to come open and dumping off the pass immediately.  But he also was a man who won two Super Bowls, beating Belichick and Brady in their prime (which also never seems to end).  When you think of the Patriot dynasty and how it is probably the best in NFL history, Eli beat them when they were at their 18-0 apex.  That counts.  His number will be retired by the Giants, he will go in the Ring of Honor, and he will end up in the Hall of Fame (probably).

But it is also time to face reality.  Eli is 38.  Eli, who never could move, is pretty much a statue at this point of his career.  Eli has taken such a beating the past 7 years with the awful offensive lines that Reese constructed that it has taken a toll on him.  It would any QB.  Eli is also in the final year of his contract, and his career earnings are such that Eli Manning has earned more money in his NFL contracts than any player in NFL History.  But the rumblings have been out there for a while about how his play has slipped, or at the very least, how his younger peers have passed him bye.  Ben McAdoo really was the first to do it.  He called out Eli's inability to play without a clean pocket, noting that isn't how the NFL works.  That Eli needs to stand in and deliver passes and not dump off so quick.  Essentially, he said what most were thinking.  But McAdoo was a poor messenger.   And as he lost the team in 2017, McAdoo tried to use Eli to blame for the teams' failures.  Eli was part of the problem, but not THE problem.  McAdoo got fired.  

The Giants front office has always had kid gloves with Eli.  Gettleman in particular has been a vocal cheerleader, noting an end of season meeting with Eli in which he said Eli "took him to the low post and won".  He said Eli had a great year.  Eli can still play.  Eli can make all the throws.  But still, the rumblings were there that the Giants were ready to make a move from him.  The 2018 QB class was considered talented but had questions.  The Giants decided to bypass all of it and take Saquon Barkley, who won the NFL Rookie of the Year and he's now the face of the team with Odell gone.

Teams and scouts looked at the 2019 QB class and said that it's actually not as strong as the 2018 class.  And the 2020 QB class is considered far superior.  Jake Fromm, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovalioa are all considered top 5 picks.  In 2021, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence will come out with astounding hype, with several scouts saying he's the best prospect since John Elway in 1983 (and at that time, Elway was considered the best QB prospect that most scouts had seen.  Ever.)

So who was in the 2018 draft class?  A group of QBs, that all were considered average at best, or with significant red flags for one reason or another.  Kyler Murray, the top pick and Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma, on the heels of his teammate Baker Mayfield going to the Browns at #1 the year before has his own concerns.  First, he was 5'10", and though we've seen the success of Russell Wilson in Seattle, Murray has a slighter frame.  Oh, and he has a contract to play baseball with the Oakland A's and he might decide to go that route if things get hard in the NFL.  Dwayne Haskins came out of Ohio State, has a big arm, and threw 50 TDs in his one year as a starter.  But there were other rumblings.  He was out of shape at the combine, and his frame seemed to carry more weight than you would like.  And, if possible, he was actually slower than Eli Manning.  Drew Lock has the best arm in the draft.  Can make all the throws.  But he also had a Ryan Mallett/Jay Cutler vibe to him.  Meaning, plenty of talent, but desire and maturity a big question.  Will Grier out of West Virginia had a scattered past after some things that happened at Florida which led to his transfer to the Mountaineers and some simple questions about his arm strength that made him a 3rd rounder and more of a backup projection in the NFL.

And then we have Daniel Jones from Duke.  For Giants fans of a certain age, when we think of a Duke QB who has a very average sounding name, we immediately think about Dave Brown.  I've done other reviews about Dave Brown and how his career didn't work out, and how it wasn't all his fault.  You can go find that and read it.  But now let's get to Jones.  Jones is a polarizing figure for someone who is, on the surface, boring.  He played at Duke, which meant he didn't see the top competition in the NCAA consistently (Clemson aside). His team didn't have a great deal of talent around him.  But his whole story revolves around one man, his coach David Cutcliffe.  When you talk about the QB whisperers in the NCAA, Cutcliffe's name tends to be at or near the top of the list.  But that's because his 2 main students are well known to even non NFL fans.  Cutcliffe was Peyton Manning's coach at the University of Tennessee where Manning was considered a can't miss prospect in the NFL (he didn't miss).  And then Cutcliffe went to Ole Miss as the head man where he coached another overall first round QB, someone named Eli Manning.  Cutcliffe has been linked to the Mannings for many many years.  Cutcliffe helps lead the Manning Passing Camp in the offseason, in which the best college QBs go to run drills which are all meant to prepare them for life in the NFL.  Eli Manning holds offseason workouts in Duke every Spring with Cutcliffe.  Cutcliffe ended up at Duke with his latest project, Daniel Jones.  Jones looks the part.  He's 6'5' and about 225 pounds.  He's smart.  He can run a little too (much better than Peyton or Eli, which isn't hard), as he put up a 4.6 40 time.  But the general consensus among NFL scouts is that Jones projects as a solid NFL starter, maybe a borderline backup, an the dreaded "game manager" label, one of the most backhanded compliments in sports, up there with "he's fast for a catcher" in baseball.  Jones is a dink and dunk QB who will execute a coach's gameplan and doesn't take chances, because he knows his limitations, namely his lack of arm strength.  NFL comps range from Ryan Tannehill to a top end of Matt Ryan.  In all, Jones is safe.  He is probably NFL ready to come in and execute a game plan, and will not wow you anywhere.  Cutcliffe has prepared him in an NFL style offense and how to study defenses and game plans.  So your floor is pretty much set that Jones can come in and do the job.  But the bigger question is, what is his ceiling?  For most scouts, their answer is "not very high".

Now, this story has another wrinkle.  Remember the 2018 QB draft class, the Giants passing on all of them to get Saquon.  The Arizona Cardinals blew up their coaching staff after 1 year, firing Steve Wilks as their team was a complete mess.  But they took one of those top QBs in 2018, Josh Rosen out of UCLA.  Rosen, by all accounts, might well have been the most talented of all the 2018 QBs, when it came to actual arm strength, movement, etc.  But he slipped to #10 overall.  There were rumblings that he had a bad personality.  Some teams wanted to avoid anything political, as Rosen was seen with some anti-Trump leanings.  Rosen also came from money and had suffered injuries in college, including concussions.  When Kliff Kingsbury took over as head coach, it was known he wanted Murray.  Which meant Rosen was on the block.  The indications were that the Giants liked Rosen in the draft, and Gettleman in particular.  But Saquon was too good.  Everyone in the NFL knew that to get Murray, Rosen could be had for a song.  They had to trade him, and they already ate his signing bonus, so his salary would be lower.  

Now we come to draft day.  The noise in the weeks leading up to the draft was the Giants had put feelers out to the Cardinals, but seemed to zero in on 2 of the 2019 QBs, specifically Jones and Lock.  Thanks to the Odell trade, they had picks at #6 overall and #17 overall as well.  With scouts and others saying Jones was a late first rounder, maybe a 2nd rounder, most Giants fans had come to the conclusion that the Giants were going to make a move for a QB in this draft and not wait until 2020.  But the noise around Jones had grown louder.  The first sense was they'd get him at #17, and fans wouldn't like it, but might accept it.  However, further rumbles started that they might use #6 on Jones, which seemed like a complete reach.  No one else reportedly had him that high.  Some had him in the 50s talent wise, let alone top 10.  And the Rosen rumors were swirling.

So that bring us to April 25, 2019.  As a Giants season ticket holder, you are given "free" tickets to go to the NFL draft party, held at MetLife Stadium.  Since the Jets and Giants both play there, they try to have 2 separate entrances to keep the fans away from each other (most of the time).  I started going in 2016, when the Giants got Eli Apple (and that didn't work).  Anyway, the field level was not accessible because of a motor cross event on the field.  So the Giants fans were on one side of the bowl, and Jets on the other.  In 2017, when the Giants got Evan Engram, it was the same thing, I headed up to the Giants suites to eat and watch the draft.  Last year, it was actually a perfect scenario.  Nice weather.  No motor cross so the field was open, and the Giants picked Saquon at 2, and the Jets took QB Sam Darnold at 3.  Both fans were happy (though the RB vs. QB argument rings to this day).  

Going into 2019, while Saquon was the Rookie of the Year, Darnold had a strong year for the Jets and he looks to be the real deal at QB.  All things being equal, as great as Saquon is, if you can get a franchise QB, that is the best route.  So the Giants helped put Darnold to the Jets.  Jets fans, sensing the Giants implosion and seeming disfunction all over and after the Odell trade, decided to rub it in.  So they started wearing a "thanks Giants" tee shirt with Darnold on it.  The Jets retweeted it.  This annoyed me, so I sent my first tweet of the night to the Giants Insider and Big Blue Interactive website, in which I noted the line for the Jets fans to get in was empty, and the Giants had a huge line and wait to get in.  You can see it here

So after finally getting in, I met up with some friends to sit and watch.  Since it was a little cold and drizzle/rain, most people were packed inside the mezzanine, and we decided to go outside on the last row of seats and was under the overhang and dry.  Since the Giants picked 6th, we had some time to discuss strategy and I gave my own personal take if I was the Giants GM.  Here is what I wanted to do:
  • I wanted to go defense.  This was a defensive heavy draft, particularly at edge rusher.  The Giants had no pass rush.  They needed help.  Several big names, including in particular Kentucky's Josh Allen who were thought of as a top 3 pick at the end of the NCAA season looked like they might slip to the Giants in a mock.  Or LB Devin White from LSU.  In my mind, the Giants had to go defense
  • I also was not blown away by the QB class.  My preference, if they had to get a QB, was trade for Rosen.  With #37, the 2nd round pick, probably the price tag to make it happen.  Let Rosen sit behind Eli for a year and then let him play of the season comes apart.  If it turns out Rosen isn't any good, you dip back in for one of the Big 3 in 2020 and your risk is limited since he only cost a 2nd and less cash.
  • If the Giants were going to go QB, I wanted it at #17, or maybe a trade up from there, or perhaps a trade into the late first round and get a Jones or Lock, but land 2 defensive starters (more on this in a bit).
So there is the set up.  We sit there and watch.  Murray goes #1 (as expected).  Which means Rosen is on the block and the Cardinals destroyed their leverage (also as expected).  The Niners get Nick Bosa, DE from Ohio State (also expected).  The Jets luck into Quinnen Williams, possibly the best player in the draft as a DT from Alabama, even though they almost Jets'ed themselves and tried to trade the pick for too much and it fell to them.  The Raiders came up at 4.  Mike Mayock, the former Giant and NFL Network Analyst was in his first year at GM.  There were rumblings they would take a surprise pick.  Josh Allen was there for them.  But they took Clelin Ferrell, DE out of Clemson.  A surprising pick because of all that talent on the Clemson DL which made people wonder how good he really was with the others (including Dexter Lawrence) around him.  So up comes Tampa.  Rumors were that they wanted White, but could go for Allen.  Either way, I shouted over to my friend that the defense run had begun and the Giants were going to get White or Allen.  This is perfect.  White's name is called and the Giants are on the clock.

Now, at this point in time, I did something that I haven't done in previous drafts I've gone to.  A few other friends were supposed to come with me to this draft, but got caught up at work.  So I decided to record the pick on my iPhone and send them the video afterwards so they can see what they missed.  I didn't expect much, but just a quick snapshot, point in time.  However, something hit me..what if they go Jones?  I shouted down to my friend as the Giants were on the clock "This has fallen perfectly, Allen is sitting there, they have to go for Allen.  If they draft Daniel Jones, I'm walking out of this place!"  I hit record....

So that was the context and lead up to this now infamous video.  My exasperated shout of "OOOOHHHH NOOOO!" was only G rated because I saw the group of kids sit in front of me just before the pick and decided to censor myself.  I couldn't believe they passed on Josh Allen.  The rest of the crowd was of a similar thought process, though a few more profane and that poor confused kid in front of me.

I sat for a little while in disgust.  My friends who weren't there and I recorded the video for texted me to ask what happened, started cursing on their own, and asked what the scene was at the Stadium.  I sent them the video.  And after I sent it to them, I remembered the pictures I tweeted earlier to the Giants Insider and BBI.  So I fired off a quick tweet to them again, not thinking too much about it.  They would see it, probably respond with some level of shock/disgust and we all move on.  But what happened was Eric Kennedy, who is the owner of BBI and someone I've known since 1997, retweeted my tweet.  And that is when all hell broke loose.

Now, I've heard about going viral on line.  And you can see how it happens, but nothing like that has ever happened to me.  I'm not much of a big tweeter.  I send out things sporadically.  Mainly something about the Giants or responding to an inquiry, or to show some new review I've done.  Maybe I'll get a like here or there, a response.  Well, BBI has almost 8000 followers, and it's one of the long time Giants fan sites on the internet, where I post as Matt in SGS (meaning Shadows of Giants Stadium).  I made up that nickname years ago because I grew up in the same town as Bill Parcells, and if you go back and look at videos talking about his upbringing they usually say "he grew up in the Shadows of Giants Stadium."  So if it works for Parcells, it works for me.  BBI is also well regarded and followed in the media and by the Giants front office as well.  Every beat writer follows BBI.  Including one former beat writer, Mike Garafolo, who was the Giants beat writer for the NJ Star Ledger in the mid 2000s before moving on to the NFL Network as an insider/reporter.  Garafolo took my tweet and responded the the BBI retweet noting the girl cursing.  And then everything blew up.

I started getting alerts all over my phone.  Darren Rovell at ESPN retweeted it, probably seeing Garafolo's tweet.  And so did Yahoo Sports.  And Bleacher Report.  And Deadspin.  The video was put on ESPN.  It was on CBS, ABC, and FOX.  I started getting requests for permission to show the video from all these news agencies, including some in Brazil and Japan.  All night long my phone was buzzing and that when a thought crossed my mind.

Having watched Giants highlights for about 35 years, you start to notice the overused but applicable term "narratives".  I have said on this blog that some of my favorite viewings come from NFL Films, and in particular the Inside the NFL, or truncated This Week in Pro Football videos.  I'd point out that the Giants 1986 and Giants 1990 championship videos are 2 in which I nearly broke my VCR and the tapes themselves watching and re-watching them.  Now, you cannot watch any video about Phil Simms in his run to his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXI and not see the highlight from 1979 when Commissioner Pete Rozelle announces the Giants pick of Phil Simms in the first round and hear the grumbles, groans, and boos from the fans.  Who the hell was this guy from Morehead State?  Now, lost in all of this, Bill Walsh, only one of the main founders of the West Coast offense and a pretty well regarded offensive mind who sprouted a coaching tree that included several Super Bowl winners including through this day (with Pat Shurmur himself a branch down the line), also wanted Phil Simms in his offense with the 49ers.  Walsh would pick some guy named Joe Montana out of Notre Dame in the 3rd round of the same draft.  But that reaction stuck with Simms his entire career.

Over the years, there have been many NFL Draft reaction videos, including the amazing compilation of Jets draft picks over the years (passing Dan Marino for Ken O'Brien and the Roger Vick pick with a fan shouting "ohhh nooo!"...well, who knew).  Donovan McNabb being booed by Eagles fans and eventually leading them to several NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl.  

Now I had unwittingly joined this group.  Like it or not, this would now be linked to Daniel Jones for the rest of his career.  And to be honest, I started to feel bad about that.  You don't reach the level of success Jones did at Duke, coming in as a walk-on, and become a starter at a Division I school and do enough for talent evaluators to see you as not only a draft pick, but worth a first round grade (now top 10, can be argued, but regardless).  He's a 21 year old kid (turning 22 in May), so this is one of his most exciting moments of his and his families life.  And the media is killing him and the Giants for this pick.  The fans are sending in reaction videos.  And it turns out my video got the most publicity and most press.  My "OHHHH NOOOO!" is one of the sound bytes which has defined his entry into the NFL and the Giants organization.  But the context was not right.  My motivation was not to crap on Jones, but rather shock/disgust the Giants had passed on a guy in Josh Allen who was a supposed defensive stud.  Enough so that the next pick, old friend Tom Coughlin, ran his name up to the podium with the #7 pick for Jacksonville.  I already said I wanted a Rosen trade, but I had come to the conclusion Jones would be a Giant, I just never thought it would be at #6.  I thought it would be at #17 or perhaps a trade up from 17 or maybe a trade to get into the late first and take him assuming he slipped.  The Giants actually did do this, trading with Seattle at 30 but did so to take Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker.  It's not Jones "fault" he was taken at 6, in a spot that most would call a reach.  It wasn't fair to take it all out on him.  And as the tweet was surging well past 500k views in a matter of an hour and I realized how widespread it was, I wanted to send some encouragement to Jones and the Giants, noting that the initial reaction wasn't great, but we are Giants fans and will root for him when gets his chance to play.  So I tweeted this

However, the horse was out of the barn.  The anger machine had taken hold and the feeding frenzy was on killing the Giants and Jones.  My video was all over on TV and the internet the next morning.  It was part of radio shows, with WFAN specifically talking about my tweet and me with Boomer Esiason saying essentially "Poor Daniel Jones, if I had to hear that you might want to kill yourself, that's awful".  It wasn't until Sunday that the retweets and comments finally slowed down on Twitter for my post, with it coming in at now about 925k views as of April 29th.  

But I wanted to see what I could do to make this right.  I put up a post on BBI explaining myself, knowing it would reach the Giants organization, and I hoped Daniel Jones himself.  I want Daniel Jones to take the mantle from Eli Manning and lead the Giants back to the playoffs and Super Bowl.  I hope Dave Gettleman and David Cutcliffe are right about him.  If he turns out to have a great career, then they would be vindicated, and all the blowback, and specifically my video/tweet can be looked at another case of fans not knowing what the hell they are doing.  As former NBA executive with the Utah Jazz Frank Layton once said "the moment you start listening to the fans is when you will end up sitting next to them."  Well, here is my hope.  Sometime in the next 10 or so years (hopefully sooner), the NFL will do a retrospective on Daniel Jones as a Super Bowl champion and show what he overcame, and they will likely feature my video/tweet since it has become the representative view of the Giants fan against the pick.  And I would hope that it looks something like this which was put together in the 1986 Giants Among Men video where they talked about Phil Simms.  To Daniel Jones, for both our sakes, let's hope we can have something like this done for you and me in the future.  Go Giants!

Friday, March 29, 2019

2007 Giants vs Eagles

Week 4

The Setup

When you think about the 4th game of the 2007 season, the first thought is about Osi Umenyiora and his dominant outing against the Eagles when he set a Giants’ team record with 6 QB sacks.  And that’s very true.  But Osi just highlighted the bigger picture for the Giants in that game and one which would ultimately bloom in Super Bowl XLII.  And that being the Giants defense, when it was clicking with its pass rush was a dominant force because it overwhelmed opponents, and everyone saw what it did to Tom Brady and the nearly undefeated Patriots.

There was so much that actually went on going into this game.  The Giants had replaced former defensive coordinator Tim Lewis with the Eagles’ linebacker coach, Steve Spagnuolo.  Spags, as he came to be known, was trained under the tutelage of one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, Jim Johnson.  With Andy Reid as the head coach, and someone who had branched off from the Bill Walsh coaching tree via Mike Holmgren, was mainly focused on the offense.  So that left Johnson to man the defense.  Johnson put in a variety of creative blitz packages which left their opponents (including sadly many a Giants team) confused and mistake/turnover prone.  All you need to understand how much respect Johnson got, in Week 11, the Eagles went to play that regular season undefeated Patriot team in New England, and flustered the Brady machine to the tune of holding them to only 17 points through most of the 3rd quarter (and in reality, only allowed 10 because the Pats got 7 on an Asante Samuel pick 6).  The Eagles eventually fell, but after the game Bill Belichick, a guy known for his own defensive prowess, specifically searched for Johnson after the game to shake hands in a sign of respect. 

Spags looked to utilize what he learned with the Giants, but that type of system, with so many different looks and different types of blitzes coming from anywhere and everywhere, requires great communication and timing, and has many breakdowns along the way.  We saw it in the first two weeks as the Giants allowed 45 points to the Cowboys and 35 to the Packers.  Things didn’t click for the Giants until the 2nd half comeback against the Redskins in Washington, and a goal line stand to keep the Giants from falling to 0-3.

The Giants came into this game 1-2, they had saved their season and they were facing the Eagles.  The Giants have always hated the Eagles.  There was the added motivation as a revenge game, as the Eagles bounced the Giants in the 2006 Wild Card the season before.  And the Giants were looking at an Eagle team which was also 1-2 following their own 0-2 start.  But while the Giants dug deep to save their season in Washington, the Eagles went the other route by blowing the doors off the Lions.  How bad are we talking?  They won 56-21.  Donovan McNabb was 21-26, for 366 yards and 4 TDs, with 0 INTs and posted a perfect passer rating.  All-purpose Giants killer Brian Westbrook put up 110 yards rushing with 2 TDs and added in 111 receiving for another TD.  Little possession WR Kevin Curtis, the former Ram, went bonkers, catching 11 passes for 221 yards and 3 TDs.  The Eagles offense rolled up 536 yards.  For good measure, the Eagles sacked Jon Kitna 10 times and forced 3 turnovers.  Domination. 

The Giants on a Sunday Night were gearing up for a battle with the Eagles on Sunday Night football.  But while the guys from Philly came wearing Eagle uniforms, the real story was the guys who were in street clothes on the sidelines for the game.  As the saying goes, it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.  The Eagles were beat up and they had a bye week coming up the next week.  From Andy Reid’s perspective, he had to make a call to sacrifice this Giants game for essentially 2 weeks off for his guys and hope they were healthy for the remainder of the season.  So that meant the following:  Westbrook, a card carrying Giants killer and the leader in yards from scrimmage in the NFL through 3 weeks had a bad rib and was too painful to go, so he was shut down on game day.  Also sitting were Pro Bowl secondary members, corner Lito Sheppard and safety Brian Dawkins, who happens to be heart and soul of the Eagles team.  But the guy whose injury was felt the most was left tackle William Thomas, and that put backup Winston Justice in at left tackle.  And Justice was left to block Osi. 

Now, for some, this game was a little revenge for the Wild Card loss the year before.  For others, the Giants had just saved their season the week before with the win in Washington and didn’t want the Cowboys to run away with the division before the leaves started to fall.  But what we really got was a preview of the Spagnuolo defense when everything was clicking.  When the pass rush talents of his defensive line were hitting on all cylinders and mixing in blitzes to keep the QB confused.   McNabb was the first real victim of the fully operational 2007 Giants defense, granted he was extremely short handed, and paid the price.  But the defensive template that would eventually keep the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated team in Super Bowl history would be unveiled on a Sunday night game on NBC with Madden and Michaels at the mic.

The Game Highlights

On a Sunday Night football game on NBC on a perfect early October night as the Giants came off their season turning win at Washington and both teams were 1-2 coming in.  With Dallas starting off at 4-0, they knew that the loser of this game was in a bad spot in the division.  Sometimes the saying isn’t who you are playing, but when you are playing them.  In this case, the Eagles came into this game extremely beat up.  Certified Giant killer Brian Westbrook was out, who was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage due to a muscle tear by his ribs, one of 5 starters and 4 Pro Bowlers who were missing the game for Philly.  David Akers came on to kick off for the Eagles and sent it off to Reuben Droughns where it would bounce at the 2 yard line and towards the corner of the end zone.  Droughns fielded it, thought for a moment and decided to go the wise route and take the knee for a touchback.  4th year QB Eli Manning led the Giants offense out on the field, and he began with a handoff to Derrick Ward who ran up the gut and cut back after finding a lane, ran over Sean Considine at the 25 and fell forward to the 28 yard line.  However, a hold called on guard Rich Seubert brought the ball back to the 10 and made it 1st and 20.  Eli in the gun with an empty backfield and he dropped back with plenty of time in the pocket and fired a strike towards Plaxico Burress at the 20 but Quintin Mikell batted it away.  2nd and 20, a draw to Ward running to his right, was hit down for no gain by Takeo Spikes.  3rd and 20, with a blitz happy Jim Johnson defense, the Giants set up a screen, but Johnson peeled off and only rushed 3, so Eli’s pass was hauled in by Ward in the left flat at the 5 yard line, and plenty of Eagles were waiting to tackle him and he was taken down at the 15 by Sheldon Brown (who looked hurt coming off).  So a 3 and out for the Giants offense brought former Eagle Jeff Feagles on to punt.  Feagles punt was a line drive punt taken by Mahey at the Eagles’ 45 where he started to pick his way up the field but was popped by RW McQuarters at the Giants’ 49 and the ball came loose and went backwards.  Antonio Pierce had a shot at it at the 46, but it was recovered by the Eagles.  However a holding penalty would set them further back to the 35.

Donovan McNabb, coming off a game in which he had a perfect QBR rating of 158.3 thanks to a 21-26, 381 yards and 4 TDs vs. Detroit led the Eagles offense on the field.  McNabb was in the gun and the Giants set the tone on the first play.  They would come on an all out blitz with Pierce charging in untouched and forced McNabb backwards, who scrambled out to the 25 and as he was going down, tossed the ball in the direction of Correll Buckhalter at the 34 and at his feet for an incomplete pass.  2nd and 10, in the shotgun, with Osi Umenyiora taking an inside move and heading right towards his face, McNabb got a pass off to Reggie Brown who caught it at the 40 where he was hit down by Sam Madison.   3rd and 5, McNabb again in the gun as Andy Reid didn’t even bother to try to run the ball, would come a view that would be a theme.

Facing his former mentor, Steve Spagnuolo decided to show his old boss Jim Johnson he learned some blitz schemes too.  And they came after McNabb, with pressure from the corners in Aaron Ross and McQuarters, that forced McNabb up into the pocket.  Waiting for him was Justin Tuck, who would be shifted inside to DT on the pass rush to play over the guard (something the Patriots would find out a few months later in Arizona), and he would spin off his blocker and nail McNabb at the 33  for the Giants first sack of the game.  Note Tuck’s celebration, of eating and rubbing his take that Zeke Elliott, Tuck was doing the feed me stuff while you were still in grade school.  Sam Rocca, the lefty punter from Down Under, got the ball away to McQuarters who fielded it at the 22, cut to his left and got the ball out to the 28, hit down by Mikell.

The Giants came on offense for a 2nd series, and Eli again started out in the shotgun, and threw over the middle to Amani Toomer who had it hit him in the hands and he dropped it at the 33.  2nd and 10, a playfake to Ward and Eli stood back in the pocket and delivered a strike to Toomer on left sideline at the 41 where he was hit down immediately by Brown, but good for a first down, as the Giants were testing the Eagle corner who came back in the game after leaving hurt on the Ward tackle on the first drive.  First and 10, Ward would run a sprint to the right where he was grabbed by “The Freak” Javon Kearse for no gain.  2nd and 10, a draw to Ward, who got a seam to the right, ran away from Omar Gaither and got out to the 45, hit down by Will James.  3rd and 5, Eli in the gun was able to get time to throw, and he would hit Toomer underneath at the Giants’ 49 and the veteran WR would spin and fall forward down to the Eagles’ 49, hit down by Spikes but good for another first down.  First down, Eli gave a hard count and threw a low pass to Burress who dove and caught it at the 46, but Eli drew future Giant Mike Patterson offsides to make it 1st and 5.  Eli in the gun, would audible, get the snap off with 1 second left on the playclock and hit Burress at the 34 on a back shoulder throw, held up by Brown.  First down, Eli would fake the handoff to Ward, have all day to throw the ball, and would dump off the Ward on a safety valve at the 30, and the running back would chug out to the 23, running through the tackle attempt by Chris Gocong for another first down after they took out the sticks.  First and 10, seeing Eli having way too much time, Johnson called a blitz, which Eli read and threw a quick pass out to Burress at the 26 on a near lateral, and Plax would get around James and get forced out of bounds at the 18 for a 5 yard gain.  2nd and 5, Ward would follow Madison Hedgecock to the right and he would run over Gocong and power into Patterson and James at the 15, just short of a first down.  3rd and a short 1, the Giants would make a curious call

The Giants normal short yardage back was 2nd year monster Brandon Jacobs, the 265 pound battering ram.  Jacobs was hurt in the Cowboys opener and was out for this game.  Reuben Droughns was a former 1000 yard rusher for the Broncos in that stretch in the 2000s when Mike Shanahan would essentially get anyone off the street to rush for 1000 yards.  But with Ward running hard, and Jacobs not available, and another rookie in Ahmad Bradshaw not considered much more than a returner at this stage, the Giants went with the veteran Droughns.  Droughns would pretty much run into a brick wall, stop his feet and get pushed back for a loss by Patterson.  Now on 4th and 3, Lawrence Tynes came on for a 34 yard field goal that should be a chip shot

Lawrence Tynes would eventually clear his good name thanks to his efforts in the tundra of Green Bay in the NFC Championship.  But at this point in his career he was nothing more than a former Kansas City Chief kicker who the Giants traded for.  And he did not endear himself to the fans with this shank wide to the right as Tom Coughlin looked on pissed because the Giants had a strong drive into the “Green Zone” and came away with nothing and kept the game tied at 0-0 with 5:13 to play in the first quarter.

So the Eagles offense came out having dodged a bullet.  The Eagles would finally go to the ground, and Buckhalter ran to his left, waited for the Giants defense to overpursue and cut back to his right, and took the ball all the way out to the 41, hit down by Ross and Gibril Wilson.  The Eagles got their first first down after the 17 yard gain, and this time Buckhalter ran right up the middle for 8, hit down finally by Wilson.  2nd and 2, Buckhalter tried to run again going to his right, but he was nailed on a run blitz by safety Michael Johnson for no gain.  3rd and 2, an a delayed inside handoff to Buckhalter caught the Giants by surprise and he would gain another 12 yards, hit down by Johnson at the Giants’ 39.  On first down, McNabb would drop back, look to his right and then came back to his left, where he tried to hit Kevin Curtis, but the ball was thrown short and bounced in front of him.  2nd and 10, the Giants would blitz and Strahan got a free run at McNabb, nailing him as he threw the ball out towards Curtis who dropped the ball.  3rd and 10, McNabb in the gun, and we would see an even deeper theme for the Giants defense, namely Osi

The Giants would come on a really strange blitz here.  On this play, Osi and Tuck both were actually standing up as inside linebackers and would delay their blitz for a beat.  Tuck would charge in and Osi would run a game with him and come around him and up the middle.   This left Mahay, a running back in a mismatch against Osi trying to block him.  Osi shed the running back with ease, and run McNabb down at the 47.  So the Eagles scoring chance went by the boards and brought Rocca back out to punt.  Rocca’s kick was a poor one, high and short, and fair caught at the 22 by McQuarters.  

First and 10, Eli would play fake to Ward, but it didn’t fool Kearse, who blew by Kareem McKenzie and nailed Eli at the 25 for a sack.  2nd and 16, Eli would go back in the gun, have time and hit Ward in the flat at the 19 and he would get the ball out to the 25 after he jumped over James.  3rd and 6, Eli again in the gun, with all day again, and he hit Ward at the 30 and he tried to spin forward like Toomer did earlier, but was stopped a yard short by Gaither.  However, a defensive hold on James gave the Giants a first down.  Ward would take the carry up the middle and he would power out to the 37, taking Spikes for a ride on the final play of the first quarter.  Starting the 2nd quarter, Eli would begin with a play fake to Ward and with time to throw he would take a deep shot to Plaxico, who beat Sheldon Brown by a step and the ball was right there for him to haul in at the 29 yard line, but it tipped off his fingers and incomplete.  3rd and 4, Eli in the gun, shouting “Omaha”  (yes, it must be a Manning thing as we know Peyton did it).   For those wondering, when Eli or Peyton would shout “Omaha”, what they were doing was changing the snap cadence to snap the ball on the next sound.  So if they were going to snap the ball on 3, if Eli shouts “Omaha”, you’d do it on his next sound.  It’s something done when you are up against the playclock.  But it turned out not to help and the Giants got hit with a delay.  So now 3rd and 9, Eli in gun again, and this time a hard count would get Eagles DE Jacquai Thomas to jump offsides with the whistles blown for unabated to QB and get those 5 yards back.  So back to 3rd and 4, Eli back in gun, again yelling Omaha, and Eli would try to throw a pass towards Toomer, but it was tipped at the line by Darren Howard and the ball fell, fortunately for Eli, incomplete as there were a few Eagles in the area.  On would come Feagles to punt, and the former Eagle would send it to Mahay at the 16 yard line and angled perfectly to pin him in.  The returner only got out to the 26, taken down by Zak DeOssie. 

McNabb came back out with the Eagles offense as the crowd started to get into the game again.  McNabb would actually have plenty of time in the pocket to set up and uncork a deep shot to Reggie Brown, who had gotten by the corner and was picked up by James Butler, who blocked him off at the 30 as the ball fell incomplete.  2nd and 10, the ball went to Buckhalter running to his right, but got out only to the 27, taken down by Butler, who came up on a run blitz.  3rd and 9, McNabb would feel the heat again

In the shotgun, with 2 backs in to help chip and protect, it didn’t really work much.  Osi would run a game with Tuck, and loop inside, where he split the interior line and chased down McNabb, sacking him back at the 17 yard line.  Osi’s 2nd of the game and the Giants’ 3rd.  3 and out, Rocca’s punt would be high and taken by McQuarters at the 39 and he would wave it up the middle out to the Philly 49.

With great field position, the Giants would start off with a fake and hit Toomer on a curl at the 38 yard line, and Amani would turn up the field and get out to the 30.  A flag on the play for illegal contact on Gaither was declined and gave the Giants a first down.  1st and 10, Eli would fake again, and get hit from behind but would drill a pass into Toomer at the 18 between 2 defenders and the WR would get out to the 13, hit down by James, a 17 yard gain and another first down.  With the crowd getting excited, Eli would give a draw to Ward up the middle, who would run into the back of Richie Seubert and keep his momentum out to the 8 yard line, hit down by Conssadine.  2nd and 6, we would see why Plaxico Burress was such a weapon

Eli would again give the “Omaha” call, and fake the handoff to Ward, drop back with time to throw.  He would look off his initial receiver, and then come back across the field and throw towards the back of the end zone in the left corner.  With 2 Eagles in the area, he still had a physical mismatch with the 6’5” Burress and his long arms.  Plaxico simply used his height and reached over Brown to snatch the ball and haul it in for a TD.  Tynes would hit the extra point to make it 7-0 with 11:09 to go in the half.

The Giants would kickoff and Tynes would hit it about a yard into the end zone, where it was taken out by JR Reid, who got a good return out to the 37 yard line, taken down by Gibril Wilson.  However, a hold on the Eagles’ Hank Baskett would send Philly back to the 14 yard line.  On first down a run by Buckhalter gained 2 yards and set up a 2nd and 8, where Sam Madison started to inch towards the line and the Giants looked ready to come on a blitz.  That would unnerve the Eagles and McNabb would get called for a false start as he started to bail out before the snap (needless to say, the Giants were getting into his head).  2nd and 13, McNabb was back and drilled a pass into Brent Celek at the 23, nailed by Aaron Pierce immediately.  3rd and 7, the Giants came on a blitz and Osi came in untouched as Winston Justice never got out of his stance.  However, McNabb was able to just step up enough to evade Osi and before Wilson came in to drop him, he dumped the ball to Mahay at the 19 and the running back got out to the 28 yard line, hit down by Madison and Aaron Ross.  First down Eagles as they got super lucky, and Buckhalter got 1 yard, hit down by Strahan.  2nd and 9, a fake handoff and McNabb did have time, he would roll to his right and sling a pass in to Celek who dove and caught it at the 41, he would pop up and make it out to the 45, hit down by Pierce and Butler.  1st and 10, and then would come some history

One of the main storylines in this game, before Osi took it over, was the Strahan vs. John Runyan match up.  Runyan, a mountain of a man and a Pro Bowl offensive tackle, had battles vs. Strahan.  Sometimes Runyan would win.  But usually in highlight type packages, Strahan would win.  In this case, Strahan would get around Runyan, dip his shoulder and power through and on towards McNabb.  He’d grab McNabb at the 39 and take him down at the 41.  On this play Strahan would break Lawrence Taylor’s record and set a new mark of 133.5 sacks, with LT in attendance to see it in person.  All in all, it was great to have it done in front of John Madden, who called so many of LT’s Hall of Fame performances.  Now 2nd and 13, the Eagles would gash the Giants up the middle on a draw by Buckhalter, who got all the way out to the Giants 43, hit down by Wilson.  First down Philly as you can tell the Giants defense was distracted by the record, and McNabb would make a low throw towards Jason Avant but it was dropped at the 37.  2nd and 10, again Andy Reid would call a screen, this time to Buckhalter to the right side, caught at the 47 and he would chug out to 37, shoved out of bounds by Wilson.  Now 3rd and 3, with the Eagles threatening to score, McNabb would fake a handoff up the middle and then on a misdirection, he would pitch back to Buckhalter running to his right.  Jay Alford lost his contain and Buckhalter was able to get a lane out to the 27 yard line, dragged down by Wilson.  First down, another run to Buckhalter going to his right, and he got hit and fell forward to the 24, dragged down by Fred Robbins.  2nd and 7, McNabb would call a timeout with 4:07 to go in the half as he was confused by the defense.  After a regroup, McNabb was in the gun and the Giants came on an all out blitz, with Pierce barging in up the middle and McNabb literally threw it right into his face for an incompletion.  3rd and 7, McNabb would be able to sit in the pocket and he threw a pass towards Brown, but the ball was a little high and off his hands for an incompletion at the 15.  That would bring out David Akers for a 42 yard attempt.

In the area of announcer jinxes, Al Michaels was just saying that Akers is a Pro Bowl kicker, but he had a problem with kicking at the Meadowlands.  His 82.1% accuracy was, back in 2007, good for 5th best all time.  But he was only 44.4% accurate in windy Giants Stadium.  Well, in late September, there wasn’t much wind, but Akers would still push the kick and would miss it.  As Madden would say, this stuff can get into someone’s head.  The score remained 7-0 Giants with 3:52 to go before halftime.

So the Giants dodged a bullet and began with the ball at their own 32.  On first down, another playfake to Ward and Eli dropped back and dumped the ball in the flat to the fullback Madison Hedgecock at the 35, and the 265 pounder would cut inside a tackle attempt by Spikes and rumble out to the 41, right smack into Gocong.  2nd and 1, the ball went to Ward running to his right, and he would turn the corner and get all the way up the field until he was caught from behind by Gaither at the Eagles’ 44.  A personal foul for a facemask on Gaither would add another 15 yards.  The ball was now at the 29, Eli dropped back, with some pressure, he dumped it off to Ward who was open but the running back dropped it.  2nd and 10 with 2:41 to go, Eli would change the play and give to Ward running to the right, and he would bounce off a few Eagles until he was taken down by Mikell at the 26. 

3rd and 7, Eli would drop back and start reading the defense.  Now, I’ve added this highlight in here just to show something about Eli which is a pet peeve.  When you have a guy who has been your QB for 15 years, you get to know a lot about him.  Eli, as we know, is one of the most up and down players in NFL history.  He can make plays in Super Bowls to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  And he can throw balls over his head blindly to avoid sacks and countless end zone interceptions.  For some reason, Eli has never been aware of the clock as it counts down near the end of the 1st or 3rd quarter, and also at the 2 min warning.  It’s surreal.  In this case, Eli was in his 4th year in the league.  He really shouldn’t be doing this at this point in his career.  But the reality is, he was doing it in 2018 as well.  So anyway, after the 2 minute warning, The Giants would bring Reuben Droughns at running back, and a hard count would get the Eagles to jump and an encroachment call would make it 3rd and 2.  This time Eli would be in the gun with Ward and Hedgecock, and the Giants would pitch to Ward running to his right, and he would find a lane and make it out to the 14, diving his way there and hit down by Mikell.  First down with the clock running, Eli would make one of the bad plays I spoke about earlier.

I’m sure there are stats somewhere, but Eli has to be among the all time leaders in red zone INTs.  The Giants had a shot at going up at least 10-0, if not 14-0.  They had the Eagles on the ropes.  And Eli would try to force a pass in to Jeremy Shockey at the 8 yard line.  But Shockey would slip and Gaither would read the play, cutting in front and picking the ball off at the 8 yard line, and charging his way out to the Giants’ 45 yard line, where Manning actually chased him down and out of bounds with 1:17 to go.  Per Madden, Shockey was running an option route, but he and Eli weren’t on the same page.

So the Eagles now have new life in Giants territory, but on first down, a false start on Justice set them back to a first and 15.  On first down, the Giants would come with a blitz and the pocket started to break down, forcing McNabb to step up and scramble out to the 47, taken down by Barry Cofield.  2nd and 14, as the Eagles got a pass off to Curtis, but it was blown dead on a false start on Celek.  Matters worse, the Eagles ran the clock down to :33 along the way and made it 2nd and 19 at the Eagles’ 48.  So going backwards, McNabb in the gun, again a blitz came, with Osi lining up as a linebacker and coming up the middle, forcing a quick pass towards Avant but it was tipped away by Ross at the 45.  Now 3rd and 19 with :27 to go, Osi wasn’t done saying hello to Donovan

Things were coming apart for the Eagles.  And Spags kept them guessing, this time he didn’t blitz, but Osi’s speed rush was far too much for Justice, as he easily got around him, hit McNabb back at the 40 and knocked the ball loose.  The Eagles’ Shawn Andrews would recover it, and the Giants would call a time out with :16 to go.  Now 4th and 25, Rocca’s punt would go to McQuarters who fair caught it at the 15.  A flag on Michael Johnson for a hold set the Giants back to the 7 yard line.  Tom Coughlin didn’t need to see anymore and the Giants just took a knee to go into the half up 7-0.

So coming off a low scoring opening half, the Giants would kickoff to the Eagles, and it went to Reid, who fumbled it at the goal line, but picked it up and ran up the middle and got out to the 27 where he was destroyed on a perfect hit by Gerris Wilkerson.  First down for McNabb, who started with a quick handoff up the middle by Buckhalter, and he was hit down after 2 yards by Strahan.  2nd and 8, McNabb back in the gun and again Spags brought the blitz, which forced a quick pass towards a wheel route that was knocked away by Madison.  3rd and 8, McNabb had the pocket start to collapse around him, and forced him to step up and run to his right.  But Mathias Kiwanuka, playing as a DT in the pass rush set up, chased him down for a short sack.  A hold on the Eagles’ Shawn Andrews was declined on the play.  On came Rocca to punt it away again, and he fielded a low snap and got away a pretty good kick, to McQuarters at the 36, and the former Bear got it out to the 44.

The Giants offense would start with a quick strike by Eli, trying to hit Shockey down the sidelines, but the ball was just out of his reach.  2nd and 10, Eli would audible the play to a run by Ward trying to run to his right, but it didn’t work as Gocong and Kearse stuffed it for a 3 yard loss.  However, a flag for a personal foul facemask on Spikes bailed the Giants out of a 3rd and 13, to a first down at the Eagles’ 42.  A draw to Ward up the gut resulted in a loss as Mike Patterson blew it up.  2nd and 13, Eli in the gun, handed off to Ward on a draw play, again up the middle, but the running back found some room and got it to the 41, hit by Considine.  3rd and 9, with Eli barking out signals, in the gun, he would try to throw a quick pass to Plaxico, but Plax slipped and the ball just flew out of bounds.  On came Feagles to do what he does best.

Feagles lost leg strength as he got older, but he didn’t lose his touch and ability in the coffin corner, one of his specialties.  The veteran punter calmly angled one inside the 10 yard line, in between the hashmarks and gave the Giants a chance by bouncing it at the 6 and Corey Webster ran over to snag it at the 1 yard line and out of bounds.  A perfect punt. 

So now you have the Eagles, a team that was wounded coming in, and showed they really couldn’t handle the Giants pass rush all night, starting at their own 1 yard line.  So Andy Reid began with a McNabb rollout to his right and threw to Brown at the 6 yard line where he was thrown out of bounds by Madison.  Just as the Eagles felt a little better, they felt worse again.

Andy Reid ultimately can never help himself and tries to pass too much, particularly in a situation that calls for conservative play and get off the goal line.  He got away with it on first down, not on 2nd.  Osi just ran over Justice, and hit McNabb just short of the goal line and dangerously close to a safety, if not a strip sack and a touchdown.  It would be the 7th sack on the night for the Giants.  The crowd was into it again on 3rd and 9, with McNabb in the gun in his own end zone, he again got pressure up the middle from Osi and Cofield on a stunt and nearly got sacked for a safety as he threw a panicked pass towards Buckhalter in the end zone, but fell incomplete.  Rocca in his own end zone punting, got off a great kick, sending McQuarters back to his own 45, but he had room to run and evaded a few Eagles and got all the way down to the Eagles’ 42 yard line.

Eli with a short field to work, started with a run by Ward up the middle out to the 38, a 4 yard gain, hit down by Patterson.  2nd and 6, Ward again with a power run up the gut, got to the 35, taken down by Gaither and Patterson.  3rd and 3, Eli in the gun again, and he threw to Toomer who got open, but the ball was out of his reach.  Coughlin was given a choice at this point, go for it, try a long field goal with Tynes, which was probably a low percentage play because back in 2007, 53 yard field goals were considered long and in 2018 are thought of as fairly routine.  Or send his specialist in Feagles back out there to bury the Eagles and play defense.  He chose to punt, and Feagles’ rewarded him

Former Giant Defensive Coordinator and a head coach in the NFL John Fox, used to say “a punt isn’t a bad play”.  At its essence, the game of football is a field position game.  And if you have a defense that is dominating, pinning a team deep in their own end is a sound strategy.  So Feagles came on again, and like last time, angled the ball towards the right hashmark, again it bounced at about the 6 yard line, and was covered up by Chase Blackburn at the 4 yard line.

Perhaps learning his lesson, Reid started with a run this time, and he gave the ball to Buckhalter, running to his left, and he gained 2, as Tuck ran him down the line and blasted him.  2nd and 8, Buckhalter took the carry up the gut, found a lane and got out to the 12 yard line, hit down by Kavika Mitchell.  3rd and 2, the ball went to rookie RB Tony Hunt, who ran around right end and got out to the 16 yard line, hit down by Pierce, but got a big first down.  First and 10, and with some room to breath, but not for long

McNabb would try a double fake on a handoff and then a reverse, and drop back as the Giants came on an overload blitz to the left, which forced McNabb to his right.  He first set up with some time to throw, but that quickly went away, as Kiwi came in off the edge to sack him at the 15, Kiwi’s 2nd sack and the Giants’ 8th of the game.  2nd and 11, McNabb gave a shotgun handoff to Buckhalter up the middle and he got the ball out to the 20 where he was held up by several Giants.  This set up a 3rd and 5, and under center, McNabb got another blitz from Spags and he threw a quick out towards Brown, which was out of his reach and dropped incomplete.  So again on came Rocca to punt, who got off a line drive that bounced at the 45 and McQuarters gave it some consideration, but decided to back off and it rolled out to the Giants’ 34 yard line with 5:02 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Eli again led the Giants out and started with a fake to Ward and rolled out to his right and found a wide open Shockey at the 35, and the big TE was able to square his shoulders and get a head of steam up the field, all the way out to the Eagles’ 49 yard line, hit down by Gocong and James.  First down, Ward made a move in the backfield and cut back to his left, and got the ball all the way out to the 43, hit down by Spikes.  2nd and 3, Eli took a shot at the home run

The Giants didn’t take many shots early on, but it was set up for this situation, and Eli dropped back and had plenty of time to throw and got off a deep pass towards Toomer, who beat his man James by a step, which forced the former Giant (known previously as Will Peterson) inside the 10 to trip him up for an easy call of a pass interference, as 2 flags came flying on the play.  In all it was a 32 yard penalty, but one that had to happen or else Toomer might have scored.  First and goal at the 10, Ward ran into the back of Madison Hedgecock, and was bounced backwards, and got slammed down by Kearse for a loss.  2nd and goal at the 11, Eli tried a quick out to Toomer at the 9, but it sailed on him and out of bounds.  3rd and goal, Eli in the gun, with the clock winding down a blitz coming, he first tried a pump fake to get James to jump and threw a pass to Plax at the 14, but he would get nowhere and was nailed by Gaither and Mikell at the 12.  That would bring Tynes on the field to bang through a 29 yarder to make the score 10-0 with 2:03 to go in the 3rd.

Tynes would kickoff to Reid, who got the ball out to the 27, hit down by Blackburn.  That would set up a first down and McNabb would have time to throw (something he didn’t get much of) and drilled a pass in to Brown at the 35, and he would spin up to the 37, hit down by Ross.  A flag on the play for an illegal formation on the Eagles wiped out a decent gain on a mindless penalty as the TE wasn’t covered.  It was the Eagles’ 13th penalty of the game and set them back to a 1st and 15 at the 22.  And it didn’t get better from there

The Eagles would go no huddle to try to mix it up.  McNabb would drop back and try to hand the ball to Buckhalter, but the ball was actually knocked out by the fullback Tepeh who was trying to lead.  Buckhalter would try to fall on it, but it squirted underneath him.  Mitchell came flying in from his linebacker spot to snag the ball on the ground, and quickly get up, as McNabb kind of stood there, and he’d bounce off the QB and start chugging up the field and took it back for a back breaking TD.  Back in 2007, there was no automatic review on a scoring play, so Reid threw the red flag to challenge if Mitchell was touched as he was on the ground as he was getting the ball.  The real question was if TE Matt Schobel touched him as his knee was down before Mitchell got up and started rumbling.  No clear evidence to overturn, and the call on the field was a TD, Terry McCaulie gave the Giants’ the TD and the Eagles lost a timeout.  Nightmare all around for Philly.  The fans got a nice “Eagles Suck” chant as Tynes bounced the ball off the upright to miss the extra point and the score stayed at 16-0.  That was about the only positive for the Eagles all day, as Madden admonished them for a fumble when the fullback knocks it out as something you don’t even see in high school. 

Tynes’ kickoff would go to Reid 2 yards deep in the end zone, and was able to get out to the 24 yard line, hit down by Wilson.  So the Eagles came back out there with 1:23 to go in the 3rd, McNabb finally hit Kevin Curtis at the 30 and he made it out to the 33, hit down by Kiwi.  2nd and 1, McNabb dropped back and had plenty of time, and dumped the ball out to Buckhalter who caught it at the 36 and was hit immediately by Ross, but it was good enough for a first down.  McNabb with some time to throw again and drilled a dangerous pass towards Avant at the 46, where it was nearly picked by Ross, but Avant snatched it away and got the ball out to the 47, on the final play of the 3rd quarter.  Starting the final quarter, first and 10 at the 48, they gave to Buckhalter up the gut for 4 yards, taken down by Strahan.  2nd and 6, McNabb took the snap and the Giants again came on a blitz, but he was able to settle into the pocket and fire a pass to Celek at the 40, where he caught it, and took a hit from Ross and Pierce and fell forward to the 37 and another first down.  With the crowd starting to get into it as the Eagles were driving, McNabb dropped back again, and with time to throw, he was able to hit Curtis on an out pattern at the 27, where he slipped down and righted himself to lunge out to the 26, touched down by Butler, but yet another first down.  On the play Sam Madison got hurt and had to be helped off the field, with Dr. Warren looking at his shoulder.  First down, the Giants decided to again go after McNabb and this time Ross came in free to nail the QB just as he threw the ball and it flew up in the air and out of bounds for an incompletion.  2nd and 10, the Giants came on a delayed blitz, the Eagles set up a screen to Buckhalter, but the whole timing was messed up and McNabb threw it at his feet.  3rd and 10, the Giants decided to hit Mr. Chunky Soup again

Spags had mixed in blitzes, this time, he went with his NASCAR package, which meant taking out Robbins and Cofield, and putting in Tuck and Kiwi at DT, with Strahan and Osi on the ends.  Essentially, big, strong, and fast guys who were matchup nightmares inside.  Tuck and Kiwi ran an interior game, which got Tuck free up the middle.  And even as Tuck was finally picked up, he got enough of McNabb’s leg to knock him off balance and fall to the ground for a 9th sack of the game, and put the Eagles back to the 34.  On Akers would come for a 53 yard field goal, but the Eagles were so screwed up that the wrong unit came out and Reid had to burn a timeout with 12:56 to go in the game.  The choices were all bad for the Eagles really.  It was 4th and 19, and the Eagles couldn’t block the Giants at all.  A punt really doesn’t do much, especially if it goes into the end zone for a touchback.  So try a 53 yarder, and Akers barely made it through to make the score 16-3 with 12:51 to go.

Akers would finally get to kickoff and he sent it to Droughns, who backed up to catch it at the 1 and he took off up the field and got a nice runback to the 33 yard line, hit down by Gocong.  Giants ball, Eli started with a fake handoff and a roll to his right, where he found TE Mike Matthews coming across the field with him at the 35, and he was hit at the knees by James and fell forward to the 37, but ended up actually dislocating a finger on the play and had to have Ronnie Barnes pop it back into place.  2nd and 5, the ball went to Ward who ran up the middle, had it blocked up, cut back to his left and made it out to the 40, hit down by Consadine.  3rd and 2, Eli was back in the gun, and he hit them with a hard count, that actually got Sinorice Moss to jump for a false start as an exasperated Madden in the booth wondered how on earth that could happen.  Now 3rd and 7, Eli back, tried to hit Plax at the 41 on a comeback, but the ball sailed through his hands and stopped the clock with 10:59 to go.  Feagles came on to punt, and hit a high punt that was fair caught at the 29 by Mahay with 10:50 to go in the game.

Now, Giants fans are forever in fear of blowing games to the Eagles, and look no further than what happened in 1978 and what would happen in 2010.  The Eagles finally got a good drive and points.  The offense went 3 and out and didn’t run the clock at all (Kevin Gilbride never could help himself).  And the Eagles immediately got lucky

On first down, McNabb would drop back to throw, and as Tuck came bearing down on him, he got the pass off on a sidearm throw to Buckhalter at the 31, but he was drilled in the back as soon as he got his hands on it by Pierce and popped the ball up in the air.  It fell right into Mitchell’s hands for what should have been an easy pick and a shot at his 2nd TD of the game.  Even as Al Michaels called it an interception, Mitchell dropped it.  So 2nd and 10, McNabb in the gun, Osi came charging in and got his hands on the QB, which forced him to step up and away from him and start to scramble.  But as he ran up the field, he was chased down by Kiwi at the 28 yard line for a 10th sack by the Giants.  3rd and 12, as Madden was saying the Justice simply couldn’t block Osi at all, and the Eagles needed to do something to help, Osi would bull rush Justice and barge into McNabb at the 21 for the Giants’ 11th sack and Osi’s 5th on the night.  It would tie a Giants team record for sacks, and bring on Rocca to punt again.  Rocca’s punt would go to McQuarters at the Giants’ 34 yard line, and he’d pick his way back to the 39 with 9:41 to play.

On first down, Ward got the carry and had a nice lane on the left hand side, following David Diehl and he made it out to the 48 for a 9 yard gain, hit down by Mikell.  2nd and 1, another carry to Ward, and another first down as he barged up the gut to the Eagles’ 48, taken down by Mikell.  Right now it was becoming clear the Giants offensive line was taking control of the game while the Giants wanted to work the clock.  Droughns would get the carry running to his right and he would push out to the 45, hit by Kearse.  2nd and 7, again Droughns running to his left, got out to the 43, hit down by Trent Cole.  3rd and 5, Eli in the gun and Johnson sent his own blitz, with Mikell coming in and Eli would pump fake first to get him off his feet, and start to scramble.  As he was getting hit, Eli would try a back hand flip thing towards Droughns but it was incomplete with 6:47 to go.  Feagles came back on again, and this time was not as good a punt, it was taken by Mahay at the 11, and he took it to the 23, shoved out by Torbor.

On would come McNabb again, and throw a quick pass to Brown at the 29, where he was grabbed by Madison and taken down.  2nd and 4, Buckhalter took the carry running at Osi and he would get a first down, hit down by Tuck at the 34, but the clock was running.  McNabb for a very rare occasion had plenty of time to throw on this play, he would look around and take a shot towards Avant, but it was nearly picked off by Madison at mid field, but it ended up being dropped.  2nd and 10, McNabb in the gun, but a false start on Justice set them back to a 2nd and 15.  McNabb would pump fake and dump it off underneath to Buckhalter at the 32, he’d get away easily from a bad tackle attempt by Butler, run through a tackle by McQuarters and fall down at the 43, just a yard shy of the first down.  3rd and 1, McNabb would sneak it to the 46 and a first down.  Eagles in the no huddle, and the ball would go to Schoebel at the Giants’ 44, hit down by Wilson.  First down and clock running towards 4 minutes left, McNabb again in the gun, and the Giants would only rush 3, and with plenty of time, he would dump off to Buckhalter in the flat at the 40, and he would take the ball out to the 32, hit out of bounds by Pierce and Wilson, but good for a first down with 3:53 to go.  Buckhalter would get the pitch to his right and find a huge lane to run and he got all the way down to the 16 yard line, where he ran into Wilson and went over 100 yards for the game.  So the Giants defense for the first time looked tired and the clock was nearing 3 minutes to go, but this time on a carry by Buckhalter running to his left, Tuck blew the whole play up and he took him down at the 20 for a loss, with some help from Kevin Dockery.  2nd and 14, Tuck would actually stay down and force a stoppage of play.  With a bit of a breather, the Giants defense would be re-energized, and got a pass rush from Strahan, who hit McNabb just as he threw it, and it fell incomplete with 2:31 to go.  3rd and 14, it looked like the Eagles were about to make the Giants worry

McNabb got a rush almost immediately from Strahan, which forced him up the field and he scrambled forward and was able to throw to Brown who was wide open in the end zone for an apparent TD and bring the Eagles to within 6.  Terry McCaulie would call McNabb for throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and the replay would show it was somewhat close, but he was clearly across.  So it was now a loss of down and a 4th and 18 with 2:24 to go and the Eagles had to go for it.  And it was time for a final nail in the coffin

All game long, the Eagles couldn’t handle Osi.  And in this situation, with a game there to be won, Osi decided to simply take the game into his own hands.  As he did all game, he just went right around Justice, where Andy Reid never gave him help, and he met McNabb at the 32, forced a fumble, which Justice recovered, but it didn’t matter at this point.  The ball was turned over to the Giants.  Oh by the way, the 12 sacks would tie an NFL record on the play.

With 2:19 to go in the game, Ward ran the ball to the right side and got out to the 37, hit down by Gaither with 2:10 to go and the Eagles took their last time out.  2nd and 3, Droughns got the ball up to the 41 yard line, where he was knocked down.  The Eagles thought they ripped the ball out, but to no avail as the clock went down to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 1, the ball went to Droughns up the gut where he pushed his way over the 42 yard line for a first down and a death blow to the Eagles.  All that remained was the victory formation and a couple of Eli kneel downs as the Giants defense showed they were starting to understand the Spags pass rush schemes and when they rush the passer, they could shut down any offense.  Which would eventually include the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl in about 4 months from this game. 

Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

  • Osi broke Pepper Johnson’s sack record of 4.5 sacks set in Tampa in 1991
  • The record for most sacks in a game was from Derrick Thomas of the KC Chiefs when he registered 7 sacks of Seattle’s Dave Krieg in 1990.  Thomas was considered the closest linebacker to Lawrence Taylor when it came to being a dominant pass rusher as a linebacker.  Thomas however was a speed rusher, he didn’t have LT’s size.  LT was listed at 6’4” and 250.  Thomas was listed at 6’3” and 243, but his playing weight was closer to 230.  And Thomas wasn’t the all around linebacker that LT was (LT was a much better run defender than Thomas).  But in the game in which Thomas registered the 7 sacks, amazingly, the Chiefs did not win.  Thomas would sack Krieg in the end zone, force a fumble that NT Dan Saleaumua would recover for a TD that put the Chiefs up 16-10 in the 3rd quarter.  With time running down in the 4th quarter, Krieg would have one last drive.  And literally as time expired, Thomas grabbed Krieg for what would have been his 8th sack of the game, but he came in so fast that his momentum led him to spin off Krieg.  Krieg regained his balance and threw a strike to Jeff Chadwick in the end zone for a game winning 25 yard TD with the extra point making it 17-16.
  • Osi’s 6 sacks tied him for 2nd place all time in a single game with 3 other players.  
    • The first to do it was 49er pass rusher Fred Dean in 1983.  Dean would sack New Orleans’ Saints QB Dave Wilson 6 times in a 27-0 blowout.
    • The 2nd man to do it was a familiar name.  Derrick Thomas got 6 sacks in 1998 vs. Jeff George of the Oakland Raiders in a 28-8 win at Arrowhead Stadium.  
    • The last man to do it was Adrian Clayborn in 2017 when he dropped Dak Prescott 6 times in the Falcons’ 27-7 win at Atlanta.
  • Giants registered 12 sacks in this game.  Not only was this a team record, but this tied an NFL record which was set 4 times previously
    • 1980:  Cardinals vs. Colts
    • 1984:  Bears vs Lions
    • 1985:  Cowboys vs. Oilers
    • 1966:  Cowboys vs. Steelers: Interestingly enough, the sack itself was not tracked as an official stat until 1982.  So the NFL went back and added this back in retroactively.
  • Officially, the next highest sack game for the Giants came in 1964 when they sacked the Cardinals’ Charlie Johnson 11 times in a 34-17 win at Yankee Stadium
  • For the Giants part, the most they’ve been sacked in a game is 9 times, which happened in 1981 in a 26-7 loss to the NY Jets and the “Sack Exchange” at the expense of Phil Simms.
  • The most otherwise in a game which Simms suffered was 8 sacks, which happened twice.  In the 1987 season opener at Chicago and in the 1988 season finale vs. the Jets which killed the Giants NFC East title hopes.  In that game a former replacement player, Ken Rose, sacked Simms 3 times and run stuffer Marty Lyons got him twice.
  • As for other Giants QBs and the most times they got sacked in a game
    • Jeff Hostetler: 5 times- twice, both in 1992 in losses at Denver and home to the Eagles.
    • Dave Brown: 8 times- In a 19-10 loss vs Philly in 1996
    • Kent Graham: 5 times- twice, both in 1999 and they won both games, vs the Cowboys and at the Eagles in OT
    • Kerry Collins: 6 times- vs. Buffalo in 2003 in a 24-7 loss.  Collins would actually get hurt the next week vs. the Redskins and never played for the Giants again.
    • Kurt Warner: 7 times- in a brutal loss to the Bears which pretty much set the stage for Eli to take over
    • Eli Manning: 8 times- Twice.  Once in a 20-8 loss in 2008 at Dallas.  And also in the Giants thrilling 30-24 OT win at Philly in 2006 when the Giants came back from being down 24-7 in the 4th quarter.
  • Lost in this was Mathias Kiwanuka’s 3 sacks in the game.  Kiwi was a swiss army knife of sorts for the Giants.  He was a pass rushing DL out of Boston College and the Giants brought him in during the Ernie Accorsi/Jerry Reese mantra of “you can never have enough pass rushers”.  Kiwi would play a multitude of roles for the Giants, depending on need.  With so many talented defensive players, Kiwi would have a tough time finding reps at DE, which is understandable when you have Osi, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck on your roster.  But Kiwi was so talented that the Giants wanted to find a way to get him on the field.  So they asked him to play linebacker, and he did.  They asked him to move inside along with Tuck in the NASCAR pass rush package as a speed/size mismatch over plodding guards and he did.  And when Osi hurt his knee in the 2008 preseason vs. the Jets and was lost for the year, Kiwi moved back to DE.  Kiwi’s 3 sacks was a single game career high.  His next best effort was 2.5 sacks in a win at Pittsburgh in 2008.
  • Kiwi only had 4.5 sacks all of 2007.  His other 1.5 came in the previous week, the critical 24-17 win at Washington which avoided an 0-3 start and helped the Giants rebound and save their season.
  • Not to be left out of the party, the Giants also had a multiple sack game from Justin Tuck, with 2 sacks.  Tuck’s career high of sacks in a single game came in 2013, when he got 4 sacks of Robert Griffin III in the Giants 24-17 win at Washington in a Sunday Night game.
  • In all, Tuck registered at least 1.5 sacks in a game 17 times.
  • Kawika Mitchell’s TD was the first of 2 defensive scores he had in 2007.  Mitchell’s 2nd came in the Giants win at Buffalo in Week 16 when he returned an interception off of Trent Edwards for a 20 yard score in the 4th quarter to give the Giants the lead 24-21.  The Giants would go on to score 2 more TDs (Ahmad Bradshaw’s 88 yard TD run and another pick 6, this time from Corey Webster) to win going away 38-21.  That win clinched the Giants playoff spot and set up the legendary game the next week against the Patriots, who were playing to get to 16-0 and the Giants refused to rest their players even though they had nothing to play for since their spot was clinched.  The Giants would lose that game, the Pats would go 16-0, but the Giants went toe to toe with them and learned enough of what it took to beat them, and they did in the Super Bowl a month later.
  • Mitchell scored one other TD in his career, a 39 yard fumble recovered return to salt away a 49-38 win by the Chiefs at Tennessee.
  • Mitchell actually was almost not a Giant in 2007.  The Giants made a trade with the Denver Broncos for their Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson prior to the draft for a 3rd round pick.  Wilson would turn out to be damaged goods as the Giants failed his physical with a neck injury and would return him to the Broncos.  The Giants shortly thereafter signed Mitchell as a free agent from the Chiefs and Mitchell would get a Super Bowl ring.
  • Al Wilson’s story didn’t have the same happy ending.  After the Giants failed him due to his neck, the Broncos doctors would look at his medicals and say that he wouldn’t need surgery, but decided to release him prior to the 2007 season.  Wilson would retire in 2008.  Wilson would sue one of the Broncos’ team doctors, Dr. Chad Prusmack for $25 million, which would have been the money the Giants would have paid him.  Wilson argued if he got the neck surgery after 2006, the Giants would have kept him and paid him.  Wilson did not win his lawsuit.
  • Plaxico’s TD was his 6th of the season in only the 4th game of the year.  Plax would score a TD in the Giants first 6 games of 2007, including 3 in the Sunday Night opening loss at Dallas.  He would only catch 4 more TDs over the next 10 games, including 2 in the season finale against the Patriots.
  • Derrick Ward was the Giants leading rusher in the game, rushing for 80 yards on 19 carries.  You have to remember, going into the 2007 season, the Giants weren’t sure what to do at running back.  Tiki Barber had retired after being the lead horse for years, putting up Hall of Fame type numbers.  The Giants had a 7th round rookie in Ahmad Bradshaw who was considered more of a returner.  They had their 265 pound hammer in 2nd year running back Brandon Jacobs but he was thought of as more of a goal line/ short yardage specialist.  The Giants traded for Rueben Droughns from the Browns for disappointing WR Tim Carter.  Droughns, a former 1000 yard back with the Broncos was thought to have an inside track on the job.  And last they had Derrick Ward, who was a practice squad guy the Giants got from the Jets.  Ward spent 2004-2006 mainly as a special teamer/ return man and got only spot duty as a runner.  But going into the 2007 season, Ward was given the first crack at being the main man, and he did well, rushing for 89, 90, and 94 yards in his first 3 games.  Ward would gain 56 yards the next week vs. Jets, but he saw his playing time start to dwindle as Jacobs and Bradshaw got more carries and Ward got nicked up with injuries.  He looked to regain his job in Week 12 against the Bears, as he rushed for a season high 154 yards.  But in that game he broke his leg and was lost for the rest of the season.
  • Lawrence Tynes missed extra point was the first one of his Giants’ career.  Tynes would miss another extra point a few weeks later, in the Giants’ 33-15 win over the 49ers.  Tynes would not miss an extra point for the remainder of his career with the Giants through the 2012 season.  
  • The last time a kicker missed multiple extra points in one season was Matt Bryant in 2002, when he converted 30 of 32 attempts.  Brad Daluiso also missed 2 extra points in the 1997 season, going 27 of 29.  Paul McFadden, of barefooted kicker fame, also missed 2 extra points in the 1988 season, going 25 of 27.  
  • From 1980 - 2014, only Ali Haji-Shiekh missed more than 2 in a season, when he missed 3 in the 1984 year (32 of 35), before they moved the extra point to a 33 yard attempt back in 2015.
  • In 2016, Robbie Gould also missed 3 extra points, including 2 in the Giants 22-16 win over his former team the Bears at the Meadowlands.  To be fair, there were 30 mph wind gusts that game and it made all kicks an adventure.  Chicago’s kicker Connor Barth also missed an extra point as well.
  • In 2017, Aldrick Rosas also missed 3 extra points, going 20 for 23.  Bill Belichick wanted the extra point moved back to the 33 because he said the previous iteration was a “non-competitive play” with success well over 90% for a pro kicker.  He was right.  When you consider in nearly 35 years the Giants only had 1 kicker miss 3 extra points and only 4 other times missed 2.  In the past 3.5 years, they’ve had kickers miss 3 twice.