The clock has struck midnight for the New York Giants and their defense of a world championship. A year ago, the Giants were the hottest team in football, capturing the attention of all New Jersey and New York fans as they triumphed over the unbeaten Patriots. Today, the Giants were chumps, losing their fourth game of their last five and playing mistake-filled football all afternoon. All the good will that the Giants created over the last year is now gone. The critics of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin will be back very soon, especially after today's performance.
Eli Manning looked a lot like the Eli Manning that was villified by New Yorkers from 2004 to the mid-season of 2007. Manning undershot his receivers all day long; his passes floated listlessly in the air, hitting the ground in front of desperate receivers who had to come back to the ball in order to catch it. It didn't help that receivers Steve Smith and Domieck Hixon kept dropping passes, making it obvious that the Giants missed superjerk Plaxico Burress.
For the day' Manning completed only 52 percent of his passes and was picked off twice in the game. He could have easily thrown five interceptions if it were not for Philly defenders dropping some of Manning throws.
What was most peculiar about the Giants effort today was the fact that they tried to do everything but run Brandon Jacobs. Throughout the first half, the Giants were more committed to throwing the ball in the whacky winds of Giants Stadium instead of running Jacobs, who was running all over the Phialdelphia defense when he touched the rock.
With New York up 3-0, the Giants had a first and ten at their own 10 yard line; instead of logically running the ball, the Giants decided to throw it. Manning's pass was picked off by Asante Samuel, who dashed to the Giants one yard line. Three plays later, Donovan McNabb took it in himself to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead.
Manning was not the only Giant having a bad day, kicker John Carney had a brutal afternoon. With Philly up 7-5, Carney missed a 51 yard field goal wide right, preventing New York from taking the lead. In the third quarter with the Eagles up 13-11, Carney missed another field goal from 47 yards out costing the Giants a 14-13 lead. It was just not meant to be for Big Blue.
The Eagles were not perfect offensively, but they answered when they needed it most. Just before the half, McNabb completed five straight passes to move the Eagles to the Giants 34 yard line. McNabb then ran it for nine more to move the ball to the Giants seven yard line, good enough to set up David Akers for a cheap shot field goal to make it 10-8 Philly at the break.
Afer Carney missed his second field goal, the Eagles took the time to go right down the field and plug it in the end zone to ice this contest. McNabb hit Kevin Curtis for eight yards to midfield. Later, McNabb hit Curtis again for a 15 yard gain to spot the ball at the Giants 29. Finally, McNabb hit a wide open Brent Celeck in the end zone for the touchdown.
Down 20-11, the Giants decided to run the football. The Giants faced a fourth and one at midfield; Manning tried to get the yard with a quarterback sneak but he was pushed back for a one yard loss, killing the drive. Later, the Giants faced a fourth and two at their own 47. Instead of trying to trick the Eagles with a play-action or a naked bootleg, the Giants decided to ram it up the middle with Derrick Ward. Turned out to be a big mistake; Ward was stopped for no gain.
With the ball back, the Eagles put the game away. McNabb hit DeSean Jackson in stride down the sideline for 48 yards to the Giants one yard line. The Eagles settled for the field goal to make it 23-11.
It was a nice run by the Giants, but the 2008 season will be defined by a team that got off to too hot a start early in the season and suffered from the distractions created by Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce in December. The Giants were never the same offensively without Burress; his presence was missed down the stretch. Plus, Big Blue was playing bad football down the stretch, something that will have to be addressed in training camp.