Giants – Eagles NFC East Shootout Ends With Big Blue Defenseless

Published on: 14th December, 2009

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Giants - Eagles NFC East Shootout Ends With Big Blue Defenseless  | read this item

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East Rutherford — This was the game that would go a long way towards deciding the season for the Giants. It couldn’t get any bigger than this. A national television audience, hated division rivals in the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, and a little swagger in their step coming off of last week’s huge win over the Dallas Cowboys. So, what did the Giants do?

They watched DeSean Jackson gain 178 yards receiving and Donovan McNabb pick apart the swiss-cheese that now represents the Giants defense as the Eagles took control of the NFC East division with a 45-38 win at Giants Stadium tonight.

For the second time this season, the Giants just couldn’t stop the  Eagles, and this time it cost them their last shot at winning the NFC East. Given an opportunity to force their way into a three-way tie atop the division, the Giants laid a huge egg in front of their home fans, who are used to more successful December football games in the old ballpark.

“It was our opportunity,” Tom Coughlin said. “We didn’t finish the deal.”

Instead, the Giants all but conceded the NFC East to the Eagles (9-4), who now lead the Giants (7-6) by two games with three to play, and they have the tie-breaker after sweeping the season series. The Giants, who have lost six of eight, are now focused on the wild-card race, where they trail the Cowboys (8-5) by a game.

Giant Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan’s defense laid a gigantic egg, very much in line with how they’ve performed most of this season but the Giant offense and special teams, with five fumbles, numerous dropped passes, and costly penalties, didn’t exactly distinguish themselves.

In what became one of the wildest games of the season, the Giants got a career-high 391 yards and three touchdowns from Eli Manning (27-for-38) and 512 total yards by the offense. The final point tally combined for the most points in a game (81) between these two old NFL franchises in their history of games.

But as Coughlin said, “The yards don’t mean a lot when you don’t win.”

“It’s definitely a tough one to swallow as a defensive player,” Kiwanuka said. “Because this one was squarely on our defense.”

There was a time in Giants history (say, for most of the past 25 years or so) when they could count on their ferocious defense to dictate the terms of how December games in Giants Stadium were going to be played. Big Blue always could lean on playmaking, physical linebackers like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Jesse Armstead, and even, a younger Antonio Pierce to lead with their play and with their on-field voices. Times have certainly changed, though. Tonight’s linebacker crew included names like Boley, Clark and Kehl while the starting middle linebacker, second year player Jonathan Goff played like the engineering student he was at Vanderbilt University, getting exactly zero tackles tonight.

The Giant secondary, a make-shift unit most of the season since starting safety Kenny Phillips was lost for the season since Game One and cornerback Aaron Ross missed the first 11 games of the season, was, once more, pitiful. And, that’s being kind.

The Eagles consistently hit for big yardage plays pretty much whenever quarterback Donovan McNabb felt like going down the field with the pigskin. But the Giants’ defense never came up with a big stop, and they never had an answer for Jackson, who caught six passes for 178 yards. He made the biggest catch – a 60-yard touchdown from Donovan McNabb (17 for 26, 275 yards) that put the Eagles up 37-31 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.

That came just 15 seconds after Manning had hit Domenik Hixon for a 61-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 31-30 lead – their only lead of the game.

Jackson, the University of California product, had 178 yards receiving and a touchdown and a 72-yard punt return for a score. Jackson has scored eight TDs of 50 yards or more this season, which tied the NFL record. Tonight’s performance by Jackson was no different than he’s treated other defenses this season. 

“We have to know where he is at, he is one of their big plays guys and if we want to eliminate that we have to know where he is all the time,” Giants cornerback Corey Webster said. “We didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”

“I thought we fought hard,” said Manning. “We still had opportunities and we didn’t respond the way we needed to. We needed to hit our big play and didn’t.”

The Eagles did, of course, with Jackson the star. He had six receptions for 178 yards to go with the long punt return.

“It was a huge game. Sunday night, it gets no better than this,” he said. “The world was watching. We knew what rode on this game.”

This loss effectively signifies the end of the Giants as a contender for the NFC East championship. Their only chance at the playoffs now would be to squeeze in as a wild card team. They’re very fortunate the NFC has been on the mediocre side this season, save for the undefeated Saints, the Vikings, the Packers, and the now 9-4 Eagles. The Giants have the tiebreaker advantage over Dallas by virtue of beating them twice this season. Should those two teams end this season with the same record, the Giants would get the playoff nod.

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