New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll insisted last week that the events of the 2007 NFL regular-season finale had nothing to do with what he might be planning for the 2023 regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
For those who don't remember, the Giants, in 2007, secured a wild card berth by Week 15 of that season, meaning their regular-season finale against an undefeated New England Patriots team meant nothing in terms of playoff seeding.
But the game meant something to then-head coach Tom Coughlin, who made the bold decision to play his starters, thereby risking injury against a Patriots team that everyone outside of the Giants team headquarters felt New York didn't have a prayer of winning.
The Giants went on to lose that game 38-35, and yes, they had a couple of injuries to center Shaun O'Hara and cornerback Sam Madison. But for Coughlin, the game meant something. It was a litmus test to see if his team could stand toe-to-toe against the best. It was also an opportunity to get some up close intel on a team that ultimately they would see again (and this time beat) in the Super Bowl.
The 2023 Giants, like the 2007 squad, locked up their playoff seeding last week with a win over the Colts. And like the 2007 team, the current Giants squad had nothing to gain or lose playoff seeding-wise this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But unlike 2007, Giants head coach Brian Daboll, believing in resting some of his overworked and banged up key players so they'd be fresh against the Minnesota Vikings next week in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, decided to sit the majority of his starters and key reserves, giving the backups a chance to gain some valuable reps. He trusted guys like quarterback Davis Webb, who had never started a game in his pro career, to run the offense.
And wouldn't you know it? The Giants, whose starters and key reserves were steamrolled by the Eagles back in Week 14 by a score of 48-22, stood toe-to-toe with the Eagles, losing by less than a touchdown and outscoring their rivals 16-6 in the second half of the game which forced the Eagles to keep their starters in for the long haul.
As for the numbers, they're not all that different than what the Giants have averaged with the starters on the field.
The Giants managed 129 rushing yards on 21 carries, with Saquon Barkley inactive for the game. That rushing total was about 20 yards less than their 149.4 season average coming into this week's game. They also finished with 168 passing yards, as driven by Webb, again about 20 yards less than their season average.
Defensively, they allowed the Eagles 135 rushing yards on the ground, the second-string defense still unable to come up with an answer to stop Boston Scott, the Eagles' leading rusher this week with 54 yards on nine carries and the lone Eagles touchdown. But they held the Eagles receivers to under 100 yards a piece, A.J. Brown coming the closest to hitting the century mark with 95 yards on four receptions.
Want more to like? The Giants defense limited the Eagles to a 35.7 percent third-down conversion rate and just a 4.8-yard average gained per offensive play. The Eagles were also one of five in the red zone (20 percent) and one of four in goal-to-go efficiency.
Again, this was with the Giants' backup players on the field.
“I mean it’s the NFL so the guys you have on your team you have confidence in. I certainly have confidence in all of the guys we have," Daboll said after the game. "You’re not playing walk-ons and things like that. You’re playing people who earned the right to be on a team and compete and play. So whoever we have out there I have confidence in. They all know what to do."
Need more to like about the outcome of the game (save for the score, of course?) New York got a chance to try a couple of razzle-dazzle plays on special teams that, while not successful, gave the coaches a chance to see them in a live setting and perhaps look to fix them should they want to unwrap them again in the playoffs.
And other than for safety Jason Pinnock, who left the game with a shoulder injury, there were no other reported injuries that appear to be a concern for next weekend's Wild Card game against the Minnesota Vikings, a team the Giants should have beaten when they faced them on Christmas Eve were it not for the fact the Giants beat themselves with mistake after mistake.
While the score isn't what the Giants were hoping for, there were a lot of positives for Daboll's Giants to take back with them to East Rutherford Sunday night, above all the knowledge that they have, in this last stretch of games, stood tow-to-tow with two NFC playoff teams that they came within one score of beating, the second with their backups.
"I thought they played a very competitive game. There are a few things, obviously, we could have done a little better. We tried a few plays to get us going there. The fake field goal and the onside kick just to try to generate some offense which we were stalling a little bit there for the first half plus a little bit. Tough, competitive, smart guys that we value on our roster,” Daboll said.
As he'll always do, Daboll refused to take the credit for the team's showing. Being the competitor he is, he's probably unhappy with the loss.
But, as he said this past week, it's all about process over results.
"I can live with results if we’re doing things the right way--we’re on time, we’re taking care of our bodies, we’re detailed in meetings, we practice our tails off," he said last Monday.
"If we go out there and don’t get the results we want Sunday, I can live with that. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit, but I certainly can live with it based on what they’re doing and what we’re asking them to do and how they’re doing it."
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