New York Giants' Latest Defensive Breakdown Lets Static Eagles Surge
The Giants have made a science out of giving up late scores in critical situations.
Their mastery was on full display on Thursday night, allowing the Eagles to score 12 unanswered points in the final seven minutes of the game en route to a 22-21 defeat.
The Giants defense has now allowed opposing offenses to score 34 points in the fourth quarter of their last four games, all of which have been decided by one possession.
New York's latest collapse against the Eagles might take the cake as the crown jewel of that stretch, spoiling what was an impressive defensive performance to that point.
The Eagles' 143 yards on their final two possessions surpassed the yardage from their previous six drives combined to that point, and their 12 points in the last seven minutes surpassed the ten they'd scored in the previous 53 minutes.
For an Eagles offense that had become stagnant since an opening drive touchdown, it was merely a matter of letting the Giants defense fall into its late-game form and watching the big plays come.
When Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked if he'd made significant changes to the offensive game plan in the final seven minutes, he shook his head.
Pederson suggested that, while offensive adjustments are regularly made throughout the game, it was simply a matter of the team's playmakers coming up with big plays in their two-minute offense.
"We always evaluate between series how a defense is defending and we make some subtle adjustments," Pederson said. "We knew once we got down two scores we were going to be in two-minute mode anyway and our guys just made some plays."
"You're just going to need some of that stuff when you're in that situation."
The Eagles' late surge started almost immediately after the Giants went up 21-10, courtesy of cornerback Ryan Lewis.
After a sack by Giants defensive lineman B.J. Hill was wiped out by an illegal contact penalty by Lewis, Wentz went right after Lewis delivering a 59-yard bomb to rookie wide receiver John Hightower down the right sideline.
"It was a huge play in that moment," Wentz said. "We were down two scores there, backs against the wall and John, he keeps putting his feet on tape, he keeps showing that he can run by defenders and do some things well so I'm going to give him and all these guys opportunities when the play call dictates it."
From there, the Eagles' offense hardly faced any opposition, scoring just two plays (those that didn't involve a penalty) later.
Giants tight end Evan Engram's infamous drop on the Giants' ensuing drive put the Eagles offense back on the field with just over two minutes left, which was more than enough time against a defense that was stuck in neutral, as it has late in games over the past month.
The Eagles offense managed to march 75 yards on six plays in just 1:22, but it was more than that. A facemask penalty by Eagles center Jason Kelce backed Philadelphia up to the Giants 18-yard line with goal-to-go, giving the Giants a prime opportunity to come up with a game-saving stand.
But 18 yards was cake against the Giants' defense at that point.
Wentz connected with running back Boston Scott, who ran right past safety Jabrill Peppers, just one play after the penalty for the game-winning touchdown.
Wentz and Scott made the play look effortless, and it very well might have been, as Wentz even admitted that Scott wasn't even one of the main targets on the play.
"A lot of our guys were breaking into the end zone and just the way it kind of played out, they kind of had bracket coverage on a couple guys and Boston had one-on-one coverage there down the sideline," Wentz said.
"He wasn't the primary but find the guy that has the one-on-one coverage when they play that type of matchup and we did."
"It was an exciting moment but it a big sigh of relief because we knew we left a lot of plays out there."
That's what wins against the Giants have essentially become; a sigh of relief for teams that know no lead is insurmountable with the defense the Giants play late in games.