Last week, the Eagles played their worst offensive game of the year. They only scored three points and had 278 yards of offense. Those were easily the worst totals of the season. The challenge for Chip Kelly and his players is to get back on track. In come the Giants for a rematch of a game played just a few weeks back.
The Eagles gained 439 yards and scored 36 points in the first meeting. That sounds great, but the game wasn't all smooth sailing.
The rematch is an interesting test for Kelly. This is the first time an NFL team has gotten a second look at his offense. Some of Kelly's critics think teams will be able to shut down his offense as they get used to it. You can bet Kelly is excited for this challenge. While the Giants have played his offense, the counter to that is true as well. Kelly has faced the Giants defense and will make adjustments of his own. Kelly did a great job of making adjustments while at Oregon so it should be interesting to see what he does this Sunday. You can bet he'll have a good counter-move to handle the Giants' stunts that worked so well in the first game.
Vick ran for a game-high 79 yards in the first game. Kelly used some quarterback sweeps to get Vick on the perimeter with lead blockers. The plays were beautifully designed and very effective. With Vick coming off a hamstring injury, both he and Kelly will have to be judicious with the amount of running that Vick does. Kelly won't be able to put much into the gameplan. Vick has the real challenge. He must be more of a pocket quarterback. That isn't to say that he can't run some, but he must be careful not to overdo it. Hamstring injuries are tricky. They can be re-aggravated on a play that may not seem like a big deal.
The Eagles defense is coming off their best game of the year. They held the explosive Dallas offense to just 17 points. The defense now has three straight games where they held the opponent to 21 points or less. It really is good to see the defense showing some signs of life. Success can be contagious. The more success the players have, the more they believe. Players that are confident in themselves and the scheme are more likely to make plays.
While the progress is very encouraging, there is still a long way to go. The Eagles are dead last in yards allowed. Horrible games against Denver and San Diego are really dragging them down in terms of overall statistics. That said, the defense hasn't held anyone under 350 yards. This is still a flawed unit that gives up too many yards.
There will be a breakthrough game one of these weeks. The front seven is able to get pressure on the quarterback. The Eagles need that pressure to become sacks and big hits. The secondary isn't giving up big plays. They are, however, still allowing too many underneath completions. Yards after the catch are also still a big problem. The secondary needs to cover more tightly and tackle quicker after short and intermediate throws. When the defense can come up with sacks and limit the underneath passing game, the Eagles will have their breakthrough game.
Could that be this week?
It is possible. The Giants are playing on a short week. They won the Monday night game, beating the Vikings 23-7. The Giants only had 257 yards of offense. The Eagles are coming off their best defensive game of the year and match-up well with the Giants.
A lot will depend on Eli Manning. He's having a very rough year. If you can get pressure and some hits on him early, that affects him all game long. Manning used to take a beating and not flinch. He was much tougher than people realize. I remember the Eagles sacking him eight times back in an 2006 game. The Eagles beat him relentlessy, but Manning kept getting up and eventually led the Giants to a win in overtime. I haven't seen that version of Eli Manning this year. When you get heavy pressure on him, he now lets it affect him on the next play and the one after that and so on. He starts to feel phantom pressure and that causes inaccurate throws and poor decisions.
If the Eagles front seven can win some battles and hit Manning early, that would set a great tone for the game and help to get him going in the wrong direction.
The Giants used slant passes very effectively in the first meeting with the Eagles. Davis knows this and will tweak some things to make those less easy for the Giants. Davis isn't going to sell out to stop the slants because his primary focus is still limiting downfield pass plays, something the Eagles do very well. Manning threw several deep balls in the first game. Hakeem Nicks caught one for a gain of 49 yards.
The Giants' win on Monday night was their first of the year. They are now 1-6. During the game, Jon Gruden mentioned that he could see this Giants team getting hot and having a four- or five-game winning streak. I'm not so sure. Gruden was referencing the fact that the Giants have had a lot of winning streaks during the Tom Coughlin era. While that is true, this isn't a typical Giants team. They are 27th in points scored and 31st in points allowed. They have the 31st-ranked run game. They have the fewest sacks in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have combined for 2.5 sacks this year. Eagles rookie
Could this win wake the Giants up and get them going? We knew the Giants weren't going to go winless for the year, but this isn't a team that was close to winning and just found ways to lose. Four of their losses are by double-digits. I think there are serious talent issues that have caught up to the Giants. Winning will give the players some confidence, but it can't cover the holes in the lineup. I do think the addition of Jon Beason at middle linebacker has helped them. He is a solid player, but also a great leader. Middle linebacker is a position where leadership can make a difference.
While the Giants did win, they played the Vikings who looked absolutely dreadful. Josh Freeman had a nightmare game and Adrian Peterson was inexplicably only given 13 carries. The Vikings' lone points came on a punt return touchdown. Winning that game could give you some confidence, but it would help to be a bit delusional. Anyone who watched that game saw two bad teams. The Giants can still beat the Eagles. This is a rivalry game and anything can happen in those.
The strange sub-plot here is to see who can stop a streak. The Eagles have lost nine straight home games. The Giants have lost eight straight road games. Something has to give. The Giants are the last team the Eagles beat at Lincoln Financial Field so that feels like a good omen to me.
Getting a win would put the Eagles back to .500 at 4-4. That would keep them right in the middle of the NFC East race. It would also drop the Giants to 1-7 and drive another stake into them. That would be a nice Halloween gift for Eagles fans.