The Giants won their third consecutive game on Sunday. It was another nail-biter, but one in which they led all the way. They are 5-3 after eight games and are in second place in the NFC East, two games behind the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys.
The victory gives the Giants a 2-1 record in the division, with wins over Philadelphia and Dallas, and a loss to Washington. The Giants are currently the fifth seed in the NFC.
What to be pleased about....
The Giants' five victories have been by a combined 20 points. Last season, eight of their ten losses were by margins of six points or less. This year, with an improved defense, they are preserving those leads and finding a way to win.
The Giants jumped out in front early. They scored their first touchdown 2:33 into the game on a 20-yard pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham, Jr. It was their earliest touchdown since Nov. 25, 2012, when Andre Brown scored on a 2-yard run after just 2:22 had elapsed in what became a 38-10 rout of the Green Bay Packers. The Giants have been deferring when winning the opening toss and it has been backfiring. Sunday, the Eagles won the toss and deferred. Perhaps the coaches will re-examine their strategy going forward.
The takeaways are coming. For the second straight game, the Giants recorded multiple takeaways and made the best of them. After Andrew Adams' interception in the first quarter, they quickly scored on Manning's 30-yard pass to Roger Lewis, Jr. That gave them two touchdowns in the first 5:17 of the game. They had not scored two touchdowns so quickly in a regular-season game since they scored twice in the first 5:11 in a 21-0 season-opening victory on Sept. 8, 1985 - also a home game vs. Philadelphia. Please note that 1985 was the year the Giants turned the corner as serious contenders.
Special teams are doing their part. Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Caleb Sturgis' 40-yard field goal attempt with 1:07 remaining in the second quarter. The ball was recovered by Janoris Jenkins, who returned it 13 yards to the Giants' 46 before he fumbled. The ball was then secured by Mark Herzlich. The play kept the Eagles off the scoreboard. Combine that with Eagles' head Doug Pederson's losing gambles on early fourth down attempts, and the Giants denied the Eagles of nine more points.
The young players are making their mark. Lewis Jr. caught another touchdown and safety Andrew Adams had nine tackles and an interception. Both players made the team as UDFAs this past summer.
Larry Donnell did not see any targets. Not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. Let's say the less Donnell touches the ball, the better. Will Tye caught four of his seven targets for 33 yards and rookie Jerell Adams caught three of his four targets for 24 yards.
There's plenty of work to do…
The running game still stinks. The Giants ran the ball 24 times for a total of 54 yards (2.3 YPC). The carries were split evenly between Rashad Jennings and rookie Paul Perkins with 11 apiece. Manning ran twice for -4 yards. We were told more would be dedicated to this area but there was no evidence to that effect. Take out Perkins' 14 yard run and the numbers get even more sickening.
Third/Fourth down conversion rates are still too low. The Giants were 4/13 on third downs (31%) and 0-1 on fourth down. It's a good thing they held the Eagles to just 3 for 15 on third down attempts and 1 for 4 on fourth down or this stat would be front and center. Again, if the running game was better, this would not be such an issue.
Big plays in the secondary are troubling, especially on first down. This might have to do with the pass rush not getting home, but the Giants allowed seven pass plays of 17 yards or more on first down. The untrained eye tells you they are in their base defense on first down and teams are taking full advantage. Since the pass rush has been basically ineffective this season, opposing offenses are feasting.