Monday night, the Giants passing game got off to a similar start as it did in week one. Eli Manning was inaccurate, throwing an interception on the Giants first drive, missing Mario Manningham wide open along the sideline. Eli would start the game 2-11, unable to find any rhythm with his receivers. With 2:58 left in the first half and backed up on their own 14 yard line, the big blue offense embarked on a touchdown scoring drive that the time seemed as improbable as the Giants retiring Matt Dodge’s number. Eli hit Manningham for nine yards, found Bradshaw for four yards, hit Nicks on the right for four, Hixon over the middle for seven on third down, threw a strike to Manngingham down the sideline for thirty-one and finally finished the drive by locating Hixon in the endzone for a twenty-yard pass. With one drive, the Giants had wiped away nearly twenty-seven minutes of inconsistent play. Finally, Eli looked comfortable with his receivers, firing passes with confidence to his play makers. After watching the offense march down the field with ease, one has to wonder, why don’t the Giants run the hurry up offense more often?
Throughout his career, Eli has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the last two minutes of the half. Eli became a Super Bowl legend and MVP by exhibiting command of the Giants offense and driving them to a game winning touchdown to defeat the undefeated Patriots. However, the two minute drill that often gets overlooked occurred three weeks earlier in Dallas. With less than forty seconds left in the half of the Divisional Round game in Dallas and trailing the Cowboys by a touchdown, Eli would hit Smith, Boss and eventually Toomer to tie the game going into the third quarter. Over the last three years, not including the postseason, Eli has completed nearly 59% of his passes, while throwing twelve touchdowns to only four interceptions in the last two minutes of the half. While the Giants work to get Eli in his comfort zone, they need to realize that the hurry up offense is his comfort zone.
The strength of the Eagles is in their three superb corner backs, Samuel, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. However, the Eagles are susceptible to give up big plays within their linebackers and safeties. In Bill Barnwell’s week two review for Grantland, he highlighted how teams need to attack the Eagles defense:
“When teams do choose to throw the ball against the Eagles, they can bypass those elite cornerbacks by targeting the tight end. Of the Big Three, only Asomugha has the size to man up against someone like Tony Gonzalez, and the Eagles have mostly kept Asomugha outside against wideouts so far. The Eagles don't have an effective cover linebacker, while starting safeties Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman are still question marks in coverage. The future Hall of Fame tight end simply ate the Eagles up, as he caught seven of the nine passes thrown to him, producing five first downs and two touchdowns.“
Luckily for the Giants, Travis Beckum was able to practice all week and should get some playing time this Sunday in Philadelphia. While the Giants would prefer to use him in the slot than with his hands on the line, they may be able to exploit some mis-matches within the Eagles linebackers if they can keep Beckum on the field. By running the hurry up, the Giants would force the Eagles to stay in their base 4-3 defense, not allowing them to switch out a linebacker Moise Fokou for the more talented Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Giants need to attack the Eagles over the middle of the field. Samuel and Asomugha may neutralize Nicks and Cruz, the Giants should be able to attack the Eagles linebackers and safeties. The defense will have its hands full trying to contain all the weapons the Eagles have to offer, the offense can do their part by establishing long drives and converting third downs. Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, the Giants best defense may have to be their hurry up offense.
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