McMullen’s Quick Hits: One ‘Giant,’ Albeit Ugly Win
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — This is the kind of win coaches love.
The Eagles dominated the New York Giants en route to an easy 27-7 victory to grab a share of the lead in the moribund NFC East. However, the offense continued to play poorly, giving Chip Kelly plenty to harp on as Philadelphia gets ready for a much more formidable foe in Week 7, the unbeaten Carolina Panthers.
Neither team played well in front of a stand-alone national, television audience, combining for 21 penalties and seven turnovers.
The Eagles, though, were certainly the lesser of the two evils.
Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 280 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper, but continued to struggle with his accuracy and decision-making, throwing three more interceptions as the Eagles left plenty of points on the field.
DeMarco Murray finally got loose in the running game, passing the century mark with 109 yards and a 12-yard score, while cornerback Nolan Carroll victimized Eli Manning for a 17-yard pick six.
The Eagles have now won two straight games are at the top of the division at 3-3 with New York. The two teams will meet again in North Jersey in what could be a winner-take-all Week 17 matchup.
"The sky isn't falling," Giants guard Justin Pugh said. "I don't feel like this is a repeat of last year. We're heading in the right direction and we'll be alright. We still have everything in front of us. We're 3-3. The Eagles are now 3-3. Dallas is 2-3. We've got everything in our sights still."
The Eagles defense was outstanding all night except for New York's first two possessions where Manning used tempo to limit Philadelphia's substitutions and the Eagles got killed in the middle of the field playing zone.
The result on the first drive was an eight-play, 80-yard march, capped by a 13-yard Manning TD pass when Odell Beckham Jr. beat DeMeco Ryans, an untenable matchup for the inside linebacker.
"It's a long game and we understand that," rookie ILB Jordan Hicks said. "We didn't let (the first drive) phase us."
Ryans got his revenge on the next defensive series, however. After a now trademarked three-and-out to start for Bradford and Co, New York was on its way again until Ryans ripped the football away from Larry Donnell at the Eagles' 22-yard-line. In essence it was a completed pass that Ryans simply wrestled away from the Giants tight end, shifting the momentum back toward Philadelphia.
The Eagles then promptly went on a seven-play, 78-yard drive, helped along by a mind-numbing Damontre Moore roughing-the-passer penalty, to even things, culminated by the 32-yard hookup between Bradford and Cooper.
New York never scored again and really never got close as Philadelphia pulled away despite the sloppy offensive performance.
Ryans was forced to leave the game in the second quarter due to a hamstring injury but not until adding a fumble recovery to his stat line.
"It's hard," Hicks said of all the injuries at the position, which also include Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso. "You don't want to see anybody go down for any reason. I'm hoping they come back quick, but until they come back, you have to be ready when your number is called."
AN EARLY CHRISTMAS CARROLL
Early in the second quarter with the Giants backed up deep in their own territory, Carroll picked off a Manning pass and returned it 17 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Giants receiver Reuben Randle, who has a history of running either the wrong route or far from sharp patterns, was the issue on the play again for Tom Coughlin's club. That said, Carroll has a nose for the football and was in the right place at the right time to make the big play.
The Eagles have consistently raved about Carroll's offseason work and he, not the $63 million-dollar man Byron Maxwell, is the team's bets cornerback at this point.
And, it's still troubling that after all the problems Billy Davis had at the position last season, the defensive coordinator didn't turn to Carroll at some point to 2014.
HUFF-ING AND PUFFING TOWARD A STARTING SPOT?
The Eagles needed more production from their receiving corps and with struggling rookie Nelson Agholor sitting with an ankle issue, that gave a bigger opportunity to veteran Miles Austin, as well as second-year speedster Josh Huff, who was trying to build on a career-best performance against New Orleans.
Playing in 49 percent of the offensive snaps against NOLA, Huff notched a career-high four receptions for 78 yards along with his first touchdown reception as an Eagle, a 41-yard catch and run from Bradford. He also returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to set the tone in that game for Philadelphia.
Another solid performance against the Giants would have gone a long way in taking the starting spot back from Agholor but it wasn't to be as Huff managed just three receptions for 19 yards before injuring his left knee.
In fact, the real star tonight outside the numbers against Big Blue was the much-maligned Cooper, who got behind the defense on two occasions for 75 yards and the score.
THE SAFETY NET COMES THROUGH AGAIN
The back line of the Eagles defense has arguably been the strength of their team with both Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond playing at a near Pro Bowl-level early in the season.
That continued tonight as the Philadelphia defense held Manning down for the most part. The veteran completed 24-of-38 passes for 189 yards for a dismal passer rating of 62.3. Perhaps the most impressive part was the Giants longest pass play of the day went for just 17 yards.
Jenkins has been especially good and versatile, often leaving his familiar safety spot to man the slot in Philadelphia's nickel defense. He has 44 tackles, seven passes defended, one fumble recovery and forced a fumble tonight for his seemingly, weekly splash play. Jenkins has been rated as the second best safety in all of football by ProFootballFocus.com, behind only Minnesota stud Harrison Smith and ahead of perennial Seattle All-Pro Earl Thomas.
Thurmond, meanwhile, was quiet against his former team but just as effective and his ball skills have already produced three interceptions and have him rated fourth in the entire NFL just behind the aforementioned trio.
In a new segment to Quick Hits, here are a few final observations on Monday's game in 140 characters or less with an accentuating sentence or two:
-The sample size keeps growing and it's becoming clearer and clearer Sam Bradford is just another QB.
If anything Bradford was worse than Manning tonight, also connecting on 24-of-38 passes for 280 yards and a 61.3 passer rating. And his lone TD to Cooper was a woefully thrown ball that should have also been picked by the Giants.
It's evident that the Eagles could have gotten this kind of play from Nick Foles for $12 million less. Just to calm the masses, though, Chip Kelly the GM is not letting Chip Kelly the coach make a change at the quarterback position.
-Considering the offseason hype there is no more disappointing player on the Eagles than Jordan Matthews, who is just an average NFL receiver prone to drops.
Matthews is targeted a ton because Philadelphia lacks options and he caught six balls for 59 yards against the Giants but had the weekly egregious drop was there and compounded with a lost fumble.
-There haven't been a lot of splash plays from Brandon Graham this season but he's played solid football for the most part.
Graham broke out a bit against the Giants, being credited with one-half sack and three tackles for loss, while also harassing Manning with two quarterback hurries.
As good as the Philadelphia defense has been at times, it needs a more consistent presence off the edge and Graham has the physical skills to provide that. The other option is Vinny Curry, who tallied 1 1/2 sacks and three hurries now that he's back in his comfort zone on the defensive line.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen