What a difference a year makes, huh? Last year, the Giants set a new standard for blowing fourth quarter leads in distinct ways. If it wasn’t clock mismanagement, it was questionable play-calling. Or it was head-scratching throws by Eli Manning, or a defense that couldn’t make a much-needed stop.
Contrast that with the resilient team that beat Philadelphia 28-23 on Sunday, pushing New York’s record to 5-3, good for second place in the resurgent NFC East and two games behind Dallas (7-1). The Eagles were the ones exhibiting all those bad tendencies, while the Giants made more big plays in all three phases of the game.
There were plenty of big plays, insanity and ineptitude in this contest, so let’s hand out some recognition for Hero, Nero, Zero
Hero: Keenan Robinson.
Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. had a nice game, with two electric touchdowns –- taking one slant at the 26-yard line and slicing through the Eagles’ secondary, and notching his second by leaping over a d-back in the end zone. And so did Eli Manning (four touchdown passes and one ghastly interception near the end of the game that called for the defense to bail him out). But Robinson had a game-turning play that was somewhat overlooked in the moment.
With the Giants leading 21-10 and seemingly in control of the game with 5:42 left in the second quarter, New York punted to Darren Sproles, who is the one guy on Philadelphia with the ability to flip the field quickly. Sproles dashed down the middle of the field and cut to the sideline and only had one person to beat –- Robinson.
Robinson got just enough of Sproles that the Eagles’ punt returner stepped out of bounds after a 66-yard kick that put the Eagles on the Giants’ 15-yard line. Four plays later, the Eagles turned it over on downs when Sproles was stopped for no gain on 4th-and-1. Instead of it being 21-17, it was still 21-10. In a game that was ultimately decided by five points, Robinson’s play was huge.
Nero: Janoris Jenkins.
There is a good reason many guys play defense and not offense: They have bad hands and/or bad instincts with the ball. Jenkins is a terrific player, but at times he seems to check out, both physically and mentally. He missed an easy interception against the Eagles in the end zone when the ball went right through his hands. And after Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a Caleb Sturgis field goal in the second quarter, Jenkins picked it up and was running amid a pack of Eagles when he tried to lateral it to a teammate. I try not to yell at the television, but I screamed, “Don’t do that!” and sure enough, the ball was fumbled.
The Giants were fortunate to recover the fumble, but a huge momentum swing was almost thwarted because Jenkins was trying to do too much.
Zero: Touchdown passes by Carson Wentz.
The Eagles’ rookie quarterback passed for 364 yards, but with a pedestrian completion rate (27 of 47) and two interceptions. It was just the second game of his young career that Wentz didn’t throw a touchdown pass. The other was against Washington, but in that game he didn’t toss any picks.
The Eagles’ chance for a comeback ended when Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone as the Giants’ defense got Manning off the hook after a tipped pass INT with under two minutes left.
The 2015 Giants would have found a way to lose a game like this. The story this year has been different.