Rock covers the New York Giants. Previously covered college sports and outdoors.
Chase Blackburn watched the video of Sunday night's loss to the Eagles and there were times in the second half when it didn't look like the Giants' defense was playing football. It seemed to him like they were playing another sport. Something like . . .
"If you ever watched Little League soccer, where the ball goes, everyone runs [to it]," Blackburn said. "That's kind of the way it was at times, where everyone was chasing the ball."
The game was ultimately decided by several fateful decisions and plays in the final 30 seconds, and those moments have been dissected and examined by many. But that's where the Giants could have won the game. Where they lost the game was earlier in the fourth quarter, when they allowed the Eagles to bring the ball down the field, gobble up nearly five minutes of game time, force the Giants to burn two timeouts, and take a two-point lead on a field goal.
Eli Manning had already given the Giants a lead from behind in the fourth quarter, which should have been the 22nd such comeback of his career. Asking him to do it twice in the same game was where the Giants went wrong.
On the Eagles' final drive, they ran 12 plays and the clock automatically stopped on only two of them (a pass to Jeremy Maclin in which he was pushed out of bounds and a 13-yard scramble by Michael Vick in which he went out of bounds). The three other clock stoppages came from the Giants' timeouts and the two-minute warning. The Eagles did not face a third down on the drive until the end.
The drive started at the Eagles' 17 and the first play was the longest, a 19-yard pass to DeSean Jackson. Then the Eagles started methodically running the ball.
LeSean McCoy had 32 yards on five carries in the drive (he had 121 of his 123 yards in the second half). Vick scrambled for another 13. He completed two other passes.
Vick even took a sack, running to his left and sliding for a 6-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 2, in order to force the Giants to use their final timeout before Alex Henery's 26-yard field goal gave them the 19-17 lead and eventual win.
So why were the Eagles able to run the ball so well in the second half, and in particular on that final drive? Because of that kids soccer game mentality on defense.
"In the second half, we had guys out of our gaps really," Blackburn said. "Guys wanted to, they were trying to pursue to the ball, they were trying to get in and get hits on guys, and I think the biggest thing was we overpursued. Most of the runs were cutback runs or back side of the slot and things like that and we had some breakdowns and that's what happens."
Blackburn said the problem was not so obvious when the game was being played. One guy would be out of position on one play, then another. But when watching the game on video the following day, it became clear.
It's a familiar problem for the Giants, which makes it both easier and more difficult to comprehend it happening against the Eagles. It seemed to have been fixed, especially in the first half when McCoy was held to two yards on six carries and the Eagles had a net rushing performance of zero from everyone not named Michael Vick. That the gap integrity and discipline slipped away from the Giants when it was most needed was troubling.
Blackburn called the inconsistency "heartbreaking." Many have used that same term to describe the loss itself. Really, they're the same thing.