Good evening, Giants enthusiasts! Welcome to Week 11 in the NFL.
This is Laura Albanese and, for the next three or so hours, I'll be the Virgil in your descent into this football Inferno. Tonight, we've got your hometown Giants (6-3, 3-1 on the road) up against the Eagles (6-3, 2-2 at home ) and the man, the myth, the dude who's got broadcasters squeeing in undignified delight for the redemption angle alone: Michael Vick.
Let's get right into it, shall we? This is, indeed, the game of the week and, with the top spot in the NFC East on the line and the Giants still licking their wounds after the loss of which we do not speak (No. Wait. We DO speak of it. In detail) this one has the ability to be a both a building moment or a backbreaker for Big Blue.
Vick, Vick, Vick. That seems to be all anyone has been speaking of coming into this one and really, can you blame them? The allegedly reformed and once thoroughly reviled dog-fighter went to the clink and came back with patience, poise and precision. Vick went from a 73.1 and 75.7 passer rating in 2005 and 2006, career years with the Falcons, to a 115.1 right now with the Eagles - vaguely incomprehensible when you also take into account his speed and his ability to hurt you on the ground. The third-string pariah of yesteryear (literally) is long gone and, if there was absolutely any question at all, last week's straight-up massacre answered it. By now, you've seen the numbers: Vick was 20-for-28 with 333 yards and four TDs and had eight carries for 80 yards with another two in the 58-29 rout of the Redskins.
Quothe Justin Tuck: "We haven't had that type of monster to deal with this year."
What's made Vick so good, though, is nothing more than straight unflappability. He had zero (zip, zilch, no) picks and, though he missed three games with a rib injury, it's a vast improvement. Before this year, Vick averaged roughly 16 interceptions in years where he completed more than 100 passes (the Giants, who have 13 picks this year, will try to beat the streak.) But, while Vick is certainly unflappable, he's definitely not unsackable. But while he's certainly unflappable, he definitely not unsackable. If the Giants are going to contain Vick, it's imperative the defense keep him in front of them - he can scramble like no one else - and let Osi Umenyiora (eight sacks on the year) and Justin Tuck (four) see if they can do their thing.
Say what you will about the Giants. They are, in no way, underestimating Vick. If anything, they're busting out the thesaurus to find new and more flattering adjectives.
Regarding Manning: Nineteen TDs. Excellent. Thirteen interceptions. Less so. He's got a shiny new target, though.
De-Fense. Question on the hearts and minds of all Giants fans is this - which one are you going to get? The defense that's only allowing 270.2 yards per game (tops in the NFL) or the one that made Jon Kitna look like a demi-god last week? (Ok. Hyperbole. But he looked better than Jon Kitna has any right to look). Both teams are around the 400-yard mark in terms of offense (NY is averaging 9.6 more yards per game), so one key to the game is how the Giants will bounce back after the Cowboys managed to cull together 423 yards against them last week. Michael Vick is, admittedly, not the bounciest guy to do it against. Oh, and btw, CB Corey Webster is questionable after a toe injury. If he can't play, Aaron Ross will get the call.
At least one (only one?) Giant is looking forward to the challenge. (Ok, maybe more than one.)
"Objects that move fast that come to a sudden stop, that could be effective," Keith Bulluck said. "They have a lot of team speed in the running back position and the quarterback position. I think that in order to negate that speed once we get to the ball, be there with a bad attitude and lay the wood."
I, for one, just get a kick out of the fact that he used "negate" in the same sentence as "bad attitude and lay the wood." Also, Perry Fewell is feeling the whole thing, too.
That Battered O-line and Other Offensive Woes. The Giants are hobbled. End of story. Shawn Andrews, who's done a perfectly good job filling in for David Diehl at left tackle, has said repeatedly that he'd like nothing better than to put the hurt on his old team, but missed an entire week of practice with a bad back. He's getting the start, but time will tell if he's still hobbled - something the Giants really can't afford. Indeed, with Diehl and Shaun O'Hara out, the Giants are running out of warm (capable) bodies. Add that to the big loss of Steve Smith (pectoral) and the Giants have both a dull blade and a weak shield to contend with. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs will have their hands full, but if anyone can pull this out, this tandem (1215 yards total) can. (That is, if LeSean McCoy and Co. doesn't get there first - Philly is the top rushing team in the conference.)
History Lesson: The Eagles have beaten the Giants in four straight (never with Vick at the helm) and put up 85 points and 765 yards in the two games last year.
This has all the makings of a season-defining game. Big players, big storylines and the top spot in the conference. Keep it right here for the highs, the lows and everything in between.
FINAL: 27-17, Eagles
Final Stats ...
-- Eagles --
Vick: 24-for-38, 258 yds.; 11 car, 34 yds., 1 TD
McCoy: 14 car, 111 yds, 1 TD
Maclin: 9 rec, 120 yds.
Akers: 4/4 FG (LG: 38)
Samuels: 2 tac; 2 int
-- Giants --
Manning: 20-for-33, 147, 2 TDs; 2 car, 22 yds; *3 INT, 16 on year (20 is his career high)
Tuck: 6-1 T-A, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Hicks: 6 rec, 65 yds.
FOURTH QUARTER: 27-17, EAGLES
Sixth Eagles score (0:25): 6 plays, 48 yards, 2:28. Akers 30 yd field goal.
Key plays: On fourth-and-6 on the NY 44, Manning takes it himself up the right side. He gets the first down easily, but fumbles the ball on the dive and Philly regains possession on the Giants fourth turnover of the game to set up the last scoring drive and waste an excellent defensive effort.
Fifth Eagles score (4:34 left): 7 plays, 90 yards, 3:27. McCoy 50 yd. run. Avant pass from Vick for two-point conversion. Vick juggles the snap and very nearly gets it slapped away by Umenyiora. After the handoff, McCoy holds on, breaks free and takes off around the left end with nothing but air in front of him. Vick drops back, shuffles left, and hits Avant for the extra points.
Key plays: Vick's incomplete pass on third-and-5 makes it seem like the Giants will get out of the series with the lead, but Pierre-Paul basically flinches on the line of scrimmage for the offsides call, keeping it at third down and one.
Under review (8:31 left): Bradshaw takes the handoff on first-and-10 at the 47 but possibly fumbles it and Philly regains possession. Play is under review as to whether Bradshaw's wrist was down (making it a dead ball). Officials rule for the Giants. Second-and-17 (seven yard loss on the reception) at the 47.
Third Giants score (13:41 left): 2 plays, 27 yards, 0:40. Hagan 5 yd. pass from Manning. On first-and-goal at the PHI 5, Manning with the play fake to Bradshaw and the pass over the middle of the end zone for Derek Hagan's first TD catch as a Giant. He was waived at the beginning of the season and got the call for today's game with Smith injured.
Key plays: On third-and-11 on the PHI 32, Vick gets sacked by Tuck, who shimmies past three defenders to get to his target. The ball is jarred loose and the Giants get possession at the Eagles 27. On the next play, Manning, ranging far to his right, hits Jacob, far to his left, for the 22-yard gain.
THIRD QUARTER: 16-10, EAGLES
Second Giants score (0:33 left): 9 plays, 68 yards, 6:11. Beckum 2 yd. pass from Manning. Eli drops back and slings a short pass left to Beckum at TE for the score, but Tynes misses the PAT.
Key plays: On third-and-14 on the PHI 33, Manning slings a pass deep and into double coverage to Manningham in the end zone. He gets hit by safety Quintin Mikell and Philly gets flagged for defensive pass interference for the 15-yard penalty to set up the score.
Fourth Eagles score (6:42 left): 14 plays, 82 yards, 8:18. Akers 28 yd. field goal.
Key plays: While the Giants defense has to be applauded for keeping Philly out of the end zone, the Eagles are killing them by inches. Vick's scramble up the middle on fourth-and-one NY 19 was good for a new set of downs. This, after Vick was stopped by Jason Pierre-Paul and Tuck in the previous attempt. Vick gets into trouble on the next play and lost a yard on the last-ditch toss to Mancin, who proptly got drilled by Webster. Nothing doing on the next two plays to set up the field goal. Nice stops by Webster and Boothe to contain the Eagles.
Other stuff of note: Ellis Hobbs gets dropped, going head-first into Dave Tollefson on the kickoff return to start the half. He stays down for 10 minutes and has to be carted off the field, but he's moving; looks to be a neck injury, according to reports. Philly recovers the fumble and takes over on their own 8.
-- Eagles --
Vick: 10-for-19, 130 yds; 6 car, 24 yds; 1 TD
Maclin: 5 rec, 72 yds
Akers: 2 FGs, 38yds and 24 yds
Samuel: 1 INT
-- Giants --
Manning: 8-for-14, 63 yds
Bradshaw: 9 car, 22 yds, 1 fum
Nicks: 3 rec, 41 yds
Thomas: 4-1 T-A; 1 fumble rec
SECOND QUARTER, 10-3 EAGLES
Akers 42 yd. field goal attempt blocked by Terrell Thomas to end the half. Vick connected with Jeremy Maclin in the end zone but Thomas came up big then, too, stripping the ball while he was juggling for possession for the incomplete pass, putting it at third-and-25 at the NY 30 for the Eagles.
Third Eagles score (3:16 left): 4 plays, 7 yards, 1:33. Akers 24 yd. field goal.
Key plays: INT alert. Eli throws his 14th pick of the season on a pass intended for Nicks. Instead, it nestles comfortable into Samuel's waiting hands and he brings it to the NY 13 for a 10 yard return. It could have been a lot worse for the Giants. On third-and-3 on the NY 6, Vick slings the short pass over to wide open TE Jason Avant deep in the end zone and he flat drops it. Bad snap on the field goal attempt, but Akers sneaks it inside the right upright for the score.
Second Eagles score (5:41 left): 4 plays, 3 yards, 1:18. Akers 38 yd. field goal.
Key plays: Bradshaw fumbles going up the middle from the NY 24 thanks to a Brandon Graham hit. It's his league-leading sixth fumble of the year. Asante Samuel with the recovery at the 23. Vick tries to hit Jackson on the deep crossing route on third-and-7 from the 21, but he drops it in the end zone to set up the field goal.
First Giants score (9:10 left): 14 plays, 74 yards, 8:06. Tynes 24 yd. field goal.
Key plays: On third-and-goal at the Philly 6, Manning slings an attempted TD pass over the middle to Kevin Boss, but he gets his route cut out from under him thanks to heavy coverage by safety Nate Allen. Giants settle for the field goal. Big play comes early in the drive: Bradshaw's 17-yard run at third-and-1 at the Philly 46 through a huge hole opened up off RG Chris Snee.
FIRST QUARTER, 7-0 EAGLES
First Eagles score (2:16 left): 13 plays, 68 yards, 7:09. Vick 4 yd. run: Vick bounces outside, turns the corner around right end and sneaks into the end zone for the score whilst Antrel Rolle is otherwise engaged blocking someone else.
Key plays: Vick set up the drive with a 23-yard pass over the middle off a nice McCoy block to convert a dicey second-and-18 situation on the Philly 24. As third-and-9 at the Giants 28, he hit DeSean Jackson on the left for a 13-yard completion.
Other stuff of note: Vick is reading the blitz well and, so far, the Giants are struggling to defend agaisnt the pass...he's 6-for-9 for 59 yards in the first....Three-and-out on the first three possessions of the game (Giants received to kick it off). Manning's 30-something pass attempt to Hakeem Nicks on third-and-10 goes for naught. Nicks outruns double coverage only to catch the ball out of bounds for no good reason. In the Giants' next possession, Eli hits Manningham in the slot, but he drops it a few yards short of what would have been a first down. Manning thought bubble: "I miss you, Steve."....The Eagles were gifted with a short field in their first series of the game thanks to an unspeakably bad punt by Matt Dodge (25 yards to the Giants 45) but had nothing to show for their efforts.