What must Eagles do to defeat Giants?
The Giants are giving up an NFL-most 36.5 points per game during their 0-4 start. (AP)
There was a time when the Giants had an imposing defense. Not anymore. Not this season.
The Giants are a mess. They’re 0-4, which is their worst start since 1987. That has quite a bit to do with their defense. New York has allowed 261.8 passing yards per game (19th in the NFL) and 122.5 rushing yards per game (28th). Not surprisingly, the Giants have been outscored by 85 points in four games this season.
“You have to make the plays that are necessary in order to win,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said during his conference call with the Philadelphia media on Wednesday. “We haven’t done that.”
That ought to be encouraging for an Eagles offense that has slowed considerably over the last two weeks. The Birds started the season by scoring 33 points against Washington and 30 against San Diego. The scoreboard operators haven’t been nearly as busy since then. The Eagles have mustered a combined 36 points over the last two games against the Chiefs and Broncos.
If the Eagles hope to jumpstart their semi-stalled offense, playing the Giants might provide a spark. New York is giving up 36.5 points per game. That’s the most in the NFL -- a mark even worse than the 34.5 points per game the Eagles have allowed.
As coaches are wont to do -- lest they provide handy motivational material to tack to a bulletin board at Giants’ HQ -- Chip Kelly insisted that the Giants remain “an attacking-style defense.” He said they pressure offenses “about 40 percent of the time,” “bring it from different angles,” and “do a good job mixing their man [coverage] and their zone.” The Eagles, Kelly said, need to “be pretty heads up” about their protection schemes.
That was all pretty standard, obvious stuff -- particularly the point about being mindful of their protection. The Eagles could say that in any week against any opponent since they’ve given up 14 sacks this season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Protect the quarterback. That’s a good idea.
“I think the strength of their defense is the front,” Kelly said, “with [Justin] Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins and those guys inside.”
If that’s the case -- that the front is the Giants’ strength -- then the defensive line has underperformed so far on the pass-rush front. New York has four sacks, tied for fewest in the NFL.
“I think that’s the thing that everyone wants to know about, and in fact it’s an area of concern for us always when we’re not getting to the quarterback,” Coughlin said. “The facts are, the ball’s coming out real quick and so on and so forth. Many times we have had a good rush but the ball is gone. We’ve tipped some balls, knocked some balls down, but we’ll keep coming.”
The Giants have other problems on defense as well. They’ve allowed opponents to convert 50 percent of their third-down opportunities (last in the NFL). And while they’ve managed three interceptions to go with those four sacks, their turnover differential is minus-9. Only the Jets and Steelers have been worse.
Part of their inefficiency is owed to lineup inconsistency. The Giants lost starting linebacker Dan Connor earlier in the season when he was placed on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury. And the patchwork secondary has been stitched together with various replacements nearly every week.
“They’re getting Will Hill back, who was suspended,” Kelly said about the Giants’ safety who was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. “How does he add? They actually only had two safeties active for the last game [against Kansas City]. That will tell you a little bit about the depth issues they have in the secondary.”