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Victor Cruz (pictured), Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle combined for 20 catches and 286 yards the last time the Eagles and Giants met. (USA Today Images)
It has not been a good season for the Giants. A lot has gone wrong. But when so much is broken, it’s easier to identify what still works.
The Giants have suffered countless injuries, particularly with their ground game. Andre Brown and David Wilson, two running backs they hoped would carry a large portion of the workload, both suffered significant injuries. As a result, New York –- which has employed such unspectacular running backs as Da’Rel Scott, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis, among others this year -- is just 28th in rushing.
It’s not surprising, then, that New York has relied on the passing game. Only five other teams have thrown the ball more than the Giants.
The first time the Eagles and Giants played each other this season, Eli Manning attempted 52 passes, completing 24 for 334 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three crucial interceptions late in the game to help the Eagles get the win.
It’s what the Giants do. Throw, throw, throw some more.
“That’s what we expect,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “I don’t think their game plan is going to change much. I watched them [Monday night against the Vikings] and they were pretty much doing similar stuff in the wide receiver position. I don’t think the game plan is going to change for us. Disrupt Eli. When you do that, he tends to get rattled and throw the ball everywhere he doesn’t want to. As long as we get pressure, we’ll be alright.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, the Giants took several shots down the field. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams helped break up some of those plays, but New York still connected on three long passes. Hakeem Nicks hauled in a 49-yard reception. Rueben Randle grabbed a 26-yard pass. And tight end Brandon Myers added a 24-yard catch.
“They took some shots against us when we played them,” Chip Kelly said. “I think that’s what they do. When we were breaking down the Cowboys [against the Giants], the longest play against the Cowboys was a [Victor] Cruz pass for a touchdown in [Week 1]. That’s the one thing we’ve tried to pride ourselves on; we’re not getting the ball thrown over our head. This team, more than any team we’ve played, and we expect it again on Sunday, is going to challenge us from that standpoint. They’re going to try to take some shots over the top. We’ve got to be in position to make plays. I know Bradley got tested [in the first Giants game] and did a really nice job, but they still completed a couple of deep ones that you’ve got to be ready for. It’s one of the things about Eli. He’s such an accurate deep-ball passer. It’s something, I think he enjoys it and I expect him to take a couple more shots on Sunday.”
This year, the Giants have registered 27 plays that have gone for 20 or more yards (fifth-most). Five of those plays have gone for 40 or more yards (tied for eighth). It is one area where the Giants are still dangerous –- and where the Eagles have struggled at times.
The Birds have allowed 25 receptions to go for 20 or more yards (fifth-worst). Three of those catches have gone for 40 or more yards.
“We know that Eli likes to go up top,” Williams said. “He has great accuracy on the fade balls. We understand that he wants to go down the field, and he’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks going down the field. We understand that. And we just have to continue to build on what we already built when we went out there in the first game.”