by Jon Wagner / SNYGiants contributor
After a 0-6 start to their season, the New York Giants still have some areas of their game to figure out.
But it appears that their defense — at least for the time being — is no longer one of them, especially after the Giants’ first win without a New York touchdown in 11 years.
Shutting out an opposing offense for a second straight game, the Giants’ defense (which hasn’t allowed a point over New York’s past nine quarters, nor a touchdown during the team’s last 10 periods) held their NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) to just 200 total yards of offense in a 15-7 road victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The win was more dominating that the final score indicated, as the Giants (2-6), who should have held a significantly larger lead then they did, were up 15-0 in the fourth quarter on the strength of a career-high five field goals by kicker Josh Brown, before a bad snap over the head of punter Steve Weatherford resulted in the Eagles’ only points of the day in the final minutes.
It also extended Philadelphia’s home losing streak 10 games while snapping New York’s eight-game road skid dating back to last season.
More importantly, the last-place Giants have gone from being winless during the season’s first six weeks to finding themselves at the season’s midpoint just two games behind the division-leading Dallas Cowboys (4-4), who blew a late 10-point lead and lost in Detroit, moments after New York wrapped up its win in Philadelphia.
Quarterback Eli Manning (25-for-39, 246 yards), who threw 15 interceptions during the Giants’ earlier six-game slide, became the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards while avoiding a turnover for a second game in a row, and in his second contest with New York, running back Peyton Hillis rushed for 70 yards on 20 carries to help the Giants control the ball for over 17 minutes more than the Eagles.
While wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11 targets, eight catches for 63 yards) continued to haunt New York, running back LeSean McCoy (48 yards on 15 carries and 17 yards on four receptions) and quarterback Michael Vick (6-for-9, 31 yards, one interception) were non-factors.
Vick left late in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, just as he did in Philadelphia’s 36-21 victory on New York’s home field three weeks earlier. Back then, quarterback Nick Foles spelled Vick with a couple of second-half touchdown passes as Manning threw a costly trio of fourth-quarter picks.
However, with Manning protecting the ball this time, and Foles unavailable, third-string quarterback Matt Barkley (17-for-26, 158 yards, one interception) couldn’t do similar damage.
Although the Giants never found the end zone, they did score on four straight trips beginning with their second possession.
Brown’s first field goal, from 40 yards, came after safety Antrel Rolle intercepted Vick and New York moved 57 yards on nine plays, as Manning connected with wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (seven catches, 51 yards) for 22 yards and Victor Cruz (seven catches, 86 yards) for another 18 yards.
An Eagles three-and-out followed, which led to Manning finding tight end Brandon Myers (three catches, 42 yards) for 27 yards on the first play of New York’s next drive. Six plays later, Brown hit from 44 yards to put the Giants up 6-0 in the opening quarter.
Taking over late in the period, New York marched 53 yards to the Philadelphia 10-yard line, but settled for a 33-yard field goal by Brown that pushed its lead to 9-0 early in the second quarter.
Manning then completed four straight short passes, with a one-yard Hillis run mixed in before Cruz drew a 19-yard pass interference penalty to set Brown up for a 46-yard kick that pushed the Giants’ lead to 12-0 late in the first half.
By that point, New York had run 36 of the game’s first 53 plays, had 10 of the initial 12 first downs, and had 227 of the first 250 total yards from scrimmage.
That’s when Barkley came in and completed his six of his first seven passes, and with the help of a roughing the passer call and an eight-yard pass interference penalty against the Giants, the Eagles drove 78 yards to the New York 2-yard line.
Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who led the Giants with 11 tackles, recorded one of the Giants’ four sacks in the game, though, and linebacker Jacquian Williams dove over Barkley and did a nice job to recover the loose ball just before it went out of bounds.
Starting the second half primarily with the run, Philadelphia drove 48 yards to the New York 27-yard line, but defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka dropped Barkley for a five-yard sack.
Rather than try a 49-yard field goal, the Eagles tried to move the chains on fourth down, but Barkley fumbled, recovered and threw incomplete.
Philadelphia began its next two possessions on its own 5-yard line and 3-yard line, respectively, thanks to punts of 56 yards and a career-long 68 yards by Weatherford.
Using up nearly six minutes to go 32 yards on nine plays, the Giants moved to the Eagles 9-yard line before Brown’s final field goal, from 27 yards, gave them a 15-0 edge with 12:23 remaining.
Unable to get past the New York 46-yard line on its final two possessions, Philadelphia caught a break when a bad snap on fouth-and-14, from the Giants’ 37-yard line, sailed over Weatherford’s head, near the New York goal line, where Najee Goode ultimately scooped up the ball at the 2-yard line for an easy touchdown to trim the Eagles’ deficit to 15-7 with 4:11 left.
Goode’s score was already the seventh return (whether by an opposing defense or on special teams) allowed by the Giants this season, but new York survived anyway, as with only one time out remaining, Philadelphia was forced to try an onside kick that was recovered by Rolle.
Later, Barkley only had two plays left in the final seconds, and after throwing incomplete, he was intercepted deep up the right side by safety Will Hill, which secured the Giants’ unlikely scenario of entertaining realistic thoughts of getting back into the NFC East race for a team that only seven days prior, was simply hoping it could win its first game of the season.
Next week, Dallas will likely be a considerable favorite against lowly Minnesota as New York enjoys its bye week, but the Cowboys face a very tough road game in New Orleans the following week, hours after the Giants host the Oakland Raiders, who are winless (0-3) on the road.