by Jon Wagner
For much of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, the New York Giants couldn’t get their defense off the field.
But, four touchdown passes by quarterback Eli Manning (including the first two career scores by wide receiver Victor Cruz) and a pair of key interceptions by cornerback Aaron Ross (one week after being benched during the second half of a New York win over St. Louis) helped the Giants to a quick start and rallied them to an even better finish during a 29-16 victory.
Injury-depleted and on the road against a team that seemingly had their number (the Eagles had won the past six meetings between the teams), the Giants were supposed to be fearful of Philadelphia’s big-play potential.
However, early on, it was New York surprising with some huge plays of its own.
After a Giants three-and-out, Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick (16-23, 176 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack) was intercepted on Philadelphia’s first possession after driving the Eagles from their own territory into the Giants’ red zone. But, a short pass deflected off of the hands of ex-Giant wide receiver Steve Smith (2 catches, 27 yards) and into the arms of Ross (5 tackles, 2 INT).
Five plays later, Manning faked a handoff to running back Brandon Jacobs (7 carries, 19 yards; 2 catches, 42 yards, 1 TD) before connecting with him on a 40-yard touchdown pass up the left side to give New York a 7-0 lead with 6:04 left in the opening quarter.
The Giants then forced an Eagle punt before striking again in just three plays when Manning threw short to Cruz (3 catches, game-high/career-high 110 yards, 2 TD) who shook off a couple of tackles 11 yards apart before streaking up the left side for a 74-yard score that put New York ahead, 14-0 with 49 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Things seemed to be fairly well in hand for the Giants at that point, but Philadelphia scored the next 16 points over the next two quarters, scoring on four of five possessions while New York turned the ball over on downs (at the Eagles’ 29-yard line) and punted three straight times.
Three of those Eagles’ scoring drives were over 70 yards and two of them consumed over eight minutes each, as the Philadelphia controlled the ball primarily behind a strong running attack led by running back LeSean McCoy (24 carries, game-high 128 yards, 1 TD).
McCoy ran five times for 33 yards during a 15-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard field goal by kicker Alex Henery, which cut New York’s lead to 14-3, with 7:47 left in the first half.
The intensity featured in a game played with a lot of post-whistle pushing and shoving between a couple of old division rivals helped the Eagles score their first touchdown on their next possession, when an unnecessary roughness penalty against Giants safety Antrel Rolle (7 tackles) tacked 11 yards on to an 11-yard run by McCoy to New York 22-yard line.
McCoy then ran 11 yards to the left for a touchdown that capped a seven-play, 71-yard drive, to bring the Eagles to within 14-10, with 1:54 left in the half.
The Giants then went-three-and-out, and a short 27-yard punt by punter Steve Weatherford set the Philadelphia up with a short field.
A 38-yard Henery kick five plays later, got the Eagles to within 14-13 as the first half ended.
The teams traded punts to start the second half before the Eagles went on a 14-play, 88-yard drive to take their only lead of the game, on Henery’s second 21-yard field goal, with 59 seconds left in the third quarter, after a Giants’ goal-line stand.
New York safety Kenny Phillips (6 tackles, 1 INT) stripped Vick deep in Philadelphia territory on the third play of the series, but offensive lineman Jason Peters caught the ball in mid-air for a first down to keep the drive going.
Three plays later, Vick completed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (5 catches, team-high 69 yards), but Vick, who took several tough shots from the Giants’ defense, was knocked backwards, and landed on his right (non-throwing) hand, breaking it.
After the Giants stopped the Eagles on three straight rushing plays and Philadelphia settled for Henery’s field goal, Vick headed to the locker room for x-rays on his hand. He returned for the Eagles’ next series early in the fourth quarter, but that would be his final appearance in the game.
The teams against traded punts before New York took the lead for good after the Giants stopped the Eagles on fourth down to take over at their own 46-yard line with 11:38 left, still very much in the game despite having the ball at that point for just 13:21 to Philadelphia’s 35:01.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (15 carries, team-high 86 yards) rushed for consecutive carries of five and eight yards to the move the ball to the Philadelphia 32-yard line.
Four plays later, Cruz capped a 54-yard, seven-play drive with a nice, leaping 28-yard touchdown grab from Manning. Cruz caught the ball at the goal line against double coverage, between Eagles’ star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Jarrad Page to give the Giants a 20-16 lead with 8:07 left in the game.
Page was then flagged for pass interference on a two-point conversion pass attempt to wide receiver Brandon Stokely (1 catch, 7 yards). That allowed Jacobs to run for a two-point conversion on the next play, to extend New York’s lead to 22-16.
With Vick out, backup quarterback Mike Kafka (4-7, 35 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack) was intercepted on the next play by Ross, along the right side, at the Giants’ 44-yard line.
New York drove to the Philadelphia 22-yard line and set up for a field goal attempt, but an encroachment penalty with 3:48 to go gave the Giants a first down and the chance to run their first play of the game in the Eagles’ red zone.
Three plays later, Bradshaw closed the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown reception from Manning, helping the Giants’ quarterback tie his career high for touchdown passes in a game.
Phillips intercepted Kafka on the Eagles’ final possession to seal the win and send the Giants to Arizona (1-2) next Sunday (at 4:05 pm ET) on a two-game winning streak, while handing Philadelphia (1-2) its second straight loss.
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Notes: In addition to snapping their losing streak to the Eagles, the Giants also stopped a four-game streak (dating back to last season) of allowing a quarterback to reach 300 passing yards… The Giants played without starting defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) and starting wide receiver Mario Manninghan (concussion)… sixth-round rookie draft pick, linebacker Jacquian Williams led New York with a career-high ten tackles.