Coming off last week’s debacle against Dallas (a despicable game that I saw with my own eyes), the New York Giants (6-3) prepare for what could be the pivotal fault line of their season. This Sunday (8:20pm EST) they play the Philadelphia Eagles (6-3) and, given the Eagles utter demolition of the Redskins this past Monday, you’d be hard-pressed to find any â€œexpertâ€ picking the Giants in this game.
The main reason for this would be the evolution of Mike Vick. Finally back as a starting quarterback following his dog-fighting related jail sentence, the 30 year old Vick has shown a new-found sense of maturity as much on the field as off of it. Beyond simply possessing otherworldly athleticism, Vick seems to have acquired a new-found capacity to read the game. His dissection of the Washington secondary (on the heels of an equally impressive victory over Indianapolis) is downright scary for the Tom Coughlin and the Giants.
With that in mind, here are five basic ways the Giants can at least try and slow down Mr. Vick that don’t involve over-zealous PETA demonstrators.
- Set the tempo early: Especially against Washington, but in other games, the Eagles have jumped out to an early lead. Even if it’s only a single touchdown, the manner of the score can mean a lot. In other words, keeping Vick and co. from a 50 yard touchdown (a big play) could help boost the confidence of the Giants defense.
- Picking their poison: Obviously, stopping Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin is far easier said than done, but why take any chances? Doubling them may open up space underneath, but forcing the Eagles into a more protracted drive creates greater opportunity to get a turnover. The idea of making Brent Celek and Jason Avant beat you must sound fairly appealing to the Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell.
- Knowing the down and situation: As important as it is to cushion against a big play, it’s equally important to make it tough on the Eagles in short-yardage situations. The Giants would rather make Vick complete a pass on 3rd and 5 than let him run for it. And to that end, their ability to wrap up on tackles can’t slip for even a second.
- Keeping the Eagles offense off the field: The best way to stop Mike Vick and the many dangerous aspects of Philadelphia’s offense is for Eli Manning and the Giants offense to stay on the field. This inevitably asks a lot of the New York offensive line, but the Eagles defense (while talented) is the weaker of the two units.
- Staying at home on play-action: The first play from scrimmage last Monday saw Desean Jackson catch an 88 yard touchdown pass. Vick was allowed the outrageous amount of time to throw because the Redskins pass-rush bit heavily on the fake to running back LeSean McCoy. Having the presence of mind to avoid biting on the run (and sealing Vick’s escape route off to the opposite side) is crucial.
Of course, even if the Giants accomplish all of these things, the Eagles can still win the game. Ultimately, luck plays an undeniable part. Execution by both teams will make the difference. One factor (which no one is talking about) is the fact that the Eagles offensive line is, by itself, not particularly formidable. While Vick’s talent and Andy Reid’s play-calling has managed to hide this fairly well, the right circumstance may bring this fact back to the surface. If the Giants can get an early lead and force the Eagles into more predictable strategy, they could exploit the mismatch they have upfront.
Without question, this game will prove critical when the season is over. It’s an opportunity for the Giants to either demonstrate their determination not to repeat last season’s second half collapse or, once again, falter in the latter part of the year in Tom Coughlin’s roller coaster regime.