We won't dwell here on the win over the Giants beyond this article, as now we've got to prepare for Tampa Bay… I will just throw out some examples from the Giants game where I thought we are making some progress defensively.
I will note in my Iggles Diary that Brandon Boykin's fourth-quarter interception was a game-changing play. To me that is a significant development— it means young defensive talent is stepping up with the game on the line. Some guys are actually getting better as the season progresses.
That was a big-time play by Boykin. It was just as much about proper position as it was about athletic instincts for the play as well as awareness of the game situation.
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com beat me to the bunch on this particular angle when he talked about how the Eagles defense came up with momentum-changing plays against the Giants when it counted most:
"While it's hard to praise a unit that allowed close to 400 yards, the Eagles defense stepped up when it mattered most in the 36-21 victory. It got the job done by forcing three fourth-quarter turnovers when the game looked to be slipping away."
"With the Eagles clinging to a 22-21 lead entering the fourth quarter and their starting quarterback on the bench, things did not look very good. The Giants had the momentum and seemed to be on the verge of completing a comeback. "
"Then the defense made a series of plays on three-straight series to put the Giants away."
Well said and excellent timing on those observations by Shorr-Parks. They sum up the possibility that maybe the best we can hope for from this 2013 edition of the Eagles defense is to just have them show up with the big play at the right time. I would settle for that in this transitional season.
The game-changing big plays started with Mychael Kendricks, who took a tipped pass out of the air and returned it to the 25-yard line. It was an easy play, but given the history of Eagles linebackers creating turnovers, he should be given credit for making it and catching the ball. That interception gave the Eagles the ball, and on the next play, Nick Foles gave them the lead with a beautiful pass to Brent Celek in the back of the end zone.
The touchdown gave the Eagles the momentum back, but it was still a one possession game at that point. After taking two deep shots— something the Giants did frequently against the Eagles on Sunday— Eli Manning tried to connect with Victor Cruz over the middle. At first it looked like a completion, but replays showed that Brandon Boykin ripped the ball away from Cruz at the last second for the interception. It was an amazing and game-changing play by the second-year player.
An interception by Cary Williams on the next Giants' drive was the cherry on top, completing the implosion by Eli Manning and the game-saving fourth quarter performance by the defense.
Shorr-Parks: "The Eagles defense has seen its name dragged through the mud this season, and for the most part, rightfully so. They had their flaws on Sunday, but to come up with interceptions on three straight possessions in what was basically a one-point game cannot be ignored, and shouldn't be."
There is no denying that the unit has room for improvement, however. The Giants dropped a number of balls that could have been big gains. This we are already aware of— there's often a lot of empty space out there in the secondary between our coverage guys and their receivers.
The Eagles' defense's next test will come in Tampa Bay, against a quarterback far less accomplished than the one they shut the door on at Metlife Stadium. It is a chance for them to build on the momentum they started to build in New York with their fourth-quarter performance. Turn in a good performance, and the Eagles will move to 3-3.
Just don't count on a whole lot of perfect coverage or "style points"…
The Eagles finished with one sack. That came from Bennie Logan late in the contest. For the most part though, they didn't get enough pressure on Eli Manning. The Eagles finished with three quarterback hurries (Logan, Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox), all of which came late in the game. The Eagles' supposed top pass rushers — Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin — provided little pressure. This is a major problem, and will be one all season if something doesn't change immediately.
Give Bill Davis and the Eagles credit for taking top playmaker Victor Cruz out of the game with sound schemes that limited the Salsa King to five catches for 48 yards, with a long of 14. But blame Cruz's Giants teammates with as many or more misplays that failed to capitalize on others left open as a result.
"They had a couple new looks, but nothing we weren't ready for and didn't have an answer for," Manning said. "We knew they were going to do some doubles, like double Cruz or double some outside receivers, and they did some of that. We had some answers to try and get guys through the double team and we just didn't hit many of them."
"You can have a great scheme and the perfect play, but it's about execution. You've got to execute. The line's got to block, I've got to make the good throw, the receiver has to make the catch in order to have success."
Most of the Giants' errors were unforced.
Nick Fierro: "That doesn't mean the Eagles shouldn't feel good about what happened and attempt to build on it. After all, they're tied with the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the NFC East, and they did play much better in the fourth quarter than they did in the first three — two great signs."
"It motivates us," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "We go into another opponent away next week, so we know when we get pressure, when we get turnovers, it helps our offense and it helps us score. In order to win games, you've got to get turnovers, you've got to get good field position, and I feel like we're on the track like we want it to, to get back and get those turnovers."
Boykin and his teammates in the secondary kept their composure after being hit with another initial punch that put their opponents ahead first. "We held our own," Boykin said. "The end result was a win. You can go back and correct all the other things. They were going deep on us a lot early on. People had to step up and make plays, and I think that's exactly what we did. They came at us early and had success, but we kept our cool and did what we had to do."
That much is true, even if what they were required to do to beat the Giants was to simply not panic.—And, as I recall, that is exactly what our own Palmy (Palm Feathers from Southern Florida) had been telling us during the entire game in his live commentary…