Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards

The big story emerging after the Giants played and beat the Eagles on Sunday, big enough to dwarf anything, was the way they won the game.

It was the result of a comeback from a 24-7 deficit, their longest climb back up the mountain since 2001, when they were losing to Dallas at halftime by the same score and came back with a 27-24 overtime victory. Sunday it was 24-7 in the fourth quarter when they scored 17 points to tie the Eagles at the end of regulation time and won it with 3:11 to play in the overtime period when quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Plaxico Burress with a 31-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Sheldon Brown.

"I don't think I can remember a game like that," said head coach Tom Coughlin, "and that kind of thing is so memorable I don't think I could forget it. So I'm going to say it was the first time for me."

Several factors entered the picture, all of which combined to take the Giants to their highly unlikely victory. One was Coughlin's decision to institute a no-huddle offense for most of the fourth quarter and the overtime. "It kept the Eagles' defense simplified," said Manning.

Another was the sudden resurgence of the running game. The Giants had been limited to 37 yards on the ground for the first four quarters, and then had 49 net yards in the overtime period. Coincidence?

"No, we were running the ball better," said Manning, "and that goes back to the no-huddle. We were getting up to the line of scrimmage with four simple running plays, two (designed) to go left, two right. Then we'd see how they set up the defense and we'd pick one."

It might have been the day that Manning came of age. It might have been the white-hot cauldron into which all the great quarterbacks must plunge, and then decide whether they have emerged as tempered steel or molten ore.

Eli passed the test. The veterans on the offense, notably running back Tiki Barber and wide receiver Amani Toomer, had a strong conviction that he will be better form now on.

"A new man," is how Barber put it. "He showed that he could stand the pressure and react to it with poise and awareness. I am very proud of him."

Toomer, who caught a career high 12 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, knew he was going to be the frequent target. "I told him to just bring it on, that I'd find a way to get clear," he said. "We had to beat their blitzes and you do that with short passes. Eli was masterful."

Toomer, who needed four bags of IV solution after the game, said he watched wide receiver Plaxico Burress catch the game-ending 31 yard scoring pass and then just slumped to the ground. "I wanted someone to come get me," he smiled wanly. "I don't think I could have made it through one more play."

It was a comeback worth seeing, well worth the price of admission, and now it remains to be seen whether the Giants have turned around their season and, like their young quarterback, are prepared to face greater perils with a new calm and reserve.


--DE Osi Umenyiora, who earned his first nomination to the Pro Bowl last year, got his first sack of the season vs. the Eagles, and only the Giants' second of the season. "It happens sometime that you start off slowly on defense," he said. "Don't forget to give credit to the Eagles. They have a very good offense. We went in at halftime and we were able to figure out adjustments."

--WR Tim Carter recovered a fumble by WR Plaxico Burress, following the bouncing ball to land on it in the end zone for the TD that narrowed the Eagles' lead to 24-14 early in the fourth quarter. "I was aware that Plax had fumbled trying to break a tackle," he said. "I saw the ball come loose and I saw a couple of Eagle guys trying to get it. I had a feeling it might bounce around for a while and I went for it. I won the battle."

--RG Chris Snee, despite a sprained ankle suffered the week before vs. Indianapolis, started and played the full game for the Giants in Philadelphia. Had he been unable to play, Rich Seubert would have started.

--TE Jeremy Shockey re-injured a sprained ankle and missed some time late in the game. He was replaced by Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught only one pass for nine yards but contributed several effective blocks. Shockey only caught two passes all game, as the defense clearly attempted to take him out of the offense.

--SLB LaVar Arrington had a pair of tackles and displayed a decided loss of quickness. He might have value now only as a pass-rusher and the position of "all-around" SLB remains unfilled. Perhaps reserve Reggie Torbor will get more of a chance.

--QB Eli Manning said the winning TD pass to Burress was designed so that no one else could catch it. "Look, my receiver is 6-5, and the guy we isolated him on (CB Sheldon Brown) is 5-10. I just had to throw it as high as I could, and if Plax couldn't get it nobody else could either."

--WR Sinorice Moss, the second-round draft pick this year, saw his first action after missing all of training camp and the opening game with a quad strain. He caught one pass for four yards and his activation resulted in the placing of WR Michael Jennings on the Game Inactive list.



PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- It is hard to dismiss eight sacks visited on QB Eli Manning, but on the other hand it is difficult to ignore his production when he did have time. He completed 31 of 43 passes for a career-high 371 yards and three TDs, finished with a passer rating of 111.6 and clearly took the team on his shoulders for the two key drives, the one that resulted in the game-tying field goal with three seconds remaining and the marathon 13-play, 85-yard march that produced the winning TD pass to Burress. But the O-line must be faulted for the eight sacks. WRs Amani Toomer (12 catches, 137 yards two TDs) and Burress (6-114-1) performed brilliantly. Eli's off-balance, falling-down, sidearm throw to WR Tim Carter for a 22-yard gain in the fourth quarter leading to the game-tying field goal will be remembered as one of the top five passes of the season. "I knew I was falling but I thought I could get enough velocity," he said.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The ground game was non-existent for the first four quarters as the Giants managed just 37 yards. Then they got 49 net in the OT to finish with a barely acceptable total of 86. It might not have been enough except for the effort put forth by RBs Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs in the overtime, and the running did set up the game-winning TD. There was a major problem at left tackle, as Luke Petitgout allowed DE Jevon Kearse to record 2.5 sacks. Both guards, Chris Snee and David Diehl, had sub-par games both in pass protection and run blocking. RT Kareem McKenzie offered up some crucial run blocks. Sub TE Visanthe Shiancoe also helped with the blocking, as did Burress, who at 6-5 and 225 is a better blocker than most realize.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- It was atrocious. Eagles' QB Donovan McNabb seemed able to complete passes at will in the first half and finished with 27 of 45 for 350 yards and two TDs. It appeared as though no Giant was assigned to cover TE L.J. Smith (in truth, that was SLB LaVar Arrington), and Smith caught seven for 111 yards. The Giants missed tackles as well as coverage assignments. It was not a good performance from any angle and had little or no saving graces. It still seems unlikely that a team that plays pass defense that badly would win the game, almost despite itself. McNabb reveled in the ability to throw short passes to RB Brian Westbrook (seven for 56 yards) and 15 of the Eagles' 23 first downs came as the result of pass completions. He was six for 14 on third down conversions, five of them converted via the air.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The effort here was far better than the pass defense. Westbrook was the leading rusher with 68 yards and the Eagles as a team gained just 107 net yards rushing, 31 of those by McNabb on scrambles intentional and unintentional. The Giants managed only one sack, that by DE Osi Umenyiora, while the top five tacklers -- representing 38 of the team's 54 tackles -- were other than defensive linemen. Nevertheless, a key series in the overtime resulted in three passes that netted minus-3 yards, which was followed by a punt to the Giants' 15. That turned into the 85-yard, 13-play drive that produced the game-winning, game-ending TD pass from Manning to Burress.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- P Jeff Feagles was outstanding, and punted eight times for a 43.5 average (38.3 net). His positional placement was flawless, giving the Eagles very little room to maneuver since the punts had to be caught near the sidelines and/or corners just in front of the end zone. The Giants returned five kickoffs for a 20.6 average. Kick coverage resulted in an 18.8-yard average return on four kickoffs and 14.0-yard average on three punt returns. Reserve SLB Reggie Torbor had four individual special teams tackles.

COACHING: C-minus -- Head coach Tom Coughlin was fortunate that the game turned out the way it did, because there were several bad calls, wrong calls, clumsy formations and, all in all, not a good day for the offensive or defensive coordinators. Finally, in the fourth quarter, the decision was made to go into the no-huddle offense and that forced the Eagles' defense to stop wholesale substituting and keep the assignments reasonably simple.

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