Sunday, September 30, 2012
Halftime thoughts: Whaddaya know? No TOs
By Dan Graziano
PHILADELPHIA -- Not exactly an action-packed first half here Sunday night between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, but one thing has clearly stood out. Through 30 minutes of play, the Eagles have not turned the ball over. And guess what? They're winning. Weird, the way that works.
The game has been a defensive struggle, with the Giants sending all kinds of pressure after Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and limiting his opportunities downfield while on the flip side the Eagles have covered the Giants' receivers well. But things loosened up a bit in the final minutes of the half. The Eagles shored up their protection a bit and marched down the field for a touchdown drive capped off by a 19-yard pass from Vick to DeSean Jackson. And then Giants quarterback Eli Manning looked as though he was putting together one of his patented two-minute drives in response, but Eagles backup cornerback Brandon Hughes broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Domenik Hixon, and the Giants had to settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal.
So the Eagles lead 7-3, and as they honor all-time great Brian Dawkins here at halftime, they can feel pretty good about the way things have gone. As much pressure as Vick has faced, after turning the ball over nine times in his first three games this season he has managed to protect it well tonight. If the Eagles can continue to handle the Giants' pressure responsibly, and if the protection schemes continue to improve as they did in the final minutes of the half, they should be able to get some shots downfield. Giants safety Kenny Phillips left the game with a knee sprain, and fellow safety Antrel Rolle is playing in spite of the knee injury he suffered in the Carolina game a week and a half ago. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has yet to catch a pass, and running back LeSean McCoy has only two rushing yards on six carries. So there is some potential offense still to come for Philadelphia if it can make some adjustments.
The Giants don't seem to have an inclination to get their run game going, and Manning has been firing the ball downfield all night. With starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out, he seems to be favoring Hixon. And with Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha out with an eye injury, Manning should see more chances in the second half. But the Eagles have been covering well with Hughes, Brandon Boykin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and they've put enough pressure on Manning to keep him from getting into a rhythm (at least until that final drive). If Philadelphia can continue to manage the offense the way it did on the touchdown drive -- and if it can avoid the turnovers that have plagued its offense all year until tonight -- the defense is playing well enough to win them the Eagles the game against Manning & Co. Those are big "if"s, but who knows? Maybe this Dawkins stuff is legit, and he's got them fired up.