This year, veteran Eagles beat writer and current Comcast sports NFL columnist Jordan Raanan will be joining us every week with a review of the previous Sunday's Eagles game. This week he offers his notes and thoughts on the Eagles win over the Giants
The numbers for Vince Young in his first start in over a year were unspectacular. He was 23-of-36 passing for 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. More A.J. Feeleyish in this offense than Donovan McNabb.
But there were two Vince Youngs to evaluate. The first was the one that couldn't get on the same page with Riley Cooper or complete a swing pass in the first half. The second was the one who perfectly read the blitz, quickly located his hot reads and shredded the Giants in the second half.
Young finished 15-of-18 for 169 yards with a touchdown and interception in the second half alone. And the interception was more a product of Cooper losing the ball than a bad decision.
Even more impressive, he ended the Eagles' fourth-quarter nightmares with an 18-play, 80-yard game-winning drive where there were six third-down conversions. Five of those were via Young, four via the pass. (Shockingly, Ronnie Brown converted the other.)
So I went back and examined those five Young third-down conversions. And they were even more impressive than I originally thought Here's what I saw upon further review:
Play 1: 3rd and 10 from PHI 33
With 9:30 left to play, this didn't seem like much but a nice conversion at the time. Little did we know, it was the start of something special. The Giants rushed four and Young, on third and long, had all day to throw. He looked to DeSean Jackson deep down the left sideline, then tight end Brent Celek running an intermediate route on the same side. With nothing there, Young went to the next progression, Cooper, who was isolated on the right side and running across the middle. He drilled it between the linebacker and corner, hitting Cooper between the numbers for a professional first down.
Play 2: 3rd-and-3 from NYG 42
This might have been the best play Young made on the drive. Clay Harbor went in motion, creating a three-receiver set to Young's right. The Giants came with a blitz, rushing six, including middle linebacker Mark Herzlich right up the middle. Herzlich came charging untouched and Ronnie Brown tried to step in front of Young at the last second to make the block. But Herzlich leaped and was just inches in front of the quarterback's face. Young still managed to sidearm the ball around him out wide to an open Harbor in the flat. Young was taken to the turf on the play, but still managed to move the chains. It was a tremendous little third-down play and throw.
Play 3: 3rd-and-1 from NYG 27
Andy Reid called for the QB sneak. Young appeared to get stopped behind the line but picked up the first down with a great second push. You can clearly see his legs never stop moving despite his momentum being stuffed. It was a great effort.
Play 4: 3rd-and-4 from NYG 23
On this play, the Giants rushed six, blitzing off both edges. With the Eagles outmanned 6 vs. 5, the blindside rusher was unblocked. But Young recognized Giants cornerback Corey Webster coming from the slot on the right side, and quickly hit Jackson in the flat for 10 yards and another first down. It was the perfect quick read.
Play 5: 3rd-and-8 from NYG 8
This was the game-winner. And on this third down, the Eagles faced their nemesis, the red zone. The Giants covered with a zone defense. Herzlich was lined up on the stronside, near tight end Brent Celek. As Herzlich moved a touch to his left to bump Celek off his route, it opened a slim, one-second window to Cooper running a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone from the slot. Young drilled it in there without hesitation for the score and the Eagles win.
Forget about the slow start. And the three interceptions. These five plays alone made Young's start successful and impressive.
Other Notable Observations:
• This is pretty much all you need to know about the Eagles' cornerbacks right now. Asante Samuel was targeted just once by Eli Manning on Sunday night. He knocked the pass out of the hands of Hakeem Nicks. Nnamdi Asomugha was targeted five times. Manning was 2-for-4 with a 24-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz and a holding penalty against the prized free agent signing. Manning's other 30 passes attacked the Eagles' nickel corner, Joselio Hanson, and linebackers. That's pretty much the same philosophy every opponent has taken against the Eagles this season.
• According to NBC broadcaster Chris Collinworth, the Giants players were sorry Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was hurt and Hanson was in as the nickel corner. That's pretty much all you need to know about DRC's play this season. Pro Football Focus ranks DRC 90th out of 102 cornerbacks this season. That's better than Asomugha, who ranked 97th.
• The Birds' entire defensive line (from Trent Cole to Juqua Parker) was off the charts Sunday night, constantly getting in the backfield and even tracking back to make several crackling tackles. Nobody was more impressive than Cullen Jenkins. The offseason acquisition had three quarterback hurries, a tackles for a loss and half a sack. By my count, he disrupted five pass plays in the second quarter alone.
• The Eagles stuck to their defensive line rotation more than usual. The backup unit (Darryl Tapp, Derek Landri, Trevor Laws and Juqua Parker) was even sprinkled on the field during the Giants' final drive. Landri recovered the game-clinching fumble. It looked like a concerted effort by defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to keep his D-line fresh late into the fourth quarter.
• Akeem Jordan was credited with just one tackle but had maybe his best game as an Eagle, consistently plugging running holes.
• The Eagles' tackles (Jason Peters and Todd Herremans) were dominant against the best group of pass rushers in the NFL. They allowed just one real pressure when Jason Pierre-Paul beat Herremans around the edge. Otherwise Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck barely sniffed Young on the other 36 called pass plays.