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November 15, 2020

First half observations: Giants 14, Eagles 3

Eagles NFL
Eagles-Giants-Gallman_111520_usat Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman leaps over linemen to score a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles returned from their bye with all the freshness of a week-old diaper, and they trail the Giants by double digits at halftime, 14-3.

Here's what I saw.

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The Good

• Tough to say this about anyone given the state of the game so far, but Miles Sanders played a strong first half for Philadelphia. The basic positives are obvious, with Sanders giving the Eagles burst in the backfield they have been missing for weeks, but he even made a couple of big plays as a pass blocker, saving Wentz from getting crushed on a second-down play that ended with an incompletion. Those plays aren't sexy, but keeping Wentz upright and able to get throws off is an important part of the job. 

• The fourth-down call from Doug Pederson in the first quarter was one of my favorite designs of the season. Putting Jalen Reagor in motion for a screen with designed blockers in front of him was pretty slick, and a look I'd like to see more of moving forward.

Not much else to say on the positive side. Pretty awful half.

The Bad

• The very first play of the game was a three-step drop for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones that ended badly, with Derek Barnett dragging him to the turf for a sack. It looked briefly like the bye week had invigorated Philadelphia and set them up for a nice second-half push.

Guess again. The Giants gashed Philadelphia on an 85-yard drive to start the game, capping it off with a Jones run that finished in the end zone instead of falling flat on his face. Quite a change of pace from their last meeting.

The biggest problem early (and this has been a theme this season) was their inability to deal with misdirection and movement up front. No real excuse on the final play of the drive, though — Jones' touchdown run was not disguised almost at all, with a pretty basic zone-read play catching them off guard. Not the fast start the defense was looking for.

• The Eagles had a lot of trouble staying onside on defense in the first half, which is an insane thing to say about an NFL team, especially a team coming off of a bye week. With all the extra time to get ready and come back locked in, you would think they'd be in tune with Jones' snap count. Hell, in a world where fans are not allowed into most stadiums, you would think they'd be able to hear and time their pursuit of the quarterback a little bit better.

That was the ugliest part of a terrible half from the defensive line. There are a lot of resources that have been poured into that group, from draft picks to huge salaries, and while they've been able to anchor the defense for most of this season, they looked like they had never played football together before in the first half. Wayne Gallman got basically whatever he wanted, and the Giants had already picked up 94 rushing yards by the time they had finished their second drive of the game.

We've grown accustomed to the Eagles flailing in the secondary over the years, but the defensive front got absolutely pummeled over the first 30 minutes on Sunday. There's no realistic path to this team winning if they don't get a better effort from the boys in the trenches.

• Things weren't much better for the big boys on the other side of the ball, and for once, there was almost no blame to be put on Carson Wentz's shoulders for how he reacted under pressure. With pass rushers closing down on him from all sides, Wentz was quick to get rid of the ball and never really put those throws in danger.

A lot of questions to be asked about how the Eagles set up, though. Are we going to get an explanation for Jordan Mailata being out of the rotation in favor of more time for Matt Pryor and/or Sua Opeta? He's not playing guard, but Jason Peters originally signed up to play guard this season and should pretty obviously be moved there if it's the difference between Mailata getting playtime or not.

For that matter, nothing about how this team is doling out playtime makes sense. What value is Alshon Jeffery bringing to the table in 2020 that he's getting time and targets? This team needs to develop/discover talent down the stretch, and they seem like they're actively working against that possibility.

• Speaking of incoherent, Doug Pederson going for it on fourth down on his own side of midfield and then thickening out on a similar play deeper in Giants territory is just strange. Ditto when he decided to play for field position on another drive in the second quarter. His instincts on when and when not to go have been impossible to get a handle on.

• I guess Nickell Robey-Coleman is a cornerback and not a wide receiver for a reason.

The Ugly

• Hard to pin the first half ineptitude on Wentz for me, but man did it feel like a perfect summary of his/their season for him to take a self-inflicted sack in the backfield on a pivotal third-down play early in the second quarter. 

Unfortunately, Fox decided people watching the game would rather see a highlight from a random NFC South matchup than an explanation of what happened, so it's hard to know for sure whether he tripped over nothing or got tangled up with his lineman. Ugly either way.

(The above being said, Wentz got outplayed by Daniel freaking Jones in that half, so, you know, not the best sign regardless of how bad the surrounding context was. His team is getting healthier, his playmakers have proven capable, and the Eagles still manage to waste important play after important play for whatever reason. Another 30 minutes of this and trust that I will have plenty of venom for the QB.)

• Jim Schwartz getting completely outcoached and outschemed by Jason Garrett of all people is certainly something.

• Joe Judge not going for it with a chance to possibly ice the game at the end of the first half is a coward move that, if there is justice in the universe, should be punished before this one is over. What a weenie.

Then again, you look at how the Eagles handled the opportunity, and I suppose I can see the vision.

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