EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After the New York Giants scored 38 points on 512 yards of total offense, quarterback Eli Manning still was critical of his offense.
That's because it didn't do enough.
"We have to get off to a better start," Manning said after his team's 45-38 loss to the Eagles last night. "We have to get a lead and put some pressure on the opposing offense and help out our defense."
It was a shoot-out and the Giants were more than willing to play along, opening up the playbook and allowing Manning to make some plays with his arm.
Just like the teams' first meeting of the season at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 1, the big-play Eagles scored with ease, mounting another 30-point first half. The difference, this time, was that Manning and the Giants' offense could answer.
And answer. And answer.
It ultimately wasn't enough - mainly because the potent Eagles' offense found a way to slow down the game with a 12-play, 91-yard drive in the fourth quarter. In the end, the wrong unit was on the field for the Giants in the game's most crucial minutes.
"It's frustrating," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "I think the offense played extremely well. I think we could have done a couple of things to help them out. We just didn't come through."
Besides his botched slide that caused a fumble inside the Eagles' 20-yard line midway through the third quarter, Manning played a poised game. He finished 27 of 38 for 391 yards, a season high. He did not throw an interception, limiting the mistakes that plagued him in Philadelphia earlier this season.
In that game, a 40-17 blowout by the Eagles, Manning was held to 20 of 39 passing for 222 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Last night, New York's adept running game set up the chance for coach Tom Coughlin to expand the playbook and give Manning a chance to throw deep. The Eagles blitzed Manning with little success, a far cry from the first meeting. Aided by some crucial missed tackles in the Eagles' secondary, the Giants put up big play after big play until the fourth quarter.
With 5 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third, Manning looked short left for Domenik Hixon on a second and 12 from the Giants' 39-yard line. Sixty-one yards and one missed Sean Jones tackle later, the Giants had a 31-30 lead, their first of the game.
But two straight possessions in the third and fourth quarters resulted in Jeff Feagles punts, allowing the Eagles to hold on to the ball.
"We were in position," Coughlin said. "We had a one-point lead and had the ball a couple times and couldn't do anything with it. They did."
Trailing by 14-3 after 15 minutes, Manning made his first big play two minutes into the second quarter when he hit Hakeem Nicks for a 68-yard catch-and-run TD (complete with two missed tackles by Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell).
This new, big-play Giants offense was the same unit that was held without a first-quarter touchdown for the eighth straight game. Ultimately, that was all Manning could focus on afterward.
"We really fought back," Manning said. "There were a lot of good things. But there were also some missed opportunities."