The Eagles defense kept it ‘simple’ after halftime and it paid off in win over Giants
The Eagles defense went to a stripped-down game plan in the second half. It helped them stop Eli Manning and the Giants in their tracks.
Like everyone else in the place Sunday, Cre'Von LeBlanc knew where Eli Manning was going to throw the football on that third-and-4 play at the Philadelphia 11-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Right at him. Right at the man he had the unenviable task of covering.
Right at Odell Beckham Jr.
"Everybody in the stadium knew where it was going," the Eagles cornerback said. "To [No.] 13 on the outside.
"New kid on the block covering him. I knew they were going to him. Highest-paid receiver in the league. Everybody knows what type of receiver he is. Hats off to him.
"But I know what type of player I am. I fear no one. No man. He puts his pants on [one leg at a time] just like me."
LeBlanc, who was signed off the street by the Eagles three weeks ago after all of the bodies started to fall in their defensive secondary, was one-on-one with Beckham on the play. No help. Mano a mano.
But he managed to stay with the three-time Pro Bowler as Manning's throw went high through the end zone for an incompletion, forcing the Giants to settle for a third Aldrick Rosas field goal in a game the Eagles would win by three points, 25-22.
"If you go into it thinking, 'Oh, that's Odell Beckham. I don't know if I can handle him,' then you've already lost," said LeBlanc.
"You take it play by play. When you line up, trust your technique. Trust the type of player that you are and play to your strengths, and go out there and play ball."
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LeBlanc was part of a patchwork Eagles secondary Sunday that included De'Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan.
Bausby was cut by the Eagles before the start of the season before being signed to the practice squad the same day LeBlanc was added to the roster. Sullivan spent the first seven games of the season on the practice squad.
They got roughed up pretty badly a week earlier by Drew Brees in an ugly 48-7 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. But there they were Sunday, trying to hold the fort against Manning and the Giants in a must-win game.
For the first two quarters, the fort wasn't holding up very well. The Giants ran and threw the ball at will, racking up 346 total yards and 15 first downs in the first half.
Saquon Barkley rushed for 94 yards on nine first-half carries. Manning completed 19-of-25 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown as the Giants took a 19-3 lead at the half.
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At Malcolm Jenkins' urging, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz stripped down the game plan in the second half, which allowed LeBlanc, Bausby, and Sullivan, who left the game with an arm injury late in the third quarter, to think less and play faster.
"We were on our heels the whole first half," Jenkins said. "It just got to the point where we said, 'Look, we know we got guys on the back end that are scrambling a little bit. The Giants are going with a hurry-up offense and putting us in a bind as far as communicating.
" 'Give us something simple and we'll put the pressure on our D-line to take over.' Once we did that, we were able to settle down on the outside, stop the run a little bit, and that allowed our front four to just rush the passer, and they started hitting the quarterback.
"All of a sudden, those third-and-3s started to turn into third-and-7-pluses. And that momentum starts to change."
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The Giants, who converted four of six third-down opportunities in the first half, were 1 for 6 in the second half. Four of those six second-half situations were 8 yards or more.
Manning was just 7 for 12 for 61 yards and no touchdowns in the second half and was sacked twice. Barkley and the Giants' other running back, Wayne Gallman, averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in the second half.
"Hats off to our D-line and [defensive coordinator] Jim Schwartz for settling down the game plan and giving us an opportunity to play fast," Jenkins said.
He said Schwartz "put us in some calls that allowed us to play fast and at least get lined up. We were having a tough time there.
"[Schwartz] gave us something simple to play. Our base bread-and-butter stuff that everybody knows. It just gave us a boost, because guys were able to settle down and communicate and get lined up and at least be in position to make plays.
"We were able to get back to the style of defense we like playing. It wasn't perfect, by any stretch. But we have guys who believe in the team and continued to fight."
When Sullivan went down in the third quarter, LeBlanc, who had been playing the slot corner, moved outside, and Jenkins dropped down into the slot from safety in sub-packages.
The Eagles' front four got pressure on Manning throughout the game. But once they got the Giants' run game under control in the second half, they were able to tee off on Eli.
"It starts with stopping the run," said defensive end Chris Long, who had a big third-and-10 sack of Manning early in the fourth quarter that helped tilt the field for a seven-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that gave the Eagles the lead. "Once we started slowing the run game down a little bit, we were able to focus on Eli."
Bausby credited the Eagles' defensive coaches for showing confidence in him and the rest of the back-end replacements.
"The whole week, they were coaching us as if it was Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby playing," Bausby said. "They didn't change anything."
It's too soon to tell whether Mills, who has missed three games with a foot injury, or Sidney Jones, who has missed the better part of six games with a hamstring injury, or safety/corner Avonte Maddox, who injured his knee last week, will be able to play next Monday against Washington.
"It's not going to be any easier next week," Jenkins said. "Same kind of process. We still have the same issues with injuries and all those things.
"We have to find a way to come up with the best plan to prepare, get these guys ready, and then go compete again."
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