As you may have seen or heard, the Giants routed their disliked rival, the Eagles, 42-7 in a battle of two non-playoff teams this past Sunday. They sent Andy Reid home (and potentially relocated him to Arizona) in their win and showed that they still had some pride left despite not being able to defend their Super Bowl ring in the new year.
They torched the Eagles left and right, throwing all over them and running when they wanted to and wherever they wanted. Signal-caller Eli Manning had five touchdowns, besting his previous season high of four in Week 14 against the Saints, while the running backs — David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw — combined for 182 yards on 31 carries. Despite their work in the running game it was the big gainers from Wilson and Bradshaw in the passing game which proved to be a significant matchup advantage against the Eagles’ linebackers.
Each tailback had one reception, both of which came in the first quarter on the same drive, but Bradshaw’s was for 41-yars while Wilson’s was a 15-yard touchdown. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride utilized the wheel route to attack the Eagles’ slow linebackers and overall mismanaged scheme, running each RB out of the backfield to get a matchup advantage.
The first of the receptions was Bradshaw’s, a simple throw by Manning over the top of Eagles’ middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans on 3rd-and-4 from their own 31-yard line.
Aligned to Manning’s right in a shotgun set, Bradshaw was standing flat-footed at the short side of the field (“boundary”) and had only one receiver to his right. On the Eagles’ side of the ball, the deep free safety rotated down prior to the snap, suggesting a single-high coverage to be played once the strong safety (top right of the screen) rotated to the middle of the field.
With one deep safety, the Eagles were going to be playing Cover 1 Robber (Man-Free Robber) coverage, meaning everyone but the two safeties was going to be playing man coverage. The deep strong safety was manning the middle of the field, while underneath the free safety roamed in an attempt to jump any crossing routes by Giants receivers. Because it was man coverage, DeMeco Ryans was assigned to cover Bradshaw out of the backfield: a petrifying mismatch.
To the right of Bradshaw was rookie receiver Rueben Randle, who would be running a quick spot route to draw the cornerback assigned to him to the inside and potentially create a “rub” or a pick on Ryans.
When the ball was snapped, Randle ran the spot route, forcing Ryans to work around him as he watched Bradshaw, while Bradshaw quickly worked out of the backfield. He released into the open field to his right, making his route appear to be a short one into the flats before turning up the sideline and forcing Ryans to run with him.
A torn Achilles in 2010 and several other knocks on his leg robbed Ryans of foot speed in his days as a Texan, and on this play as he was unable to keep up with Bradshaw — who has a history of leg injuries of his own — down the field. Bradshaw hauled in a well-placed pass over his shoulder by Manning in stride and gain additional yardage to complete a 41-yard gainer.
Three plays later at the Eagles’ 15-yard line, the Giants struck again; this time, it was Wilson who beat an Eagles’ linebacker in coverage.
Lined up in the same spot as Bradshaw, Wilson was a part of the Giants’ “11″ personnel package, which was evenly distributed — two pass catching threats to each side — across the formation. To the right, again, was an inside breaking route run by Randle. Against the Eagles’ single-high, pattern read coverage, Randle ran a post route at the near hash that forced the cornerback to run with him. With the cornerback occupied and the strong safety charged with covering the tight end, linebacker Jamar Chaney was left with only one assignment: cover Wilson out of the backfield.
With the sideline cleared out by Randle’s post route, Wilson had an abundance of space to work with and really widen his route to force Chaney to cover an insurmountable amount of space.
Although Chaney runs a 4.54 40-yard dash, it was not enough against Wilson, who ran down the right sideline on a wheel route and caught the touchdown pass from Manning.
Overall, the two plays exhibited quality coaching by Gilbride. He clearly studied the tendencies of the Eagles defense during the week leading up to the game and put together personnel packages and formations that could take advantage of the Eagles’ defenders by creating mismatches, which is the goal of offensive football.
Running backs running routes against linebackers is almost always a matchup advantage for the offense because the runner knows where he’s going with the route and is usually faster, which makes it difficult to cover him, especially out of the backfield. Gilbride was able to use the speed of the running backs by lining them up in the backfield, which made it more difficult for the linebackers to cover then it would be if the running backs were split out wide.
Moreover, the 15-yard touchdown reception by Wilson was a significant one in the final game of what started off as a very rocky rookie season. He went into the “dog house” when he fumbled in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, but has since gotten out and rebounded, scoring in multiple ways in each of the final four games of the season. He possesses game-changing, home-run talent, and will see many more carries come his way, likely at the expense of Bradshaw next season.
After the game, Wilson said, “to go out and repeatedly show sparks and have good games, not just my confidence but the confidence of the guys around me goes up as well.” Perhaps the confidence and sparks will lead the Giants back to the promised land once again come 2013?
We’ll see. But for now, the Giants will be at home watching the playoffs while attempting to figure out what went wrong in 2012.