Resist the urge. Go against logic and defy what could be an obvious and certainly enticing strategy. The Giants must continue to remember who they are and resist the temptation Sunday to attack the vulnerable Eagles for who they are not.
Where the analysis and the quick-strike glory indicates pass, the Giants must affix their blinders and run.
“We have to play offense and do it in a way that makes sense for us against the opponent we’re playing,” coach Pat Shurmur said.
What makes sense for these Giants is to operate inside out and continue to center everything they do on offense around Saquon Barkley and not Odell Beckham Jr. The freak show pyrotechnic production that went down Monday night in Los Angeles (Rams 54, Chiefs 51) is a distant relative to this particular Giants family. Wide-open, freewheeling football is fun for some but fatal to this assemblage of Giants.
It is no coincidence that Barkley’s season-high rushing attempts (20 and 27) have come the past two weeks, victories over the 49ers and Buccaneers. He ran it often but not well in Santa Clara, Calif., ran it more often and far better six days later.
The Giants will not play another game this season with Eli Manning on the field for the entire game and attempt only 18 passes, as he did against the Bucs. So, the simple formula that produced 31 points on offense in beating the Bucs 38-35 cannot be cut-and-pasted into the remaining six games. The essence must remain, though. The way this roster is constructed, the Giants are run-first, and if that sounds prehistoric, well, consider that extinction from even their infinitesimal playoff hopes is one loss away.
There is reason for tempered optimism, but anointing this version of the offensive line as entirely credible is premature. Consider this: Manning was sacked four times by the Buccaneers on 22 designed pass plays, a sack rate of .18 sack per attempt. On 30 pass plays, that’s 5.5 sacks and on 35 pass plays it is 6.4 sacks. The Giants have not solved this problem; they navigated around it by realizing the punch line to “Doctor, it hurts when I do this” is “Then don’t do that.”
It took until game No. 10 for the Giants to open up with three consecutive running plays. Barkley for 8, Barkley for 1 and Barkley for 6. Play No. 4, with the Bucs thinking run, was a play-action pass to Beckham for 41 yards. It is rarely this easy, but it is the formula the Giants must follow. It is better for this offensive line, better for Manning at 37 years old and, with patience, better for Beckham.
“They’re going to call the runs as long as they’re working,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “That falls on our shoulders to make those things work. You can call three straight runs, and if they don’t work, then you abandon it. We’re going to make them work.”
The Eagles are reeling and coming off a 48-7 beatdown in New Orleans, but they’ve forgotten more about quality football than the 49ers and Buccaneers remember. Here is where the Giants must brace for impact. Shurmur spent 13 years coaching for the Eagles and knows all about how Lincoln Financial Field gets jumping. Manning has thrown more interceptions (33) against the Eagles than any other opponent. In the 34-13 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 11, the Giants got behind early and ended up with 43 pass attempts and only 17 runs. That Barkley gained 130 yards on only 13 carries is a tribute to how special he is.
This time, the balance must be shifted, despite the inclination to exploit where the Eagles are hurting most.
The Eagles have so many issues going, the most glaring a defensive backfield absolutely decimated by a series of injuries.
“This has devastated almost an entire position group,” coach Doug Pederson said.
Starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby (on injured reserve) and Jalen Mills (foot surgery) are gone. The other starter, Sidney Jones, missed a month with a strained hamstring and came out of the Saints debacle with a new hamstring issue that puts him out against the Giants. The Eagles ended the game against the Saints with three cornerbacks — Cre’von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan — who were not on the team two weeks ago.
This is a golden opportunity to air it out. For the Giants, that would be fool’s gold.
“I think there are some fundamentals you have to stick to when you play offensive football, but I would consider us game-plan specific in a lot of ways,” Shurmur said. “We’re going to try to do the things, especially early, that we think will help us move the ball down the field, but it always involves running the ball to some degree, and I think that’s important.”
It is more than important. It is the only pathway that leads where the Giants want to go.