PHILADELPHIA — The Big Three made no difference for the Giants.
All the optimism created by the trio of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, safety Xavier McKinney and defensive tackle Leonard Williams (all of whom missed time to injury) playing against the Eagles on Saturday for the first time in three meetings this season disappeared on Philadelphia’s first drive. Jackson and McKinney were no match for tight end Dallas Goedert as the Eagles marched down the field for a touchdown that set the tone for a 38-7 blowout at Lincoln Financial Field.
A timeless issue for the Giants — the inability to cover athletic tight ends — reared its head late this season when the Vikings’ T.J. Hockenson totaled 24 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns in two meetings. The Giants survived the second game last week to advance in the playoffs, but the Eagles studied film and fed Goedert, who threw a nasty stiff arm into Jackson’s facemask for extra yards on one catch and then victimized McKinney.
McKinney slipped to the turf as Goedert ran a crossing route and barreled in for a 16-yard touchdown.
And Williams? Playing through a neck injury that will only get better with rest, he was quiet, with just two tackles, not the taste to leave heading into an offseason in which his team-high salary-cap charge is $32.2 million. The Giants, with a need to re-sign Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley and add receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks, could release Williams for $12 million in savings against a $20.2 million dead-cap charge.
McKinney tried to rally the defense, calling everyone together on the bench and shooing away television microphones that were eavesdropping. He also fired off the edge and strip-sacked Jalen Hurts in the third quarter, but the loose ball that could’ve turned momentum in the Giants’ favor with enough time to believe that a 20-point comeback was possible instead bounced back to the Eagles.
The dangerous 1,000-yard receiver duo of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith was held to nine catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in a respectable job by the secondary. Brown, however, carried a block on his former Titans teammate Jackson into the end zone to clear a path for Smith to score a touchdown on a bubble screen.
The bigger problem for the Giants was that the Eagles’ offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s easy to chalk up other mismatches within the game as a talent disparity, but harder to swallow that one-sided battle because of all the Giants have invested up front, especially in the trio of Williams and first-round draft picks Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Lawrence was a first-time All-Pro this season. The Eagles rushed for 268 yards, eclipsing their total from the first time the teams met, which Williams acknowledged last week would be a formula for a loss. The Giants, who were playing with a limited Azeez Ojulari on one edge, did not have a quarterback hit outside of McKinney’s forced fumble.
Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who did a great job maximizing talent this season, did not have his finest hour entering a scheduled head-coach interview Sunday with the Colts.
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