Giants’ banged-up offensive line keeps it together in win over Eagles
The pain was surging through Bobby Hart’s right knee and suddenly, it was as if the MetLife Stadium crowd in excess of 80,000 had fallen silent.
Hart got up from a pile following a running play and, as he began to hop around on one leg in the general direction of the Giants’ sideline, all he heard was the familiar voice of his quarterback.
And Eli Manning’s plea – “Bobby, you gotta stay!” – resonated.
So the right tackle did, and seven plays later, Manning threw what turned out to be the decisive touchdown, his fourth of the game, with a third-quarter, 32-yard strike to rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard.
“I can’t even tell you what was going through my head at that point,” Hart said with a smile at his locker following the Giants’ 28-23 victory over the Eagles. “Honestly, I just knew I couldn’t come out … I had to finish.”
The Giants had lost starting left guard Justin Pugh to a sprained knee on the first play of the second quarter, leaving reserve Brett Jones in his place. Marshall Newhouse, who started the first three games of the season at right tackle, was being used as an extra blocker in a jumbo tight end spot.
If Hart was forced to leave the game, the line would have had to been adjusted again.
“Right in that moment, it was tough. Man, it hurt,” Hart added. “But I’m fine. We fought, we got a big ‘W’ in the division and we knew we needed it.”
The Giants (5-3) sit in second place in the NFC East, still two games behind the Cowboys, who have not lost since Week 1 when the two teams faced off at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Now they are facing an immediate future without the player who has been their best up front this season in Pugh, who sustained an MCL sprain against the Eagles. Giants coach Ben McAdoo indicated during his weekly conference call with reporters Monday that Pugh will “miss a little time,” but did not attach a timetable to his recovery.
A source told The Record that Pugh’s initial MRI revealed no structural damage and that it is likely he will need two to four weeks to recover from the injury. If Pugh misses the full month, the Giants will be without him for games beginning Monday night against the Bengals, Bears, Browns and Steelers. And if that were to happen, he could return for the Dec. 11 prime time rematch against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Jones performed admirably in Pugh’s spot, emerging as the only Giants’ offensive lineman to not allow a quarterback pressure in 50 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I thought Brett stepped in there and played well,” Manning said of Jones, who made the roster out of training camp as the backup center to Weston Richburg.
“He’s a smart guy, knows what he’s doing, been here a little bit so he’s played some center for us already this year so he knows how to play guard, he knows what he’s doing. I thought he came in and did well.”
The Eagles had beaten the Giants four straight times, and their defensive front embarrassed the former’s offensive unit from kickoff to final whistle each game.
That was the challenge again Sunday, and while there were some hiccups, not to mention Pugh’s unexpected departure, the Giants held their own.
“You watch the film, you watch the Vikings game, you see how they can destruct the game,” Hart said, adding that the entire Giants’ offensive line took the field against the Eagles with a common mind-set: “Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.”
BRIEFS: “Despite all the negativity,” McAdoo said he believes the Giants made progress toward improving their 32nd-ranked running game. Rookie Paul Perkins provided a spark late and Rashad Jennings finally took back the team’s rushing yardage lead from Shane Vereen, who has not played since tearing his triceps in Week 3. … Former Giants safety Antrel Rolle announced his retirement Monday.