Giants’ Brian Daboll explains fourth-down decisions in loss to Eagles

Jan 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll looks on in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFC divisional round game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jan 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll looks on in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFC divisional round game at Lincoln Financial Field. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tough night in Philadelphia for the New York Giants.

A magical season ended with a thud Saturday night after their 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round.

The Giants got to this point, after a 4-13 season last year, after rookie head coach Brian Daboll held players accountable and got the most out of a roster that, on paper, was outmatched by most of the teams in the NFC.

He was also aggressive at times this season. Everyone remembers going for two in their Week 1 matchup against the Titans that set the tone for the season. But on Saturday night, Daboll seemingly had an off day coaching, struggling with when to be aggressive and not.

The first instance occurred in the first quarter. Jalen Hurts just took the Eagles down the field 75 yards for a touchdown with ease in their first drive. After Daniel Jones and the offense moved the ball to the Eagles 40, Daboll decided to go for it on 4th and 8.

“Where we were, I knew what the line was for our kicker, it was past that,” Daboll explained after the game. “I felt good in the play that we worked on throughout the week. We practiced a lot of fourth downs, but we just didn’t get it done.”

On that fourth-down play, Jones would be sacked again, giving the Eagles the ball back with a short field. They took advantage of the opportunity, scoring another touchdown, and never looked back.

Daboll elaborated that in warmups the team figured kicker Graham Gano was good from the 35-yard line, a 52-yard kick, but with the sack on the previous play taking them out of range, the first-year coach felt it was the time to go for it.

The Giants had 21 fourth-down attempts this season and was successful in 10 of them (47.6%), which was the middle of the pack in the NFL

“I didn’t struggle [making that decision],” Daboll said when asked about his thought process. “Wanted to be fairly aggressive. We were too far out to kick a field goal, and I liked the play [offensive coordinator Mike Kafka] was going to call and we went for it.”

Daboll’s second fourth-down decision came in the fourth quarter. The Giants scored their first points in their previous possession and got the Eagles to punt.

It was 4th and 6 at their own 42 when Daboll elected to punt the ball down 21 with 13:21 left in the game. At this point in the game, the Eagles had rushed for 152 yards, and they would continue to run the ball and the clock, eventually knocking through a field goal to increase their lead to 31-7 with 5:16 left.

“They haven’t scored yet in that half. Counting on the defense who was so backed up to get a three and out,” Daboll explained. “Then they had a long drive. Probably could have went for it. Weren’t executing well either. Yea that’s what we did.”

During the game, those two decisions may have affected how the game ended but with the benefit of hindsight the Eagles were just the better team. The defense had a tough time stopping Philadelphia’s offense, and the O-line could not protect Daniel Jones, who was sacked five times.

Daboll takes responsibility for his lack of execution as a coach in just his second postseason game saying, “we all didn’t do a good job, that starts with me.”

With the offseason now beginning for the Giants, Daboll will have the time to learn from this loss in hopes of another playoff run next season.