Archive for December, 2007

Win Or Go Home

Monday, December 31st, 2007

I always liked that slogan that TNT used for their basketball playoffs. It’s most appropriate for football. All that hard work which started back in training camp up in Albany comes down to one week of preparation for Tampa Bay. First, I’d like to take a look back at the New England game. There had been speculation all week on how the Giants would play it. Play starters, rest starters, some combination of the two. Well the Giants played it perfectly in my opinion, going all out to try and defeat the unbeaten Pats. While they lost, it was a very entertaining game where the Giants made the Pats earn that undefeated title. Manning and the offense played very well, and again, the defense did just about everything it could to slow down Tom Brady. His offense is just outstanding. When Randy Moss dropped that slightly underthrown bomb by Brady in the fourth quarter, I thought to myself this is the night they lose. Then James Butler simply let “sideline” Moss run free as a birdie again on the very next play, which was the single play of the night that dissapointed me. New England is the best team this year, but I’d be bit leary if I was part of the Pats’ faction. Their defense, while still good, reminds me of the 1990 Giants’ defense. Aging. And their offense has been putting themselves in a lot of third and longs that they always seem to convert. Come playoffs, that might be a different story, especially in colder weather. Just a hunch, but I see either New England or Dallas getting knocked off before the big game.

The Giants get a third crack at Jeff Garcia come playoffs. 2002 needs no mention. Last year, he did it as a member of the Eagles. Both times, Garcia was playing against Johnnie Lynn and Tim Lewis vanilla defenses. I like the matchup of Spagnuolo against the Bucs’ offense. If our offense can play a smart game (note to Gilbride: run first to setup play action, please), I think the Giants can get the game. I’d love a rematch in Dallas.

Run With Power

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

When the third quarter was about to begin, I thought the Giants had taken control of the game, and if they could get through the third quarter with the lead, this game would be theirs. The reasoning? It was obvious that going from left to right on your TV screen was the direction in which all the points were being scored. There was a reason for that, simply put, the weather. When the Giants choose the ball in the second half, Buffalo made the obvious decision to take the wind. So what do the Giants do on their very first play? Attempt a pass which was intercepted. Two plays later, Buffalo had the lead. Does anyone see the lunacy with this? Someone must have given the coaching staff that memo after that play because after that the Giants did what they should have done the entire day, and last week for that matter: run the football. And run it they did. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were brilliant. It was a coming out party for Bradshaw, who Giant bloggers throughout the Net have been begging the staff to get more time. With Jacobs a bit banged up, Bradshaw got his chance and delivered. Despite his size, this guy displays speed along with power. Think Dave Megget but stronger. His special teams play was terrific too, whether returning kicks like a demon or sticking his nose in there on that pivotal punt block in the first half which got the Giants back into the game.

The defense, after a tough start, played well and really got the game winning points on Kawika Mitchell’s intercetption return for a TD. Mitchell was the player of the game on defense, with two sacks, a forced fumble, and the pick. The Giants will have a decision on him, as he signed only a one year deal. He is not spectacular every game, but he is consistent and doesn’t miss games. I pushed for him to be signed this off season and I think it would be wise to get him in the fold again.

Finally, I did read some stuff that the coaching staff decided to take the ball out of Eli’s hands on Sunday. But really, shouldn’t you take the ball out of any QB’s hands considering those weather conditions? Playing on the East Coast, and especially the Meadowlands, you are going to have games like this. When you do, you rely on running the ball and playing solid defense. With the win the coaching staff, IMO, is a lock to be back. Coughlin is an offensive coach. I just hope he realizes that Giant football has always been about defense and running the ball. Running the ball with power. Some things don’t change.

Almost Predictable

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

That’s all I can say about this game. We’re home, and simply need a win. We’re playing the Redskins who we have owned in Giants Stadium through the years. They are banged up and have a backup QB starting. The result: predictable, and embarrassing as well. In the windiest of conditions, the Giants put the ball in the air 52 times. Reading other blogs this morning, a good point is made that if there weren’t the 12 or so drops, the pass attempts would have been less. Okay, let’s say we throw 40 pass attempts then. THAT’S STILL WAY TOO MANY. The team comes out in the spread formation to open the game and throws five of the first six plays. Coughlin is quoted as saying the weather won’t dictate the game plan. Here’s a news flash, Tom: wind in the Meadowlands is unforgiving. In fact, Parcells nicknamed it “The Hawk”. Did you learn nothing on his staff in the late eighties? In a game like this you play field positions and pick your spots to throw. Brandon Jacobs ran 25 times for 130 yards. On a night like this, he should have gotten upwards of 35+ carries. I feel bad for Eli Manning. Drops, badly designed plays, poor coaching. It’s like they set him up for failure. He’s not the most accurate of QB’s, but Gilbride forces him to throw in the most difficult of conditions.

Couglin’s fate is again very much in doubt. Let the watch begin. The Giants really haven’t put a good game together since the Atlanta game (that’s right, back in October). They have a real good chance of dropping their final four games (that includes an assumed playoff game). If that happens, you can kiss Coughlin good bye. Jerry Reese will have no problem bringing down the hammer. The trend of limping down the stretch again is defining this team and coaching staff. 

The Spagnuolo Factor

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Have the Giants become a “defense-first” football team? Having watched this team over the last two months, I’d have to say yes. The implementation of a blitzing, multiple look team has finally been morphed together by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. It’s really great to watch the Giants delay blitz, make sure tackles, and put pressure on the opposing QB. They lead the league in sacks, and the next closest team is not within 10. It just goes to show you what coaching can do. The Giants have brought a great philosophy to playing defense and if they can add a few more players, we could be looking at a terrific defense over the next few years. I said before the season started that if the defense improved, this would be a 10 win team. If they didn’t, you are looking at eight wins.

While the Eagles don’t have premium WR’s, a tip of the hat to safeties Michael Johnson and Craig Dahl, both rookies. They did a great job in coverage, particularly after that Eagles’ first drive for their only TD. There were no big plays against and both were sticking their heads in there on tackles. What potentially could have been a disaster turned into a clear positive on this day.

Now onto offense. You can make the case that they made the game much closer than it had to be. Settling for a FG after first and goal at the one in the second quarter, and Jacobs fumbling late very deep in Eagles’ territory contributed to the cardiac ending. One play in particular that upset me was a pass to Shockey in the end zone during the third quarter. Shockey, split out wide, did a great job of creating separation after being bumped by the defensive back, but then rather than creating more separation by running a fade, he looked almost to continue straight towards the back of the end zone. Predictably, Manning’s pass was thrown towards the sideline (as a fade should be), not the end line. This exemplifies the miscommunication between receiver and QB that we continually see. So what gives? I am beyond thinking and am pretty sure that Kevin Gilbride’s offense is too high risk, high reward. Manning even said something revealing last week after the Bear game, commenting on the hurry up offense. The Giants have had success over the last few years in the no huddle because things are simplified. This is not a knock on the Giants being dumb, but rather a commentary on Gilbride’s offense requiring too much interpretation on everybody’s part to be successful. The problem is, Coughlin looks to be just about a lock to be back and with that, Glibride too.

But enough of my negativity. The Giants have bounced back to win two road games in a row, and credit should be given to the entire squad. Simply stated, they have now positioned themselves perfectly entering Week 15 of the NFL season: win and you’re in the playoffs.

Like A Thief In The Night…

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

The Giants stole one yesterday from the Bears, but the football gods probably had a say in this one. The Bears victory last week against Denver can generously be called fortunate. Two KO returns by Hester, a blocked punt leading directly to a TD, and finally a last play, fourth down, finger tip grab in the end zone to send the game to OT were all needed by Chicago. So yesterday’s outcome was NFL justice, so to speak.

While Eli gets the headlines for two fourth quarter TD drives, the real credit should go the defense which played valiantly all day. With Manning bumbling and stumbling for three quarters (and three turnovers), the Giants defense continually made plays to keep the contest a two possession game at 16-7. They kept getting the ball back in the offense’s hands, and the offense just kept giving it right back to Chicago. Until the final eleven minutes. Thankfully, the coaching staff tried something different and went to a hurry up. It first got them in the end zone on a simply terrific catch by Amani Toomer (which replay had to overturn) and then on a well crafted drive resulting in a one yard TD run by Reuben Droughns.

Right before the touchdown to Droughns, some serious discussion had to take place on the Giants’ sideline. After getting a first down at the one yard line at the two minute mark, the Giants had three options. One, kneel on the ball and run the clock down to almost nothing and kick a FG to win the game. The Bears owned just one time out. Second, kneel down on first down only (making Chicago use the timeout), and then try to score on the next two plays. If you score, the Bears are out of timeouts and need a TD to win. If you don’t score, the clock will run down to almost nothing anyway and you still have the FG to fall back on. Third, just go for the TD and take your chances with Hester and the Bears offense (with one timeout). The Giants choose not to mess around and go for the score, which I believe the Bears let them get because they wanted to ball back with time on the clock. While I have no problem with this option (the Giants defense was playing terrific), I was not amused that they actually kicked to Hester on the ensuing kickoff. The short kick was only returned to the Chicago 42 (two yard worse than kicking out of bounds), but why even take the chance? That was wayyy to risky. The fact of the matter is almost of this late game strategy is  due to Hester’s great ability, so why kick it to him? In regards to just kicking the FG, considering the snap on the previous extra point was high and then almost missed by Tynes, I don’t think it was an option in Coughlin’s eyes. Personally, I would have went with option #2.

Finally, kudos to David Tyree, who’s been pretty invisible all year. He got a hand on a punt in the second quarter to create a short field and help get the Giants that first score. Then he had two grabs on the winning drive, including a nice catch and run to get the Giants into prime FG range. I am pretty sure he replaced Moss, who we really have to start wondering about. The Giants desperately need Steve Smith to get healthy and give Manning another target he has confidence in.