Archive for November, 2008

Burress Shot (Himself)

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Crazy headline, isn’t it? While I tried to introduce some humor into this news, there’s really nothing funny about it. First, and most importantly, the good news is that Plax was not seriously injuried after accidently shooting himself in the leg at a night club on Friday night. But that’s where the good news ends, and the bad news has reprecussions at many levels.

Everything appears to be pointing at possible felony charges coming down on Plax which very well could result in jail time. Forget about the wide receiver playing again this year with the Giants, as it appears the law might get to Plax before the NFL or Tom Coughlin can. And if this felony charge is indeed true, could it be the end of Plax’s career period?

While Plax is one of my favorite Giants to watch, I have to say my dissapointment in him has reached its limit. Why in the hell is he carrying a gun that he obviously can’t safely operate nor has a valid permit for? Since signing his new contract at season’s beginning, he has been suspended by the Giants for two weeks, been fined by the league for verbally abusing an official, yelled at his head coach once when coming off the field, and been benched for a quarter of a game for missing a team activity. And now buried himself in this newest scandle. I have a strong feeling that regardless of what the gun laws of NY State determine, Burress will not play another down in a NY Giant uniform. It’s quite clear to me the Giants structured this new contract based on Burress making himself more “accessible” to the team than in the past, where fines flied freely and often. I have a feeling Burress is not going to be that accessible in the upcoming year.

Return To the Desert

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

A great win for the Giants in a very entertaining game. With two of their better players out of the lineup, the Giants’ depth really stepped up in a 37-29 win. Dominik Hixon had his second prolific day in subbing for Plax, catching six passes and being an absolute monster on returns (206 return yards), nearly returning two for sevens. One particular catch typified what Hixon is about and why I know the Giant coaching staff loves this guy. On the next to final drive, the Giants were faced with a third and twelve from the Cards’ 30 yard line. Hixon caught a ball about a yard away from the markers then fought through two Cardinal defenders to pick it up. That setup a easier FG attempt and gave them that always comfortable two score lead.

The other player stepping up his game was Eli Manning. With Jacobs out and the Cards keying on Derrick Ward, Manning completed nearly 80% of his passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. People have been whispering about Manning slumping over last month. But who needs great stats when you are running the ball so effectively? You knew there would be a game where the opposition would shut down the run and Manning would have to win a game for the Giants. No surprises here, as Manning was up to the task.

Defensively, the Giants were both aggressive with their jams on the Cardinals very fine wideouts and also with their blitz packages on Kurt Warner. Warner still throws one of the prettiest balls in the league, but all you need is pressure to rattle him. I thought the Giants’ secondary was very active and do I dare say, despite the stats, played their best game of the season? They seemed around the ball all afternoon. Aaron Ross, in particular, played extremely well. To hell with those four penalties called on him. I thought every one was a bogus call given to the offensive player. Kenny Philips, again, impressing, especially with that knock away of a Fitzgerald touchdown. The exciting thing about the secondary is the youth back there.

The Cardinals are a good team headed in the right direction, especially with their head coach Ken Wisenhunt. I do think he made a tactical error however in the final period with four minutes left after they scored a TD to make it 34-26. With two timeouts left, Wisenhunt decided to onside kick, and although it was perfectly executed, the Giants got the ball and a short field to work with to again take a two score lead. The better option there, IMO, was to send it deep with a kicker who is capable of a touchback and let your defense try and force a three-and-out. Now I know the Cards only had one legit three-and-out the entire game (actually, the first series), but given the low rate of onside recoveries, I think that was better move. Wisenhunt does earn points for kicking a FG on first down with 30 seconds remaining, allowing himself time to operate had they recovered their final onside kick of the day, which predictably, went unsuccessful as well.

Take That Ray Lewis

Monday, November 17th, 2008

The Giants, for a third straight week, racked up over 200 yards rushing against on of the better defenses in the league. That combined with effectively shutting down the Ravens’ run game allowed the Giants to dominate the line of scrimmage which we all know is a recipe for success. In my opinion, Ray Lewis is still the most intimidating player in the league. But I had to laugh when I heard him give the Giants a backhanded compliment. According to Lewis, the Ravens were playing for the pass. Okay, Ray.

Brandon Jacobs set the tone early, Derrick Ward has some really nice runs (and catches) in the middle, and my man Bradshaw put the icing on the cake with a scintillating 77 yard gallop in the fourth quarter. The Giants coaching staff also gets some credit for realizing that swirling winds in Giants Stadium would make passing difficult, and decided to meet the Ravens head on.

Defensively, while the Giants had only a late sack, two interceptions by Aaron Ross proved huge. The first was before the end of the half, where Baltimore could have maybe squeezed themselves back into the game if they scored. Instead they went to the locker room down 20-3. The second pick came after a Baltimore score and a Giants’ punt. Ross returned it 45 yards for a TD to make it 27-10 and essentially end the game. It was good to see Ross, who has struggled somewhat this season, make plays and boost his confidence.

The thing I like about the Giants is they can beat you numerous ways. Running. Passing. Defensively. They don’t rely on a single player. Shut someone down, they have other players who step up. That’s the making of a well constructed football team..

Statement In Philly

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

This was a game where the Giants’ opponent had a chance to accomplish a few things. Defeat the top team not only in the division but also the conference while get themselves right back in the thick of things. Instead, the Giants came into Philadelphia and simply dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to win a game that probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was. The 36-31 final demonstrated how physical and talented the Giants’ offensive line is. That unit is really starting to get its kudos from all outlets now and their performance in front of a national audience surely accentuates this. Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw all powered and slashed their way through the Birds’ defense, racking up over 200 yard rushing for the third time this season.

Defensively, the Giants did not sack Donovan McNabb a single time, but the real key was limiting Brian Westbrook to zero big plays. Just 26 yard on 13 carries was about the best job the Giants have ever done against Westbrook. And there were no big screen or pass plays by number 36 either and that severely limits what the Eagles can do. Make no mistake, their offense revolves around Westbrook.

Tom Coughlin also deserves a lot of credit in this game, particularly for a challenge made in the third quarter that I thought initially was a complete waste. Trailing 24-20, Eli Manning was called for crossing the line of scrimmage on a third down pass to Kevin Boss which moved the Giants inside the five yard line. As soon as Manning released the ball, I thought he had gone too far, and a first look at the replay from NBC seemed to show nothing conclusive to over rule it in the Giants’ favor. But the play correctly was over-turned, allowing the Giants to keep the drive alive and score what would be the final lead change of the evening. NBC then went back to the play again, “adjusting” that red line marking the line of scrimmage to where it precisely should have been, and that clearly showed (however close) that Manning indeed was not completely over the line. I also later found out that officials do not have this computerized red line on their replays. The refs got it right, and great call by Coughlin and his guys upstairs.

And then we go to the other extreme, Andy Reid. Reid is perceived around the nation as an excellent head coach, but I have been begging to differ for years. While Philly fans get maybe a bum rap for their impatience, I think it is justified with Reid. See, fans in Philadelphia follow the Eagles closely, not from afar like the national audience. Reid, and his quarterback for that matter, continue to make critical mistakes at the most crucial times in big games. Trailing by five late, McNabb was clearly winded after a seven yard scramble and burned about 15 seconds off the clock on third and three, waiting for the two minute warning. If you wanted to make a case for the brain trust wanting the break to discuss the best possible play, that is quickly refuted by what they actually decided to do. Two consecutive running plays from a team that neither focuses on the run, doesn’t have enough foresight to keep a legit fullback on the team, and has been burned in two other games in short yardage. Someone defended Reid by saying that he couldn’t have forgotten how to coach. Of course he hasn’t. Reid’s coaching the exact same way he did some five years ago. The difference now is the quality of the division and conference has caught up with him and Reid has failed to adjust. The Eagles win this game five years ago. But it’s no longer 2003.

Howard Eskin’s Continued Slide

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Driving home the other night from work, I went through my normal progressions of drive-time radio. As always, my first choice is WFAN. Until more recently, I have started listening to Mike Missenelli (950-AM, ESPN affliate) as my “Philly talk alternative”. Mikey Miss understands sports, is fun to listen to, and presents his show in a hip way. If you haven’t already done so, try him out. It won’t be long before he takes over that time slot in the ratings war.

But of course, during a commercial, I decided to slide down the dial to 610-WIP and Howard Eskin. Eskin, whose anti-Phillie/pro-Eagle views are so transparent, continues to spiral downward in putting together a legitimate show. Once the self proclaimed “King” of sports radio in Philly, his overbearing, caustic style along with juvenile callers who he either berates or hangs up on has lost its appeal. You know his show is concerned because they are now actually trying to work in more interviews, rather than have listeners hear just Eskin for the full four hours.

Almost predictably, the name Eli Manning would come up with a big Giants/Eagles game on the horizon. And I have to admit, the stuff coming out of Eskin’s mouth was pure garbage. Much like we have seen and heard in this electoral year, people will sometimes say anything to defend their party.

Let’s get into some details, and I quote Eskin (mind you, this was only about 20 minutes of listening):

“There is no comparison between Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning.” Look, I’m not here to debate who is better. In my mind, they are both Top 10 QB’s. But when Eskin calls Manning “not terrible” and “not bad”, he is really showing his ignorance. If Eskin can’t compel himself to call Eli a good NFL quarterback (who incidentally is only going to get better now his fourth full year of starting), he is just fooling himself.

“Even Trent Dilfer has a Super Bowl ring.” Ummm, yes he does Howard. But what you fail to mention is Manning is the only QB in Super Bowl history to throw two fourth quarter TDs (which gave his team the lead both times). You also fail to mention that Manning is the only QB to take over the ball with two minutes left and his team needing a touchdown to win and…well you know the rest. And a few more words about Dilfer. He does have a ring, and I bet Eskin could sport that same ring if he had QB’d the Ravens back in 2000. That’s because the best offensive play that season for the Ravens was to hand the ball off. Let’s face it, Dilfer has a ring because of that great Raven’s defense, arguably the best ever for a single year. Big difference, buddy. Manning was right in the middle of everything during that playoff run.

“The Giants rely on their running game and make sure Manning doesn’t lose them the game”. Again, perfect example of being misinformed. Eskin insists the Giants run more than they pass. Anyone who reads this blog knows how I feel about this: THE GIANTS THROW THE BALL TOO MUCH. I actually want the Giants to run more with the considerable talent they have at that position. The Giants through eight games have run the ball 250 times and passed it 251. And when you consider the Giants have been involved in a few blowouts this year (meaning they are simply running to wind down the clock), you can see Eskin’s failure to recognize the facts. Furthermore, anyone who has closely followed the Giants since Manning took over would know that this coaching staff has thrown so much at him, it’s a wonder his head didn’t explode those first three years. But, admittedly, it has really paid off. Manning takes as much responsibility into a game as any QB in the league with regards to audible calls.

“The defense and special teams won the Green Bay playoff game”. Hello?? If you watched this game, there was no denying who the two best players on the field were: Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress. Upon further review, it was Manning who TWICE drove his team into FG range for his kicker to win the game in the fourth quarter. The kicker missed both times. I could argue quite convincingly that it was the special teams that nearly lost them the game. Eskin also mentioned that Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass in the game. What he fails to realize is that when Manning gets the Giants down inside the five yard line via the passing game, they don’t rely on trick pass plays to a tackle eligible. They power the ball in with the run. Finally, when you consider Manning’s play in the third coldest game in NFL history, outplaying Brett Favre, there is no doubt that he took center stage in the contest, with the help of a number one receiver (which Eskin to this day still thinks is not a championship requirement – wrong again).

“If David Tyree doesn’t make that catch, Manning doesn’t win the Super Bowl”. Here is a news flash, Howard. When you upset what would have been the greatest team in NFL history (had they won), your teammates have to make GREAT plays. That’s just the way it works. Manning made a great play to escape, and Tyree did the rest. Perhaps Eskin is unfamiliar with this concept?

I shouldn’t get so worked up, and in fact, it’s my own fault. So do yourself a favor. Try Mikey Miss at 950-AM. It’s apparent that the King’s reign is about to end.

Another Terrific First Half

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Considering the state of the Cowboys, both physically and mentally, the only way that team was going to beat the Giants on Sunday was if the Giants beat themselves. A punt return and interception return for a touchdown, or even a kickoff return. Sound familiar? Back in 2005, the Minnesota Vikings did just that, and it just happened to be one Brad Johnson who was the starting QB.

But on Sunday, Johnson was no match for the Giant defense. The defensive line overwhelmed the Cowboys and harassed both Johnson and his replacement backup Brooks Bollinger. Combined with the exceptional run game of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward slashing the Dallas’ defense and Eli Manning throwing for three TD’s, Dallas never really had a chance. For the fourth straight year, the Giants end the first half of the season with six wins or more. That’s damn impressive.

TC’s post game was almost predictable. The mantra was “we can play better”, and I think he is right. The Giants turned the ball over three times (all by Manning). The one interception, returned for a TD, was a lesson: don’t get lazy on your out passes. Manning has gotten away with a few of these this year, and it finally caught up with him. Next week’s opponent, the Eagles, will certainly be looking for this, especially former Pat Assante Samuel. And while the run blocking was outstanding, the pass blocking was probably as spotty as it has been all year. Dallas, still talented and extremely quick off the snap, applied the most pressure on Manning that he has seen all year (evident by the four sacks). Manning actually did a nice job of adjusting his feet in the pocket to avoid the rush, but it definitely had an affect on the downfield pass game. It’s quite clear to me that the Giants were attempting to go after a depleted Cowboys’ secondary, which made perfect sense. However, I think when the pressure is starting to get to your QB, there’s the time to start checking down. I think the short passing game, particularly to Steve Smith and to Ward out of the backfield, could be a real key to next week’s contest.