Archive for December, 2008

Preseason Game #5

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

That’s what it felt like, with some of our marquee guys sitting down at halftime. I thought Coughlin played it right. Next week is the bye, get everyone who is healthy some playing time and start resting up. It was nice to see Derrick Ward rewarded with his 1,000 yard season, a pretty terrific milestone. Jacobs and Ward become only the fifth tandem in NFL history to do it.

As far as the game, only two things caught my eye which worries me. First, the defense continues with the alarming trend of giving up big plays. It dates back to the second Eagles’ game. Westbrook two big plays. Rookie RB in Dallas breaking off clinching run at end of game. Another long TD run by Carolina. And this week Adrian Peterson going the distance. Overall, the defense hasn’t played that badly during this streak, but allowing these big hits is a no-no come playoff time. The second item is the starting position of the opposition. Jon Carney’s kicks have become shorter as the weather has gotten colder, and compounding matters is the play of the coverage team. Almost every time, the opposing offense is taking over around their own 40 yard line. Again, come playoff time, that’s a recipe for disaster. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Tynes on the active roster for kickoffs, especially with cold weather most likely in East Rutherford.

Mojo Back?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I certainly think the Giants did, racking up over 300 yards rushing in just a fantastic and entertaining game. Both teams were playing for the top seed and did not disappoint a national audience. From a personal standpoint, it’s one of the more memorable games I’ve attended.

Derrick Ward was an absolute monster, accumulating over 200 yards just by himself on only 15 carries. It was one of the best rushing performances I have seen by a Giant, ranking right up there with Tiki’s December 2005 performance versus Kansas City (and others I’m forgetting at the moment). The thing that made Ward’s efforts amazing was, and I saw this after watching a replay of the game, that he simply wasn’t on the field that much. Jacobs had more carries (21) but Ward made the absolute best of his playing time. Throw in the fact that four of those 15 carries were in the OT, and you can see where I am coming from.

While the running game carried the offense, there was some improvement in the passing game from the previous two weeks. Protection was better, although not completely clean (three sacks, some pressures). The receivers and quarterback appeared to be adjusting to life without Burress and that will need to continue. TC also deserves some praise in this game. First, he stuck with the running game even with the team down 21-10 at one point in the second quarter. Then, he made a great decision not to go for two when the Giants pulled to 21-19. Had they failed on that attempt, the Giants probably don’t win this game, plain and simple. The fact is, never go for two until you absolutely have to. It’s still a basic mistake made by NFL head coaches. And the two point conversion play to tie it at 28 was a beaut. As always, I do have some criticism. First, running Madison Hedgecock on third and one when you Brandon Jacobs is never, I repeat never, a good idea. And I also was befuddled when the first play of OT resulted in a Ward seven yard run, followed by two incompletions. Why throw? You’re absolutely controlling the line of scrimmage and also moving in the direction least advantageous to passing. At least the Giants got it right the next series. The ball never went in the air.

Now to the defense. This unit is tired, and the loss of Osi is finally starting to show. Not having that rotational option is putting more and more pressure on Tuck and Kiwi. That’s why getting the bye was so important. Some of these guys need rest, and hopefully, it will help galvanize this team for a playoff run. Early on, Carolina moved at will and at one point looked as if they were going to run the Giants right out of the building. But a couple big mid-field defensive stands in the third quarter allowed the Giants to get back into it. And Jeff Feagles’ punt (with the help of Terrell Thomas) which pinned Carolina at their own one late in the fourth was possibly the biggest play in the game.

Shake Yourself, Giants

Friday, December 19th, 2008

First let’s evaluate the good news. A home win versus Carolina next Sunday night clinches the whole enchilada as far as home field advantage through the playoffs. That’s where the good news ends.

For a second straight week, the Giants’ offense has looked terrible. Last week I blamed it partially on wind and a desperate Eagles team. Sunday night against an equally desperate team in the Cowboys, there were two eye popping weaknesses. The first, and unexpected, was the play of the offensive line which surrendered eight sacks (their most since Game 2 of 2006). Manning had very little time to setup and throw, and when he did, weakness number two appeared. Giant receivers are getting little to no separation in their pass patterns. This indeed is a recipe for disaster. Throw in the fact the running game for a third straight week was ineffective and the warning lights are starting to flash. To Dallas’ credit, they have played very well defensively since coming off their bye week and are still one of the fastest teams off the snap. They were in the last game against the Giants and were again on Sunday night.

Defensively for the Giants, there was improvement as the Cowboys were held to 14 points for most of the game. However, it was quite disappointing that they let Dallas convert a first-and-twenty situation on their final possession, not allowing the offense to get the ball back for a potential game-winning drive. And the last TD run they gave up was plain and simple a lack of pride, per Carl Banks.

The worrisome thing now is with two tough opponents still on the horizon, the Giants have not locked up any sort of bye week. Could these final 10 games against opponents with winning records (the longest such stretch in NFL history) finally be wearing the Giants down? This team needs a win in these last two games to grab one of the byes (or a Minnesota loss to Atlanta). One thing is for certain: don’t expect the Giants to go anywhere if they enter the post season on a losing streak. They sucked it up last year in Buffalo, and face similar circumstances in this year’s version of Week 16.

Webster Inked To Extension

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

The Giants made an important move that will play an vitale role in the construction of their roster this offseason. Corey Webster, who has established himself as one of the better corners in the league over the last year, was signed to a seven year extension. Webster’s meteoric rise has helped make the Giants’ secondary a team strength. Webster may not have been a Pro Bowl selection this year, but he certainly has performed like one. In fact, Webster is rarely seen if you watch a game because teams don’t throw his way.

I think the Giants played this exactly right. Webster was fantastic during last year’s run, but I think they wanted to see him continue his strong play into this year and not be a one-hit-wonder, so to speak. Webster didn’t dissapoint and Jerry Reese rightfully decided not to give Webster a chance to hit the open market where he could have easily been lost.

This signing now allows Reese and company to turn their attention to the other important free agents this offseason: namely Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and James Butler. More on this in the offseason.

Clunker Theory

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I don’t subscribe to the theory that the Giants were due for a clunker, but it sure looked like one on Sunday. This has been a very tough stretch of games dating back to the Pittsburgh game, but playing at home with a chance to clinch the division (plus the all important bye) should have inspired a gut check performance even while the Giants didn’t bring their “A” game. It never happened. Despite having emotion during the very early part of the game, the Giants settled into the look of a team a team that was tired both physically and mentally.

The key to the game was the Eagles controlling the ball for most of the second half, so much in fact, that the Giants had the ball for only three possessions (and that’s counting their garbage time drive in the waning minutes). While the offense was clearly not clicking, you still need to get your offense the ball more than three times in a half. The Eagles consistently got themselves into manageable third down situations and converted an amazing 12 of 18. That is something that this defense has been very good at preventing over the last two seasons. It was missing yesterday. While the first half was basically played to a draw, the Giants struggled to contain the Eagles in the second half, who methodically moved the ball by consistently running and throwing short passes.

That leads me directly into my final point. How much does the lack of a pass catching threat in the backfield hurt the Giants on day like last Sunday? Westbrook is the perfect weapon, turning swing passes and short passes into bigger gains on a windy day. Inpsection of McNabb’s throws on Sunday reveals that only one pass completion traveled over 10 yards (and predictably that was with the wind). Other than Derrick Ward, the Giants don’t really have that, nor choose to use that option. They throw primarily to their WRs and to the TE. They have the power running game (even yesterday, they averaged nearly five yards a carry), but there comes a time when you will have to throw the ball and yesterday the Giants really struggled in the conditions. The lack of a viable screen game also hurts (you’ve heard that before from me). And let’s face it, not having a player the stature of Burress on this kind of weather day really doesn’t help. Let’s hope home field advantage doesn’t turn into a disadvantage in the playoffs from what we call The Hawk.

How about another theory, although by definition this can’t be considered scientific. But it’s rather interesting. Upon retrieving my tickets for Sunday’s game, whose picture appeared on the ticket? Plaxico Burress of course, the center of attention all week. And while getting gas to venture up the Turnpike, how much did I pay for gas? $17.17. Really weird, huh?

Giants Move Onward Without Plax

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The Giants had a host of issues going against them on Sunday. First, there was the whole Plaxico issue that surfaced on Saturday morning. The Redskins in almost a must win situation. Hostile setting. The Sean Taylor tribute. Fred Robbins, their key DT, not playing against Clinton Portis. Lousy weather. Despite all that, the Giants convincingly stuffed Washington 23-7.

With the run game slowed due to some good Redskins defense and a slick turf, Eli Manning continued to shine. Shaking off the bad weather, he threw for over 200 yards in the first half and finished with his first 300 yard game of the year. The passing game didn’t seem to miss a beat without Burress for a second straight week and it really appeared that the Giants were toying with the Skins at times. The only possible criticism could be the Giants’ bogging down in the redzone and settling for three pointers. Interestingly, Manning’s three best games this year have been without Burress. Coincidence or not? Defensively, I continue to be impressed with our secondary. Webster and Ross are really doing a great job and rookie Terrell Thomas is getting more and more time. All three safeties continue to be active as well. These last two weeks I’ve just had the feeling that every pass play was going to be contested.

So, with Plax suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs, it will be interesting to see how this offense performs. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am very high on Domink Hixon. But can the trio of Hix, Toomer, and Smith (with Moss sprinkled in) give the Giants enough to be a championship team from an offensive standpoint? The Giants don’t get to the Super Bowl without Plax last year, as he teamed with Eli to dominate the Packers. Plax was pretty quiet in the other playoff games, but we know just his presence opens up so many other opportunities in the passing game. So what will be the difference? Eli Manning. Manning has paid his dues in this complicated offense and now has a complete grasp of it and what other teams are doing. I remember Phil Simms saying it one time – that a QB just “sees” it one day and it finally all makes sense. Eli’s there, and his play and decision making are going to be key moving forward.