Archive for November, 2009

The Luck Of The Flip

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

That’s basically what it came down to, because had Atlanta won that coin flip they were going to deliver the Giants a certain death blow. I’ll mention a few things about what was really an entertaining game if you like offense, because both defenses stunk out the joint. Eli Manning and his receiver played terrific and were the difference in the game Sunday. Manning was the best player on the field. Last week, Mike Francessa on WFAN posed a question, asking “how do you define these Giants?” His point: you simply can’t. It used to be power football, with emphasis on running the ball and pounding the QB. It ain’t there this season. And while I agreed with his assessment, you do have to admit the quarterback and his receivers have really done a nice job this year and have a bright future together. But it’s a shame that your offense puts up 31 points and for a second straight week watches as the defense allows a visiting teams to waltz down the field for game winning or game tying score (it would have been game winning again yesterday if not for the coin flip). Playoff teams don’t do that.

I had wanted to write about the woes on defense during the bye week, but didn’t have a chance. While many were optimistic about the defense after the San Diego game, I still had my doubts. The conventional thinking seemed to be the Giants held the Chargers to 14 points for most of the day, and then just happen to stumble in the final two minutes. I can’t accept that, here’s why. First, the Chargers can’t run the ball. Watch LaDanian Tomlinson. He labors, even when he makes a good run these days. Secondly, the interior of the Chargers offensive line was banged up (and we did get some push). Thirdly, and most importantly, we held the ball for over 40 minutes on offense. Forty minutes! Of course the other team isn’t going to score much. But they still put 21 on the board. A good defense, in a game like that with those variables going for you, allows a 10 spot. Nothing more.

So where exactly is the problem? It’s really an old sports proverb. Being strong up the middle and the Giants right now are like a house of cards up the middle. In baseball, you need a catcher, 2B/SS, and center fielder. In hockey, it’s your center and goalie. Football is the same deal. And it starts on the line. The Giants are built on pressure, and whoever is playing DT is not getting that push needed. So what happens? The DE’s play suffer because the QB can now step up in the pocket, away from the outside rush. The middle linebacker now has to worry about shedding a blocker instead of making the tackle (and Antonio Pierce can’t do that anymore). Finally, the safety, aptly named because it’s the last line of defense, has to be able to make a play and neither Aaron Rouse nor CC Brown is talented enough. And when the middle suffers, so does the rest of the defense.

On Sunday, there was a bit of improvement for a half. They got a turnover, seemed to be altering their blitz packages to force the offense to check down rather than take a sack. But in the second half, the Falcons torched the Giants for three TD’s and a FG. It could have easily been four TD’s if not for a drop.

The win keeps the Giants in the hunt. Last week’s bye yielded better results than they had in the previous four weeks, with Philly, Dallas, and Atlanta bumbling themselves. But why does this game feel a lot like the 2003 game when the Giants beat the Jets in OT to keep things alive, only to ultimately delay the inevitable. I hope I’m wrong.

Holding, Number 76 Offense…

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I hate to ever focus on one play, especially one involving a player as good as Chris Snee, but his holding call was the single instance in this game that gift wrapped a victory to the Chargers. Snee, the Giants’ best offensive lineman, can’t be flagged for a penalty when you’re first and goal from the six with a chance to end the game. The penalty set in motion a series of decisions and plays that left the Giants in a state of shock followed by limbo. Is this team ready to fold it in for the season, or going to suck it up and show what they are made of?

The most questionable decision of the day was to go conservative after that penalty and not throw into the end zone, instead calling a flanker screen and two running plays. Play for the field goal, go up by six, and make a touchdown beat you. Generally, I’m all for running the ball and draining the clock or making the opposition use their timeouts. And when you consider how tough the defense looked on the previous two possessions, I can understand why Coughlin had confidence in the unit. After all, it was the defense’s efforts that got the ball back to the offense within striking distance to take the lead, followed by the Terrell Thomas pick that put the ball just six yards from putting the game on ice. Lawrence Tynes’ kickoff thru the end zone made that decision look even better. But San Diego went 80 yard in eight plays to give the Giants one of their more bitter defeats in recent history.

The defense has been the team’s weakness during this three game losing streak, so was it bad judgment for Coughlin to trust them one last time? More so, the game was right there in the hands of your franchise QB. That’s why you pay him, to make big plays when needed. While running the ball on third down did accomplish running time off the clock, a run also certainly guarantees your kicking a field goal. Playing not to lose? Call it what you want, I didn’t have a problem with the call while it happened. But in retrospect I have to admit the Giants, who I have claimed on this blog to be too aggressive and not work the clock properly, probably messed this one up but not sticking to their normal tendencies. The call there was throw into the endzone. Of course, there’s no guarantee you get the touchdown, but it’s about putting your team in a position to win.

Eli Manning played a fine game. Despite very spotty protection, he made good throws throughout the game and didn’t turn it over. He also showed really good mobility in the pocket, avoiding the Charger pass rush to make plays. That’s what probably makes the last decision by the Giants even harder to accept. Your QB is playing well, let him finish it off.

I called this game a must win. I still think it was. A good team doesn’t lose four straight games, including two at home to West Coast teams. Especially two teams I consider soft. Nope. The Giants are most likely headed for 8-8 or 9-7. Any silver lining? It looks like Philly/Dallas and Atlanta are the only wildcard contenders, and the Eagles or the Cowboys have to win the division. I don’t see any other team contending for a wildcard. Unless you want to include the Giants. Right now, I can’t.

Hello Third Place

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

If ever a team looked to be begging for the bye week, it’s the Giants. Three straight losses to conference opponents have left this team looking very, very troubled. How embarrassing is it to come off two straight losses and have your doors blown off by a hated rival in a game for first place? First and foremost, the defense looks slow and completely lost. They’ve lost their swagger in a span of three weeks. Versus the Eagles, 28 points were scored on possessions of four plays or less. That’s right, four plays or less. That’s beyond completely unacceptable. Sure the offense isn’t pulling its weight, but you need to play solid defense in this league or you aren’t going to win. Manning thew a lazy interception early, but the defense had a chance to keep it at only 10-0. They failed miserably, allowing the Eagles to convert a touchdown after one had just been nullified due to a penalty. Then the real stinger occured when, after actually making it a game at 16-7, they allowed the Eagles to score on just one play after a long kickoff return before the half. Again, you need to buckle down in that spot and hold the offense to a field goal.

They have some major players out on every layer of the defense in Canty/Boley/Ross, and hopefully when these three do return it will inject some energy into a defense that just looks lifeless right now. But on top of all that, we could be looking at a philosophical problem. I’d not sold on Bill Sheridan as the DC. Sheridan’s monotone actions on the sideline pale in comparison to Steve Spagnolio’s energy and enthusiasm. Beyond that, Sheridan and his subordinates appear unable to make in-game adjustments. The team looked completely unprepared and out of position on the long touchdown run in the fourth quarter. And I’m afraid the players, who have become accustomed to success, aren’t buying whatever schemes the coach’s are throwing out there. I’m no defender of Osi Umenyoria, but was his altercation with Sheridan in the preseason a tip off? Compounding the problem is the cornerstone of this defense, the line, is greatly underachieving. Particularly at fault are the DT’s. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins aren’t getting the pocket pressure or run stoppage that they have in the past. Both are coming off knee surgery, so one can only hope the can return to prior performance levels soon. With Canty out, you’d figure Rocky Bernard would be getting reps and making an impact. He’s been AWOL all year. Right now, that’s looking like a bad signing. With the linebackers looking pedestrian and the secondary having to lean on CC Brown as the last line of defense, things are very dismal. The real question is, after the Super Bowl run of 2007 and playing at such an exceptionally high level in 2008, has this squad hit the wall?

Back to the offense. This team is on pace again to have two 1,000 yard rushers. But it’s hardly the same feel as last year. The Giants aren’t running the ball effectively, particularly Brandon Jacobs. Is it really eight men in the box? The passing offense looked overmatched as far as receivers being able to gain separation versus the Eagles, putting added pressure on Manning. And please tell me why the Giants didn’t have a greater sense of urgency in the third quarter as far as breaking the huddle and hurrying the offense? Finally, attempting a 47-yard FG when down by 23 in the fourth quarter? I really have to question the decision making here by Coughlin.

Next week’s game versus the Chargers is about as close to a must win as you are going to see at this point of a season. The Giants can no way afford to go into the bye week at 5-4 and on a four-game losing streak. They’re home, with a West Coast team traveling East. It’s up the coaching staff to get this team re-focused and not let the season slip away. Because right now it is slipping.