Archive for the ‘2007 Season’ Category

Ernie Acorsi: Oracle

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

“There’s a championship in this room.” Ernie Acorsi to the Giants’ locker room before leaving for retirement.

Acorsi, who pulled the strings to have Eli Manning QB the New York Football Giants, must have felt he was on top of Mount Everest Sunday evening. And probably every Giants’ fan would have wanted to join him if there was enough room. Led by Manning, and that defense (oh that defense!!), the Giants became world champions and beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in a thriller of a game.

The defense set the tone for the entire game, harassing Tom Brady and proving that a QB is only as good as the pieces around him. Quarterbacks from around the league must have rejoiced in seeing Brady suffer through what most experience on Sunday’s in the NFL. But despite this, the Giants trailed 7-3 at the start of the fourth quarter and thoughts of wasting this effort were starting to enter my head. Were the Giants really going to lose a game where they hold NE under 20? That’s until Eli hit rookie Kevin Boss for 45 yards on their first fourth quarter possession which galvanized the offense. A clutch third down conversion to Steve Smith put the Giants inside the 10 yard line, and one play later Eli then ran a personal favorite of his own: the play-action, quick throw to a crossing WR over the middle for a 10-7 lead with just over 11 minutes left. David Tyree’s catch was just a preview of things to come.

That’s because the Patriots would go on what appeared to be a game winning drive that resulted 14-10 lead with just over two minutes to go. And that’s exactly when Eli Manning erased all doubts about what kind of QB he is. If there is anything Giant fans can agree on, it’s Manning is at his best when he runs the two minute offense. He didn’t disappoint. His Houdini escape from being sacked and his 32 yard completion will live in Giant lure forever. But, as most things this season, the Giants win things as a team. And Eli needed teammate David Tyree to hold up  his end of the bargain. Tyree’s one-handed, helmet grab (how else can I explain it?) was quite possibly the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. Four plays later, Eli and Plax worked their magic for a 14 yard touchdown pass with 34 ticks left on the clock. Simply beautiful.

Tyree proved to be an unlikely hero, and credit here goes to the coaching staff. They elected to have Tyree as the team’s fourth WR for the playoffs, rather than Sinorice Moss. I’ve been hard on the coaching staff this year for their approach to games offensively, but they really put it together over the last month, led by Tom Coughlin.

Finally, Eli Manning. There wasn’t a player I could be more happy for. The one thing I found out in the two weeks leading to this game was Eli Manning is the most popular player in the Giants’ locker room, and the players really want to play for him. For the last three years, he’s been portrayed as a player in the shadows of more high profile, extravagant personalities. Make no mistake now, this is Eli Manning’s football team.

Super Bowl XLII Preview

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

The Giants have been presented with a more difficult challenge each week during this amazing playoff run. On Sunday, they face their most difficult task: knock off the 18-0 Patriots and create their own legend. They know what they are up against, having played NE as tough as anyone in a Week 17 loss that gave the Pats their undefeated regular season. The Giants get to avenge that loss, knock off the mighty Pats, and make history all in one shot.

Are they capable? I believe so, but a few things have to happen. First, the Giants need do to play at a very high level. Some have said a perfect game. I won’t go that far, but they have to be clicking on all cylinders and also get the Pats to play similar to the way they did against San Diego, which frankly is nothing extraordinary. That starts with rushing the football effectively. I believe the Giants will have to out-rush New England, thus keeping the ball away from Brady and company for a greater period of time and also allow Eli to work off play-action resulting in big plays. To get in a scoring duel with them would be unwise.

Defensively, I’d put Aaron Ross almost exclusively on Wes Welker. He is athletic enough to slow down Welker and also cover those WR screens they run so effectively. Then I’d put Madison with over-the-top help on Moss. Make Stallworth, the tight ends, and Maroney beat you. The Giants will also have to give different looks, combining that four man rush with various blitz schemes. Mix it up. You won’t confuse Brady, he is too good for that. But make him work for it. They did a great job of that through three quarters last game until breaking down in the final stanza.

Finally, win the turnover battle. That doesn’t mean the Giants can’t turn the ball over. But if they turn it over once, make the Pats turn it over twice. Get to tipped balls. Make a big special teams play.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to gamble. The Patriots are the best team in football this year. But the best team doesn’t always win. If the Giants get into a situation where they have fourth and one inside the NE 35 yard line, go for it. Don’t settle for field goals.  New England is just an average team between the twenty’s, but very good inside the twenty. Finish off what you start.

Next Stop: AZ

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Simply one of the best championship games I’ve have seen, and it equates in so many ways to the 1991 championship game win over San Fran. Facing a legendary QB (Montana versus Favre). Last play is a game winning FG. No one really giving the visiting Giants a chance. There is just so much to talk about so let’s get right to it.

The Giants are in the Super Bowl because they basically beat Green Bay in every phase of the game. Let’s start with the weather. Everyone focused on temperature all week, but if you took someone who knew nothing about either team, they would have told you the Giants were from the Frozen Tundra and not the Pack. Anyone see Favre on the sideline? He looked whipped because of the cold. Eli?? That guy never even blinked, and his performance on the field was outstanding. A glance at the stats doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. Almost every pass he threw was catchable and accurate, and he probably lost about 60-75 passing yards on drops. In a wind chill of  minus 25, Eli Manning played superb and for the third straight week, outplayed his counter part. Brandon Jacobs set the tone with his absolute crushing hit on the first carry of the game, while Plax gave Al Harris a lesson in humility. Any whispers about Burress not being a big game player were put to rest. He’s done it all this season.

Defensively, the Giants put he clamps on the Green Bay offense. I knew they’d shut down Ryan Grant. More formidable was the Green Bay passing game, but here’s where the cold actually helped the Giants. And Steve Spagnuolo again called a tremendous game. Green Bay finished an awful 1-10 on third down conversions. This shows you how far the Giants have come. Their major weakness entering the 2007 season was getting off the field on third down. Again, Corey Webster (again!) made the big play, this time a pick in OT to put the Giants in position to win it. This guy, destined to be cut next training camp, has played himself back on the team. Maybe the kid got a wakeup with his midseason benching.

Finally, how about Lawrence Tynes. This guy has taken abuse this season from radio callers and bloggers alike, but it’s somewhat a mystery to me. Outside the 40 this season, he’s perfect (8-8). Overall, he is 23-27 (85%) which is pretty damn good. And when you consider the problems we had early on with the snaps from center, I think he’s done about as well as we could hope for, especially in the Meadowlands. So flashback to Sunday night. He’s already 2-2 and has a chance to put the Giants in front with six minutes and change left with a 37 yarder. Misses it. Again gets the chance to win it with four seconds left…very high snap, Feagles gets it down, clunks it wayyyy left. At that point, for the first time really in the game, I though the Giants were doomed. And you had to really feel for Tynes. He’s kicking a rock hard ball in the most awful conditions, nevermind it’s a pressure packed spot. But to his credit, and we heard this from Coughlin, he was ready to roll when the Giants were faced with 4th and 5 from the GB 30 yard line in OT.

And what does Tynes do? Nails it. First kick ever over 40 yards to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Giants win, Giants win.

And Tynes is now 9-9 over 40.

The Comeback Kid

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

No, I am not talking about Bill Clinton or wife Hillary. I’m talking Corey Webster. Corey Webster???  It’s interesting that he gets top billing in this week’s entry (especially after making it into last week’s as well) but it exemplifies the Giants this past weekend. All guts. Do people realize the Giants played that second half with their first three starting CB’s out of the game? The Giants did their best “rope-a-dope” in the first half, limiting the Cowboys to just 14 points which had to be considered a moral victory. Then Spagnuolo did a tremendous of job dialing up different looks and schemes to frustrate Tony Romo in that final quarter. Clearly, that is the most rattled we’ve seen the Dallas QB who definitely was “flustered” as Fox announcer Joe Buck pointed out.  Osi and Strahan somehow got stronger as the game went on. The Giant defense, always a target of the NY media, finally came through in the biggest of spots, not once, but twice.

The offense didn’t have the ball a whole lot, but made big plays when it had to. Scoring on the first drive to take a 7-0 lead was huge. Scoring at the end of the half to tie the game at 14 was quite possibly the turning point of the game. Sure Dallas would regain the lead by kicking a FG on their opening second half possession, but that score before the end of the half put some doubt into the Cowboys. As fate would have it, a huge third down drop by Patrick “The Mouth” Crayton in the third quarter would help lead to the go ahead score, courtesy of an RW McQuarters’ clutch punt return to put the team within easy striking distance. Then the defense did their part.

Eli Manning was again efficient and didn’t turn the ball over. That drive before the end of the first half featured big time throws. Has he arrived? At the very least, he has proven that you can win big games with Eli Manning at QB. Football more than any sport is a team game, and one guy can’t do it alone. Manning is finally getting help from all areas, including (finally!) the coaching staff these past three games.

Finally, it’s on to Green Bay with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Green Bay is feeling pretty good right now, and here’s hoping they come in a bit too cocky. We already know it is going to be cold and a strong running game will be in order. I am more concerned with Bret Favre then the suddenly potent Packer rushing attack. I am confident they will keep Ryan Grant in check. It’s just a matter of the Giants covering the Packers’ wideouts (especially in their five wide formation) and forcing Favre into bad throws. It’s a huge task, especially since this will be their third straight road playoff game. Can they do it? I wouldn’t put it past them.

Going Back to Dallas, Boys!!!!

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Remember LT’s great quote after beating the Bears in 1990: “Going back to San Francisco, boys,” he shouted on the winning sideline. I think everyone wanted another shot at Dallas and we get it this Sunday, 4:30 EST. They are going there because the Giants proved to be just a flat out better team than Tampa in every single phase of the game. After withstanding the emotional rush that Tampa had in the first quarter, the Giants simply imposed their will on the inferior Bucs. Eli played about as smart and efficient game as you’ll see from a QB. He was completely in control and hit several key third down passes. The 91 yard, eight minute drive to seal the game was a thing of beauty. The defense harassed Jeff Garcia all day and covered his receivers with equal tenacity. Even the much maligned Corey Webster, who I have taken shots at on this blog, came up big with a interception, special teams fumble recovery, and two passes defended.  A potential weak spot turned into a strength on this day.

As terrific a win it was, I almost got the same enjoyment out of watching Eli’s post game press conference. It was pretty funny hearing him speak on Rondi Barber, whom he victimized on that final TD pass. Eli took the high road (good for him) but still got a chuckle from the press about his comment of “good game” to Rondi afterwards. I don’t have Sirius radio but their Barber Shop program would be a fun listen this week. I’m sure they’ll have some good excuses.

So what do the Giants need to do to beat Dallas? It’s a big challange. The real question is what state of mind are the Cowboys in? They sorta limped down the stretch and their marquee player, TO, might not be 100%. They’ve looked particularly ordinary without Owens and his health will be a major factor. If he is only, say 75%, I give the Giants a good chance to win. And let’s not forget that Wade Phillips as well as Romo have their own playoff “monkey” to contend with.

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.