Archive for the ‘2009 Season’ Category

Post Super Bowl Notes

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I haven’t written for awhile, but now is as good a time as any to get back into the swing of things.

First, congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for their Super Bowl victory. Considering what that region has been through, you have to be happy for them. A championship is by no means a cure all, but it certainly will give that city something to proud of.

The Giants hired a new defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, who was the DC of the Buffalo Bills for the last four years. I don’t know much about his style, but I can say one thing. I happened to see a smidgen of game last year where he was serving as the interim head coach after Dick Jauron was fired. If I remember correctly, the Bills had just defended a trick play by Jacksonville near the end zone and Fewell exuded energy on the sideline, celebrating with his players. Win or lose, I want to see some passion from my coaches. I think Fewell will bring just that. A good hire.

I heard an interesting assessment from ESPN’s Sal Palentonio about an uncapped year in 2010. It appears we are headed for that with no CBA agreement on the horizon. With that, Palentonio believes that rather than seeing a spending frenzy, quite the opposite will happen. Owners will collude in their free agency spending to drive down the salary cap, saving more money and preparing for a possible lockout come 2011. Kinda makes sense. What do you do when you know troubled times are ahead? You cut back.

The other thing worth mentioning comes from something I heard on a Philadelphia sports station on my way to work. John Mara’s comments about how angered he was over this past season have been well documented. This particular morning show was in awe of Mara because, only two years removed from a Super Bowl victory, he was still demanding excellence. Of course they were comparing this to their own franchise, which typically likes to refer to itself as the “gold standard” of NFL teams despite not having any hardware. I think we are pretty fortunate to have such candid leadership in a owner.

The combine followed by free agency are just around the corner…

Simply Put: Embarrassing

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I had written a few weeks ago that it was up to Tom Coughlin to not let this team slide off the edge the way Jim Fassel had done on at least two separate occasions at the end of seasons. The Washington game appeared to give credence that Coughlin had succeeded. Then game Carolina and Minnesota.

Last week was the first time in three years I hadn’t posted after a game. Simply, the Giants embarrassed themselves, the organization, and their fans with a pathetic performance versus Carolina. With still a glimmer of playoff hope and a chance to close Giants Stadium in style, this team let an average football team walk all over them. And didn’t fight back.

After public apologies from Coughlin and Eli Manning, this team followed up that showing with an equally porous effort in the finale versus Minnesota. Actually porous isn’t even the right word. I might want to call it comical, but I wasn’t exactly laughing. The Giants looked helpless in trying to stop the Vikings. The offense, disinterested.

Bill Sheridan will be fired. The Giants can not allow him to return after his defense gave up more points than the 1980 Giants. That was my first year as a fan. I know how bad they were. This defense is worse. I’m not sure the players ever bought into what his system was, and yes, there were injuries but there is no excuse for giving up 40-plus points in five separate games. The fan base would be outraged, and the last thing the Giants need is chants of “Bill must go” in a new stadium next year. He’s gone.

Not immune to all is Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is an offensive coach but he is the head coach of this football team, and must take responsibility himself for the complete collapse in these last two games. I’m not advocating replacing TC by any means. But he’ll be in the third year of a four year contract next year. This team will have to rebound and play well the entire season. We know how the Giants treat coaches with one year left on their contract. They either extend them or get rid of them. 2007 aside, his teams have had a penchant for falling flat in the second half of seasons (2005, 2006, 2008). Some of that is injuries (see ’05 and ’06) and bad luck (Plax in ’08). And if you throw in this year after a 5-0 start you see the trend. Next year is big for TC.

Sometimes an organization needs a good ass kicking to re-evaluate itself and refocus. Things have been pretty good around here since 2007. The first order of business will be to get things sorted out with the coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, the team scored over 400 points and needs a little tweak on the OL and possibly another running back, IMO. From there, free agency and the draft need to focus getting a physical middle linebacker and a dynamic player to add to the mix on the DL, which has lost some of its luster. With the 15th pick in the draft, we’ll have a shot a premium player who can hopefully contribute instantly.

2010. New stadium. New commitment. This team will have something to prove next year.

Ambush in DC

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Monday Night was the first time in awhile that I sat down and without any trepidation watch the Giants. With this rollercoaster of a season, I just was ready to view it and not get emotionally attached. And wouldn’t you know it, the Giants played just a terrific football game that had me smiling at the end of the evening.

They jumped all over the Redskins, with an opening eight minute, Parcell-ian drive that featured a great mix of run and pass. Particularly of interest were those little “bubble screens” to Ahmad Bradshaw. I’ve been clamoring for the short passing game, particularly to the backs, and it has been better this season. But this was a perfect example of how you get your quarterback into the game with safe, easy, and effective tosses. It then sets up your downfield passing, and Eli Manning had another splendid game on his way to his best statistical season. Kudos to Kilbride.

Now I’m not going to salute Mr. Bill Sheridan. Yes the Giants looked more active on defense, but they were playing against a depleted offensive line. Which further extenuates the point I have been making all season. A pass rush cures all ills. Even with Corey Webster and Aaron Ross out, pressuring the QB is a defense’s best friend. Still, there were those occasions when the Giants were running around like Keystone cops on defense, allowing a few big plays on screens and misdirections.

Admittedly, I was quite surprised at the final 45-12 score. I figured the Giants to win a squeaker. While the Redskins didn’t play well, I think credit should go to the Giants for making them quit by taking complete control of the game early, and often.

The only thing that ruined this win, and put a big damper on the playoffs, was Dallas’ surprising upset of the Saints. But should it really be considered that much of a shocker? Consider, these same Redskins had the Saints dead to rights two weeks ago. The depleted Falcons also battled the Saints after that, only to lose a close game. New Orleans was simply due. The Cowboys are that rare team that can rush four, and play seven deep in coverage. That’s how you beat a team such as the Saints. I had predicted only one more win for the Pokes, but that win could springboard their season. They have the Skins next in Washington, and considering what happened Monday night it’s hard to make a case for them not being victorious. Dallas knows a win in Washington gives them a point blank shot at the NFC East come Week 17. That’s motivation.

Looks like the Giants will have to win out, and with Minnesota suddenly being threatened for the number two seed, that doesn’t seem probable. Let’s take care of Carolina first, then sit back and watch some Sunday Night Football.

Start The Sheridan Countdown

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Talk about disappointment. I was leery going into this one and my instincts proved to be correct. How in the world do you give up 45 points at home in your biggest game of the season? And what make it even more frustrating is the Giants’ offensive game plan was spot on. They ran, passed, and blocked probably as well as they have all year. But all for naught. Thirty eight points just flushed down the drain. The Giants were the best offensive team on the football field last night, rolling up over 500 yards and owning possession time by over 10 minutes. Eli Manning played just how you want your QB to in a big game.

I can’t believe I actually paid Bill Sheridan a compliment last week. This guy needs to go. I understand Coughlin can’t fire him in-season at this point, but I’ve seen about all I can take. Sure, make the case that 14 points were not the responsibility of the defense last night, but look at how and when they gave up points:

  • Opening drive: You should want your defense on the field at home to start a big game, with the crowd behind you. Eagles go right down the field for a 7-0 lead.
  • Right before the half: After the offense battles back to within seven, the Eagles score another TD in just over a minute to regain a 13 point lead.
  • Third quarter: After the Giant offense (again!) manages two scores to take their first lead of the night, it takes exactly two plays (a kickoff and subsequent bomb) for the Eagles to get the lead right back.
  • Fourth quarter: Pinned on their own nine yard line and with a lead of six, the Eagles go all the way down the field to put the game away. There is not one third down conversion needed in the entire drive.

Four situations, four failures. This defense should not be this bad. The Giants in no way can bring back Sheridan next year. I’ve heard multiple analysts talk about how confused the this defense looks. That’s directly attributal to the coordinator.

So, it’s back to scratching and clawing. Two more wins…maybe. But I see Dallas winning just one more to be honest, and the Giants have the tiebreaker. But in the big scheme of things, what’s the use? A third meeting with Philly or a date with Arizona, either of them on the road.

Brandon Jacobs: Scat Back

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I talked about ebb and flow in my last post and how I felt, even after a disastrous Thanksgiving night game, the Giants would find a way to beat the Cowboys. Probably more impressive than anything is the way they did it. Offense, defense, and special teams all played a big hand in a game that kept the season alive and sets up a revenge game versus the Eagles.

Let’s start with the defense. Give credit to the coaching staff for making lineup changes. Canty (for Robbins), Kiwi (for Osi), and Goff (for Blackburn) all started and by all accounts played well. Most interesting was second year linebacker Johnathan Goff, who looked active and not overwhelmed in his first start. If anything, we’ll find out what he can do against some good competition the rest of the way. One of the first axioms of having a good defense is stopping the run. The Giants completely shut down the Cowboys on Sunday, which was especially impressive considering how they looked versus Denver last week and Dallas in the first meeting. When you stop the run, the other team becomes one-dimensional. A turnover caused by Kiwi late in the first half setup a go ahead touchdown, one of the biggest plays of the game. Nice job by Bill Sheridan, being much more imaginative on defense. I loved the standup look by the defense before the snap, which confused the Cowboys’ protection. This unit certainly responded.

One of the first things I noticed about the offense was some throws by Eli Manning. I do believe that his foot his indeed bothering him. There were two specific plays. The first was a pass on a forced rollout to a open receiver which was under thrown. Eli has been very good at making that throw this year. The other was a long incompletion intended for Steve Smith which didn’t have the usual look when Manning play fakes and goes deep. What’s puzzling is on Ahmad Bradshaw’s big run in the fourth quarter, Manning was seen sprinting (yes, I rewound my DVR) down the field to block. I believe that running in a straight line is actually easier than dropping back, planting, and throwing. Something to watch going forward. This is the first time I really noticed it.

Now the offense wasn’t spectacular by any means, but it answered a 10-0 deficit in quarter two with a touchdown and then down 17-14 in the third, made the biggest play of the game (and maybe the season). Manning’s four yard flat pass to Brandon Jacobs turned into a 74 yard touchdown pass down the sideline. It was significant to me for two reasons. First, and obviously, it erased another Cowboy lead and gave the Giants the lead for good. Secondly, it told me something about the Cowboys. When you come into Giants Stadium with a chance to secure your first place position while also knocking the Giants out for all intent and purposes in regard to their season and give up a play like this, something is wrong. Brandon Jacobs is one of my favorite players and that play had me jumping off the couch, but you can’t, as a defense, allow that to happen.

Finally, Domenik Hixon put the game away with a punt return making in the trifecta of for the offense, defense, and special teams. Great team win. The victory was huge for obvious reasons, but more importantly the Giants now own the tiebreaker on Dallas come playoffs. If Dallas loses at home to San Diego next week, the wheels will be completely off. They started coming off on Sunday. And yes the Giants still have a chance at the division given this result, but I’ll defer any enthusiasm I have until after the Philly game. The team should certainly be motivated, after being embarrassed earlier this year. Win and it could be the start of something. Lose, and it’s back to clawing and scratching.

What The Hell’s Going On Out There?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The defense continues to be porous. Denver, that Kyle Orton led unit, was getting five yards a pop with each first down run it seemed, making second and third down very difficult to defend. I’m not going to spend much more time on this because it’s not very deserving, but one play summed up how this unit plays. On third down in the red zone after the Giants had pulled to within 16-6 and maybe, just maybe going to make a game of it, the Broncos got a wide open receiver over the middle for an uncontested score on third down. And they also were called for defensive holding. Nice job guys.

While the defense invents new ways to look bad, I can say at least they showed a smidgen of fight. You saw players pissed off and taking some pride. What can I say about that sleep walking Giant offense? They seemed to have no fire at all, and this was the unit expected to carry us through the end of the season. Eli Manning looked almost completely disinterested, and I have to admit my dissapointment in that. Where was that pissed off attitude he showed in New Orleans? Talk about playing with zero sense of urgency. Brandon Jacobs, sporting a leg injury and a short work week, should gave taken a back seat to Danny Ware (oh sorry, DJ Ware). Jacobs looked painfully slow, and the run blocking continues to be a problem. Ware’s run on third and one in the third quarter was unfortunately the most dynamic play of the evening. And an indication that Ware was the only back with the type of moves that was going to make something happen. Again, this is a coaching decision as Ware should have gotten more touches in the first half despite the fumble. And while I’ve complimented our receivers this year (they are really the only part of this entire team that has produced a positive this season), they are still at the stage where they are going to struggle against teams with veteran defensive backfields (see Philly and now Denver) who know how to play. There weren’t many open receivers to throw to.

I know it was a short week with travel to a visiting team that was desperate, but I expected this team to at least battle and make a game of it. The season now comes down to two games: Philly and Dallas back-to-back at home. I actually think Dallas is a good matchup for us, just due to the ebb and flow of how an NFL season can go. But after that, I only see two more wins. Right now bad karma is swirling at the Meadowlands. Eli Manning’s renewed foot problems, Bill Sheridan’s tenuous coaching position. I don’t think a playoff berth is in the cards, but I don’t want to see this team do an el-foldo like Jim Fassel’s teams were characteristic of. It’s up to the players and coaches to get through it.

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.

Flat And Out Of Sync

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Sunday night I was able to sit in section 224, Suite A and watch the game between the Giants and Cardinals. The suite was owned by the firm doing the electrical work on the new stadium, and it was a first class box.

Unfortunately, when you are in a suite there are many distractions, like the TV right above me playing the Angels/Yankees ALCS. Being an Angels’ fan, I had a hard time diverting my attention away from the television which also made it difficult to get a good feel for the football game. Simply too much stimulus.

What I was able to decipher from the football game was a team that really looks, all of sudden, out of sync on offense. Receivers appeared to be well covered, and at other times not ready for the ball when delivered their way. A lot of Manning’s passes were forced throws, and the offensive line appeared to be allowing pressure to come up the middle (incidentally not from the right side, where rookie William Beatty started and did well). The competition has become better the last two weeks, but I’d hardly call the Cardinals a high pressure defense. They looked like it on Sunday night. The other oddity was where did Brandon Jacbos disappear to? The combination of power and speed was the best we’ve seen from Jacobs this year, but the Giants seemed to get away from the run game (and Jacobs) for a portion of the game. The Giants insist that eight man fronts calls for throwing the football, but I think were still showing too much shotgun formation and not using play action nearly enough. Out of sync? Identity crisis? I’m not really sure how this happens in a span of two weeks.

Defensively, the Giants played pretty well. There was good pressure on Warner and the defensive backfield did a nice job on the talented Cardinal receivers, but unfortunately didn’t get much help from the offense or punter Jeff Feagles. Feagles probably had his worst game as a Giant, shanking punts after Giant three-and-outs, giving the Cards a short field on at least three different occasions. They finally cashed in.

An odd game to say the least. The Giants out-stat the Cards, including time of possession, and if Mario Manningham doesn’t drop a perfectly thrown touchdown pass in the fourth quarter which resulted in three instead of seven points, the game’s outcome may have been different. But four turnovers will always be the difference, including two on the final two drives in an attempt to tie the game.