Oct 301996
 
New York Giants 35 – Detroit Lions 7

by David B.

Overview: Bravo! The Giants finally put a convincing win on the board this year against one of the League’s scariest offenses. On offense the Giants picked up where they left off in the second half of the Skins game. Reeves deserves credit for opening up the offense and Nolan deserves credit for completely derailing the Detroit offense. This win showed that the Giants could shut down DET’s elite WRs without Phillippi Sparks, and Barry Sanders without Keith Hamilton. The defense not only created turnovers and a blocked punt, they put 2 TD’s on the board with INT returns.

Offense: Strong first half. Helped by the defense, the offense turned turnovers into points. THE MOST ENJOYABLE moment of this game for me came immediately after the Giants intercepted a Mitchell pass. Instead of Reeves’ typical momentum-killing Hampton plunge into the pile, he called a great play, and the Giants executed it PERFECTLY. Fake handoff to Hampton, Brown bootlegged (beautifully) rolled out a fired a PERFECT — A TRULY PERFECT, 23-yard throw to Lewis on a slant for a TD. Hit him in full stride, and TL didn’t drop it. After a turnover, this is what’s called “going for the jugular,” and the Giants almost never do it. The second half of the game was less impressive offensively. Reeves didn’t go completely into a shell, but he did try to eat the clock, and the Giants got into more 3rd-and-longs than is good for them.

Quarterback: Is he Brett Favre yet? No. But WHEN HE HAS PROTECTION AND A DECENT GAME PLAN he’s nowhere near as bad as most of the Brown-bashers claim. This week, Reeves let Brown BEGIN the game throwing in non-obvious situations and Brown responded with another very strong game. Once more, his numbers would appear better had he not been victimized by several drops from Calloway and Lewis on VERY WELL thrown balls. Brownie was really on the money with his throws this day, less than 5 were poor throws. The INT was a case where the WR didn’t fight for the ball. Brown’s accuracy seems improved, he’s hitting WR’s in their stride — very apparent on the slant TD to Lewis. Brown throws the slant VERY well — this needs to become a bread-and-butter play for the Giants. Brown also connected on a deep ball with Calloway — it wasn’t a perfect throw, but it was closer than we’ve seen. In my last “Letter to the Editor,” I said that Brown needs to throw the ball 25-35 times a game to get into a rhythm. Guess what? He threw 27 times, including some early and often work that got him going– DUH! Since the Jets game, Brown’s showed improvement and confidence. I particularly liked that he lit into Tommy Lewis after another key, bonehead-drop of a 3rd-and-long pass that hit him in the hands. As they were walking off the field Brown gave him a earful. He showed some fire.

Running Backs: Many RBs have had big days against Detroit who are not particularly strong against the run. Hampton was Hampton. 3 yards and a cloud of dust until the 4th Quarter where he typically gets stronger as the Giants tried to chew the clock. Wheatley’s ejection caused the Giants to use Hampton exclusively in the 2nd half, and it’s clear that Hampton is now primarily a short-yardage RB. It’s purely a lack of speed. Charles Way is CLEARLY faster and more explosive than Hampton. The bulk of the carries need to go to Wheatley. Wheatley had an interesting game. He ran the ball well when given the opportunity, and it looked as if he was going to get a lot of carries. Unfortunately for him and those of us who want to see him get more work, Wheatley got ejected from the game for trying to kick a player in a scuffle. Stupid. Let’s hope Reeve’s doesn’t hold it against him for long. Wheatley seems to be on the verge of that breakout game we’re expecting. Also, Wheatley threw a perfect HB option TD pass to Calloway like Meggett used to against the Redskins. Way is still a secret to most around the league, but he is not only a devastating blocker, he’s becoming a good offensive weapon. Another very strong game by the FB. He also made a nice open-field tackle on Glyn Milburn on a punt return. He seems very athletic, and once he’s got a head of steam, he’s not easy to take down.

Wide Receivers: Another hot and cold day for this group. The DET secondary is pretty bad, and the Giants WRs did a nice job shredding them. The were getting good separation and beating their men well. The problem continues to be untimely dropped passes of perfectly thrown balls. Lewis is the biggest offender. Physically, he’s got everything needed to be a star, but mentally, he’s just not there yet. I don’t think it’s his hands, I think it’s lack of concentration, discipline. Despite the drops, he had another big day by Giant WR standards. Calloway too, had a big day by Giant WR standards, but he too had trouble holding the ball at times. Dawsey was invisible if he played. Toomer was inactive with a sprained knee.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Hooray, the Giants didn’t throw to Howard Cross! They let him block. They threw to Pierce on one very nice (I think it was a seam pass but it’s been so long since I’ve seen one, I don’t remember what they look like).

Offensive Line: Poor Rob Zatechka. The remove him form the offense and the Giants respond with 56 points in 2 games! The line played pretty well. Brown was sacked twice, but as I’ve said before, that’s like a “day off” for him. He was hit a few times too, but generally, he wasn’t under siege. Lance Smith made some nice blocks on sweeps as did Stone. Greg Bishop cannot handle speed rushes. This is going to continue to be a problem. Gragg was beat on a speed rush too. Williams hurt his non-snap hand, but returned. The Giant rushed for 100 yard. Hampton averaged 2.8 YPC and Wheatley had 3.6.

Defense: WOW! This group was without Sparks and Hamilton, and Widmer was playing in a lot of pain. Great plan by Nolan. He had 5 or more DBs in for much of the game. Everything was well-disguised. They gang-tackled Sanders and held him to 47 yards on 16 carries. They picked off Mitchell 3 times prompting idiot Fontes to pull him. The Giants then proceeded to pick off the bumbling Majkowski 2 more times. The Giants got 2 sacks, but basically a mere four-man rush was in the DET QBs face ALL day without much blitzing.

Defensive Line: They rotated the DL all game. Strahan, Harris, Holsey, Agnew, Bratzke and Jones. Strahan has his usually good day. Holsey’s looking more an more like a player. Bratzke played a bit at LE, Jones showed some pressure. For some reason, this group put a ton of pressure on the DET QBs possibly because the coverage was great in the secondary. Agnew had a pick for a TD.

Linebackers: The Giants played with 2 or less LBs for most of the game. Widmer’s getting better every game and had a strong day keeping Sanders in check. Widmer also had an INT. Armstead almost had a 6th INT, and he would have been gone for a TD. Corey Miller didn’t seem to be on the field much, but he occasionally lined up at RDE and put decent pressure on Majkowski.

Defensive Backs: Ahhh. Enjoy this guys: The Giants have a really good, young secondary. Without their leader Sparks, this group stepped it up BIG. Wooten had a huge day, blocking a punt an making a highlight film INT where he leaped high into the air and pulled the ball down with one hand. Maurice Douglass had a pick for a TD. Beamon had a pick. Ellsworth and Hamilton played very well. Sehorn and Randolph played great shutting down the hi-scoring DET WRs. THEY ALL helped run support to keep Sanders in check. Marvelous effort and game all around by the Giants secondary

Special Teams: Problems still here. Daluiso continues to struggle. His kick-offs in the Silverdome reached the endzone, but only one was a TB. He hits chip shot FGs, but he’s absolutely worthless beyond 40 and in clutch kick situations. It’s time to take a serious look at Olindo Mare. His leg is just as strong, he’s probably attempted and made more FGs, and he cannot be worse that Daluiso in the clutch. Horan had a hot and cold day again. The coverage teams did a good job except for on the opening KR coverage where they let Milburn get a 65 yard return. Lewis filled in for Toomer on PR and returned 2 for 9 yards. Lewis and Wheatley returned 3 kickoffs for 62 yards. Not too impressive.

Coaching: Today they get an “A”. Hats off to Reeves. He surprised the hell out of me by opening up the offense, mixing up the plays nicely, and letting Brown throw 27 times. He also called the HB option for a TD which is a good play once in a while. You have to wonder, however, if he’ll continue to do things this way. He doesn’t have a strong track record of sticking with what works. I worried about how they’d play in the second half with a big lead — would they try and sit on it? They were more conservative, but not to the point of disaster. It didn’t hurt that the Giants D continued to wreak havoc, create turnovers and points well into the 2nd half, because from the end of the 1st half, there was a 10-15 minute stretch where not much was going right on the Giants offense — it seemed to be slowly regressing into 3rd-and-longs, and 3-and-outs. Nolan’s defensive scheme was brilliant, but it was also executed extremely well. Kind of reminded me of the Bellichik plane against Buffalo in SB 25.

Oct 251996
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, October 27, 1996: For the most part, over the last few years, the Giants have developed an annoying tendency to find a way to lose close games. The only game in which they were blown out this year was the game in Dallas. The Giants should have won the games against the Bills and Eagles, and they had their chance in both the games against the Redskins. Phil Simms once said that the difference between being 12-4 and 8-8 is winning the close games — the Giants are just not doing this under Reeves. The Giants’ adequate running game, solid defense, and inept passing offense has kept games close going into the 4th quarter, but the Giants seem to come up with new ways to lose each week late in the game. Against a talented, but poorly coached Lions’ team, the Giants’ offense, defense, special teams, and COACHING STAFF (i.e., Dan Reeves) will all have to be at their very best in order to steal a win in Detroit. At 2-5 (0-4 in the division), it would also be wise to start taking a long look at some of the younger guys who haven’t gotten a chance to play yet this year.

Giants on Offense: Down 28-0 at the half, Dan Reeves allowed Dave Brown to throw early and often and the results were encouraging. However, once again, we come back to that familiar refrain — can Dave do it week-in and week-out for four quarters with the game on the line? There wasn’t much pressure on Dave or the Giants’ offense being down 28-0; how will they do when the score is 0-0? In the second half against the Redskins, we saw the Giants use slants, crossing patterns, screens, and passes to the fullback off the bootleg — these plays should become the bread-and-butter of the Giants’ offense. We don’t care if the Giants run them over and over again; what the Giants need is to get these plays down pat and execute them well every time they run them. Take a page out of Lombardi’s coaching book — repetition makes perfect! Thomas Lewis has had two monster games since being drafted by the Giants in 1994 — the game against the Eagles last year and the game against the Redskins last week. It would be nice not to have to wait another season for the next. Lewis is an athletic talent who can burn defenses deep, but he absolutely must improve his consistency. Calloway is sure and steady, but we would really like to see Amani Toomer start receiving some serious playing time again. Lewis and Toomer are the future; Calloway should become the top 3rd down receiver. After an impressive pre-season, Lawrence Dawsey has proven to be a flop. Howard Cross, a guard impersonating a TE, is regressing as a pass receiver; it is time to start taking a long look at Brian Saxton, who can block reasonably well and has very good hands. H-Back Aaron Pierce hasn’t been a factor in the offense since the game against the Vikings and the Giants haven’t used Charles Way a lot catching the ball since the game against the Bills. The New York press has been criticizing Hampton all week, implying that he is starting to lose it, but we have seen no difference in his style of play — he lost his quickness a long time ago after the 1992 season. The problem is that teams are continuing to overplay the run and the inexperienced line isn’t helping matters either. Regardless, Ty Wheatley is the future and we would actually like him to receive the bulk of the playing time for the remainder of the year (which we all know won’t happen). Hampton, in our opinion, should be the 3rd down back and short-yardage runner. Wheatley should be the starter. Slowly but surely, the right side of the line is improving, but the Giants made a major switch by inserting Lance Smith in the place of Rob Zatechka last week. Greg Bishop is still trying to prove to everyone that he’s a legitimate NFL left tackle; we don’t think Brian Williams is playing as well as he is capable of. Detroit has an average defense. They have some talent up front with the likes of Robert Porcher, Henry Thomas, Luther Ellis, and Tracy Scroggins. At LB, the Giants will face a familiar face in the form of “Pepper” Johnson — he’s sure to be fired up for this game. The weakness of the Lions’ defense is their secondary. We’ve said it many times, we’ll say it again: use the pass to set up the run! Let’s see what Brown can do unleashed with the game tied 0-0.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense has played fairly well this year under difficult circumstances. As everyone knows, the offense hasn’t given these guys much of a break this year. Against Detroit, it gets no easier. WR Herman Moore, WR Bret Perriman, WR Johnnie Morton, and RB Barry Sanders represent the corps of a VERY talented offensive unit that can put a lot of points up on the scoreboard. We would keep Sparks on Moore (Moore’s one of the very best in the league), Randolph on Perriman (similar size and quickness), and Sehorn on Morton (fellow teammates at USC). Sparks has had an outstanding year so far, but Moore can be as good as Jerry Rice and this game will be a real challenge for him. TE David Sloan is another weapon — the Giants’ LB’s and Jesse Campbell must keep an eye on him. What the Giants really need is to start causing some turnovers — how about a couple of interceptions guys? While the Lions’ receivers are dangerous, Sanders is the key. If the Giants don’t focus ALL their efforts on containing him, they will lose the game. Containing Sanders is tough, because the Lions force teams to remove a LB and spread out their defense (because of the extra WR). Obviously Armstead will remain in the game, but it will be interesting to see who the Giants take out at LB — Miller or Widmer. We assume Tito Wooten, like he did in San Francisco last year, will play OLB and the Giants will remove Miller. Because of the lack of a FB in the Lions’ offense, this is the week we would bring the blitz as well (both from the LB’s and the DB’s). With a LB being removed, a lot of pressure will be placed on the front four, and with Keith Hamilton out, their job will become even more difficult. In particular, Robert Harris and Ray Agnew MUST step up big this week and EVERYONE must tackle, tackle, tackle. A missed tackle against Sanders or Moore will be six points for the Lions and the Giants have a few guys who don’t wrap up well (Sehorn, Ellsworth, Wooten, and Randolph). Stuff the run, get to the passer — that formula holds true week-in and week-out, no matter who you are playing. The tough job is actually doing it.

Special Teams: Another challenge for the coverage teams this week in the form of Glyn Milburn (who the Giants also have to watch on offense on 3rd down). Brad Daluiso has flopped big-time since the 1994 season. One more missed kick under 45 yards and we’d cut him; even his kick-offs have been mediocre (for him) over the past two seasons. It’s about time for the Giants to win a game because of their special teams. How about a block from Conrad Hamilton?

Outlook: Don’t ask us why, but we have a feeling the Giants will pull this one out this week. Giants 23 – Lions 20.

Oct 231996
 
Washington Redskins 31 – New York Giants 21

Overview: It was certainly a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Redskins dominated the Giants, building a 28-0 halftime lead. Defensively, while the Giants kept Terry Allen largely in check, QB Gus Frerotte, WR Henry Ellard, and WR Leslie Sheppard (both receiving and running a reverse) killed the Giants. The Skins were able to convert 5-out-of-7 third down attempts in the first half. Offensively, the Giants were able to pick up decent yardage on the ground, but an ineffective passing attack stymied the Giants’ offense. The Giants were 0-for-6 on their third down conversion attempts in the first half. 5-out-of-7, 0-for-6 — that’s all you need to know right there. In the second half, roles reversed as the Giants were both able to move the ball and largely control the Redskins’ offense. Unfortunately, the huge lead given to the Redskins in the first half was too much to overcome.

Quarterback: Once again, it was an up-and-down game for Dave. In the first half, he continued a disheartening trend of paying too much attention to the rush rather than his receivers down the field. On the Giants’ first third down conversion attempt, Brown was under pressure and sacked, yet he had a wide-open Chris Calloway running a crossing route. If Dave is going to survive, let alone flourish, in this league, he must set up, make his read, stand tough in the pocket, and throw the football. He is quickly developing a reputation around the league as a guy you can rattle (just like Tommy Maddox). Dave threw two interceptions in the first half (and for the game), but the first was off the receiver’s hands and the second was a Hail Mary at the end of the half. In the second half of the game, it was a different Dave Brown. He looked more confident and let it rip. The Giants’ first drive in the second half was extremely impressive as Brown hit Lewis (4 catches for 73 yards on the drive) repeatedly for big yardage, ending in a 31-yard TD strike. On the 91-yard drive, Brown threw two bad passes (one behind Lewis on a slant and another an overthrow to Hampton), but the rest were right on the mark. Not coincidentally, Brown was given good time in the pocket. Same story on the second drive, good protection and Brown remained hot, leading the Giants on a 56-yard drive that culminated in a 13 yard TD pass to Calloway. Brown continued to shine on the fourth drive, a 80-yard march that ended in a Ty Wheatley TD run. Brown was sharp throwing the ball inside and outside and looked like a totally different quarterback. He just missed Calloway for another TD late in the game on a deep pass. Hopefully, this game (like the game against the Vikings) will represent another building block for Brown.

Wide Receivers: Brown was sacked on his second third down conversion attempt in the first quarter (after the Ellsworth interception) mainly because none of his receivers (Calloway, Dawsey, and Lewis) could get open. While many can fault the receivers or the quarterback, we still do not like the design of the pass routes — they just don’t seem to complement each other. This makes these routes (and receivers) very easy to defend. Dave Brown’s interception that was returned for a TD by Darrell Green was totally Lewis’ fault — the ball was thrown low and right at Lewis, but Lewis let the ball bounce off his hands and into Green’s. This play took away from what otherwise would have been a great game for Lewis who caught 9 passes for 125 yards. He was lucky, however, that the refs blew the call and said he was down on a clear fumble in the second half. Chris Calloway also had a good game (9 catches for 108 yards). We particularly like the crossing route he ran on his TD catch. Where the heck are Lawrence Dawsey and Amani Toomer? Dawsey received quite a bit of playing time, but made no plays. Toomer hasn’t been seen much in the regular offense since early in the season.

Running Backs: Hampton had another typical Rodney Hampton game — nothing spectacular, just solid, hard-nose running that picks up roughly four yards per carry. Ty Wheatley was very impressive on his first carry, a 19-yard pick-up where he showed good quickness and balance. We loved the misdirection on Charles Way’s 19-yard catch and run. The Giants had the RB’s and line all running left, while Brown bootlegged right and threw to Way — now that’s what we have been calling for! For the most part, Way blocked well, but he did commit an obvious (and dumb) holding penalty on Harvey in the 4th quarter. Regardless, the Giants’ running game was impressive throughout the contest as both Hampton and Wheatley picked up good yardage.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Howard Cross dropped two passes that were tipped, but VERY catchable (one would have been for a TD). If he doesn’t turn it around soon, we would take a long look at Brian Saxton. Cross did make catches of 14 yards and 19 yards in the 4th quarter. Aaron Pierce was not a factor in the ball game.

Offensive Line: The big news here was the fact that Reeves had replaced left guard Rob Zatechka with veteran Lance Smith. We are not crazy about this move. While Smith is a fine player and would definitely be starting on almost ANY contending team, the Giants are a rebuilding club that had made an early decision to play the young guys on the line and suffer the consequences in order to build for the future. Smith is not the future; Zatechka is and Zatechka needs the work. In the first half, the run blocking was fairly solid, but there were still problems with the pass blocking. Smith, in particular, did not look rusty at all in leading a number of outside sweeps. DL Rich Owens picked up two sacks early, beating Ron Stone on one play and Brian Williams on another. Greg Bishop was also called for a false start penalty and was challenged by Ken Harvey a number of times. Brian Williams and Aaron Pierce had problems blocking Sean Gilbert and Ken Harvey respectively on a 3rd-and-one running play and the Giants were forced to punt. In the second quarter, on another third down play, Stone and Gragg had problems with a stunt run by Owens and Harvey, and Brown was hit as he threw (the ball fell incomplete). Later, Gragg and Stone let Owens beat both of them as Owens forced Brown to get rid of the ball; combined Gragg and Stone are almost 700 pounds — a guy who weighs around 260 pounds should not beat both of them. The pass protection did settle down in the second half and Brown was given more time to throw, especially on the first two drives in the second half. On the third drive, the protection broke down and the drive was halted — the Giants were not helped on this drive by Gragg’s 5-yard false start penalty either. Throughout the second half, the run blocking remained solid as all five starters did a nice job driving the Skins off the line of scrimmage and gave Hampton and Wheatley room to run.

Defensive Line: Aside from a few occasions, this group was solid against the run. Strahan and Harris were successfully occupied by Redskin blockers on a couple of occasions, but for the most part, the front line did its job. Chad Bratzke was embarrassed on Sheppard’s big reverse when (1) he did not keep contain on his side, and (2) he was blocked by the opposing quarterback — however, most of the weakside defenders were badly burned on this play, not just Bratzke. Really, Allen only had one big run in the game — a 22-yard pick-up in the 3rd quarter as Bratzke, Armstead, and Agnew (in particular) were blown off the ball on the play. Against the pass, however, this group did not exert enough pressure and Gus Frerotte had too much time to throw in obvious passing situations. Cedric Jones almost did sack Frerotte in the endzone for a safety in the second quarter, but had problems rushing the passer in general. He just doesn’t look strong enough yet to disengage from blocks. The Skins and Terry Allen were able to pick up a huge first down late in the game when Allen turned the corner against Jones’ side. He also missed a tackle on a screen pass to the fullback earlier in the game.

Linebackers: Corey Widmer continues to show improvement. On a number of plays, he was successfully engaged by a Redskins’ blocker, but for the most part, he held his own. He made a very nice play in the first quarter where he shot through the line of scrimmage, beat the block of the fullback, and tackled Terry Allen from behind for a loss. Corey Miller was also strong at the point-of-attack. Marcus Buckley and Jessie Armstead had a quiet game.

Defensive Backs: Percy Ellsworth picked off his first pass as a Giant, making the type of play that Vencie Glenn did last year. On the play, Ellsworth read the QB’s eyes AND made a good jump on the ball. Percy was one-tackle away from scoring on the play. However, on the down side, Ellsworth looks like a poor tackler. He missed two easy tackles in the first half; poor tackling was one of the reasons he was not drafted. On the Skins’ first drive, Ellard picked up a big first down when Sparks’ blitzed on the play, could not get to the QB quickly enough, and Wooten was left to cover Ellard one-on-one — a nightmare for ANY safety. Wooten was fairly solid the rest of the way and made a number of big hits. Jesse Campbell was strong once again in run support; the illegal contact penalty called on him during the Skins’ last drive was costly, but it was also a VERY bad call. Sehorn had problems covering Ellard. On the Skins’ third scoring drive, Sehorn was beaten back-to-back by Ellard, first to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-10, and then he caught a bomb from Frerotte that set up Allen’s third TD run. Sehorn was also burned badly by Ellard in the 4th quarter on what would have been a long TD bomb but the QB missed the wide open receiver. Phillippi Sparks, as usual, played at an All-Pro level — we can’t remember a receiver catching a ball on him all game.

Special Teams: Brad Daluiso was very short on his first kick-off. His 41-yard miss late in the game was inexcusable!!! We would seriously consider waiving Daluiso and bringing Olindo Mare off the practice squad. Mike Horan did a poor job when he attempted a coffin corner kick in the first quarter, but came back with a monster punt later in the second quarter that was downed inside the ten. Tyrone Wheatley had a really nice kick-return of 35 yards late in the second quarter, but Toomer bobbled the a kick and was tackled at the ten (no excuse for that). The punt and kick coverage units did a great job throughout the game and kept Brian Mitchell in check.

Coaching: Dan Reeves has no business running the offense. He’s a good motivator and disciplinarian, but his offensive game plans are archaic. We already have mentioned the pass route designs. Another example is running play-action during the two-minute drill — this isn’t going to fool anyone, but Reeves continues to call it. We thought Nolan did a good job with the defense once again. However, with the Skins borderline in field goal range on their last drive, we did not like his passive call that allowed the RB to pick up six additional yards underneath. We would have liked to see a blitz on the play — the Giants needed a sack there, yet Nolan had them only rush three.

Oct 181996
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, October 20, 1996: At 2-4 (0-3 in the division and 1-3 at home), the Giants are most likely out of the playoff hunt. What they need to concentrate on now is to get their offense together, while keeping their defense and special teams playing well. No doubt about it — unless the offense begins to show signs of life, this season will be considered a total failure. Most fans expected the Giants to play poorly this year, but we all expected to see signs of improvement. Throw in Dan Reeves schizophrenic play-calling, and if anything, the offense has regressed (if that’s possible). Take away Amani Toomer’s two punt returns for TD’s this season, and the Giants’ offense has averaged NINE points a game this year!!! That’s not going to get it done in any league.

Giants on Offense: Who’s at fault? Who’s to blame? The coach? The quarterback? The offensive line? The receivers? We all want to blame one guy or one position — that would make things simple. However, as much of a cliche as it does sound, it is most likely a combination of breakdowns in all of these areas which are snowballing into what is truly a dreadful offensive football team. There is talent on offense. Brian Williams is one of the league’s best centers, Charles Way is one of the league’s best fullbacks, Rodney Hampton is solid and dependable, Ty Wheatley proved in college and in the preseason that he is explosive, Howard Cross is the best blocking tight end in the game, Aaron Pierce has the tools to be a very good H-Back, and the receiving corps has more talent and depth than it has had in years. For some reason, the pieces are just not coming together. Much of the responsibility must lie with Dave Brown. He needs to stop making excuses for the offense’s shortcomings and stop worrying about the rush. Drop back, make the read, and fire the football. Damn the press, fans, and the head coach. Just play. As Bill Parcells used to say, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just get it done. The Redskins and OLB Marvcus Patton in particular are going to try to get into Dave’s head once again in this game. If you remember, Patton initiated a verbal war with Dave Brown earlier this year in a game where many thought Brown lost his composure. The strength of the Skins’ team is their defense. They have two fine defensive tackles in Sean Gilbert and Marc Boutte, a solid and underrated group of linebackers (Patton, Rod Stephens, and Ken Harvey), and good cornerbacks (Darrell Green and Tom Carter). Up front, the Giants’ offensive line is struggling, as we had predicted all along. It may behoove Dan Reeves, Offensive Coordinator George Henshaw, and Offensive Line Coach Pete Mangurian to keep it simple for a while. Stop running so many complicated blocking patterns (traps, sweeps, etc.) and keep the blocking straight-up, man-to-man — just like the Giants used to do — at least until this unit settles down a little. Zatechka will need help against Gilbert from Williams. That means Ron Stone needs to be able to handle Boutte all by himself. Stone hasn’t been horrible this year, but he hasn’t dominated in the running game like we expected him to — again, we have a feeling that the schemes are causing the players to think rather than react more than they should. Also, Bishop and Gragg have to do a better job on the corners. Bishop in particular is going to have to face a tough pass rusher in Ken Harvey. Of course, all of this won’t matter unless Reeves and Henshaw come out of the Ice Age and open up the offense. We hate to repeat ourselves, but pass on first down! What have they got to lose? The game? Well, they’re going to lose anyway if they don’t open it up. The Giants have developed an annoying tendency over the last couple of years of keeping the game close, then losing it in the 4th quarter. Why does it seem like almost every team in the league can get a couple of TD’s lead every now and then, yet we are always involved in a nail-biter (or getting blown out if we play the Cowboys in Dallas)? If the pressure is too great on Brown, run slants, screens, quick outs, and so forth. What the Giants really need is to get their running game going. Hampton or Wheatley have to start breaking off longer runs. After a good start in the opener, the Giants are not using Way enough anymore and the pass to the tight end has completely disappeared from the Giants’ playbook.

Giants on Defense: We feel bad for these guys. Everyone expected them to be the weak link on the team this year, yet they turned out be the strength and the Giants are still losing. The front seven has played far better than we thought they would this year, but the Redskins are the type of “power” running team that can give the Giants trouble (as they did the last time they met). The key will be DT Robert Harris. We didn’t think he played very well against the Skins a few weeks ago and the Skins will run right at him once again. Moreover, when Harris is being double-teamed, Corey Miller (or Marcus Buckley) and Corey Widmer must be quick to fill the hole. The Giants also need Strahan to dominate Ed Simmons in the passing and rushing game — no easy feat. The weak link of the Skins’ line is the left tackle position. Chad Bratzke needs to clamp down on the weakside run and get a good pass rush too. The Skins’ talented WR’s could also be a problem. Henry Ellard is a gamer and though he has been a disappointment thus far this year, Michael Westbrook is extremely dangerous. The guy who has really come on this year has been Leslie Sheppard, both catching the ball and running reverses. Watch out for the reverse guys! And while we’re at it, watch out for the tight end! For some reason, the Skins regularly burn the Giants with passes to the tight end. Corey Miller and Jesse Campbell shouldn’t let Jamie Asher or Scott Galbraith beat them. What the Giants don’t need is INDIVIDUAL players trying to force something outside the scheme of things in order to try to force something. The frustration level on the defense is mounting, but this route will only cause six points quick for the Skins. That being said, it would be nice to see the Giants pick off a couple of passes or recover a fumble or two every now and then. As good as the Skins receiving weapons are, the Giants need to focus on shutting down the run first and foremost. Gus Frerotte is improving, but if Terry Allen gets going, forget about it.

Special Teams: We always worry about the Skins’ special teams when the Giants face them. Kick/punt returner Brian Mitchell is the best in the business and extremely dangerous — the coverage units are going to have to be at their very best. The Giants also need to keep an eye on a fake punt or field goal (they’ve already been burned once by the Skins on a fake field goal this year). Lastly, we’ve seen some improvement in the Giants’ own return game in recent weeks. The Giants may need another big play from Toomer on a punt or Wheatley on a kick-return — hopefully, the Giants won’t waste it this time.

Outlook: Normally, we would go with the Giants here, given the Redskins’ long winning streak and the fact that the Giants are desperate for a win. However, with the Redskins’ confidence being so high now and the Giants’ offense being so dreadful, we just can’t see the Giants keeping pace with the Skins. Another heartbreaker…Redskins 16 – Giants 13.

Oct 161996
 
Philadelphia Eagles 19 – New York Giants 10

Overview: There’s just something about the Eagles that bring out the worst in the New York Giants. How many times over the years has an Eagles’ defensive touchdown decided the game in their favor? It doesn’t matter if it’s Pisarcik, Simms, or Brown back there, the Eagles just seem to have the Giants’ number. Once again, the Giants’ defense played well enough to win the game and once again the offense let the rest of the team down. The defense didn’t allow a TD again this week. With the Giants now 2-4, 0-3 in the division, and 1-3 at home, Giant fans can formally forget about any playoff possibilities.

Giants on Offense: This week, we decided to concentrate on the Giants’ offense as a unit, rather than breakdown the various components because it is very obvious to all that the Giants’ offense is plainly out-of-sync. And one person (i.e., Dave Brown) cannot be blamed…the whole unit is at fault. If Dave Brown is anything, he is consistently inconsistent. While much of the blame for the offensive impotence must lie with him, we also level much of that responsibility on the basic design of the offense. As we have been saying for the last couple of years, there just doesn’t seem to be much rhythm to the Giants’ offense. As we watched the Eagles on offense, we saw them using one play to set up another, we saw receivers clearing out areas for other receivers, we saw misdirection, we saw offensive design creating mismatches (for example on one play Corey Widmer was forced to cover WR Mark Seay), and we saw plays being called that best suited their offensive talent. We see very little of this from Head Coach Dan Reeves and Offensive Coordinator George Henshaw. Let’s look at a few of the Giants’ possessions in the first half as an example. On their third possession in the first half, with the Eagles giving the Giants outstanding field position near mid-field, the Giants sent Hampton off right tackle for a 3 yard gain. On second down, Brown was under pressure, got nervous, pulled the down and picked up a couple of yards on a scramble. On third down, Dave’s pass was slightly off to Pierce for what should have been a first down (Pierce still should have caught the pass) and the Giants had to punt. Their next possession…Brown hits a wide open Calloway for 21 yards on a nice play action pass on first down…Wheatley picks up 2 yards on first down…Brown throws to Way for a yard on second down (a poorly designed play that had Way running parallel to the line)…Brown was sacked on third down (Stone and Gragg did not pick up an Eagles’ stunt and Wheatley didn’t pick up the other blitzer). The next possession…Wheatley loses 2 yards on a left side sweep…a Brown pass to a well-covered Calloway falls incomplete…on 3rd down, Brown has all the time in the world to throw, but starts dancing around too much and none of his receivers get open or comes back to help him out. The final possession in the first half…a nice 15-yard play-action pass to Lewis is dropped…Brown hits Lewis for seven yards on a slant (a play the Giants didn’t use enough)…on 3rd-and-two, Wheatley picks up 10 yards on a nice run, but we thought he could have broken it for big yardage if cut outside…with about a minute left, Brown picks up 5 yards on a scramble…Brown is then sacked on second down (for some reason Reeves continues to insist on calling play-action in obvious passing situations such as the 2-minute drill and on this play it cost them — Wheatley couldn’t pick up the blitz again and Bishop couldn’t handle Mamula…on 3rd down, Brown badly overthrew a wide-open Lewis for what should have been a 55-yard TD pass. See what we mean? When the QB does his job, the line breaks down or the WR drops the ball, and when the WR gets open and the line does its job, the QB misses the open man! NO RHYTHM! The second half…Hampton picks up five…Hampton up the middle for no gain…Brown sacked on 3rd down. Brown is no Phil Simms — he feels the rush far too much and takes his eyes off his receivers; plus on this play, the routes the receivers ran didn’t help to create a mismatch or opening for another receiver — everyone was covered — bad game design once again. Next possession…Hampton for no gain…Brown passes to a well-covered Lewis (should have been pass interference)…Brown sacked on 3rd down (too many rushers — not enough blockers). The Eagles showed absolutely no respect for the Giants’ passing game. Why should they? Next possession…a Brown pass to Way is tipped and Way drops it…a Brown throw to Calloway is almost picked off…Brown is sacked on 3rd down (Williams blew a block — he didn’t have a good game). At this point in the contest, the Giants have four pass completions and have been sacked six times! Amateurish! Next possession…the Giants’ “best” of the game…Hampton for seven…Hampton for four…Hampton for no gain…Brown hits Lewis over the middle for 11, but Calloway is called for a bullsh*t holding call…Charles Way is confused on the next play and the Giants have to take a timeout…Brown passes to Way for 6…Brown hits Calloway with a beautiful slant pass for 13 and a first down on 3rd-and-3….Hampton for 3 yards…Hampton for no gain…Scott Gragg is called for a false start…Brown throws deep, but the pass is out-of-bounds. The last possession…two minutes left…Giants down by two points…Bishop is beaten by Mamula, Brown is sacked, and coughs up the ball which is picked up by William “the Giant-Killer” Thomas for a TD…GAME OVER. It was very questionable whether the ball was a fumble or not, but let’s get serious, there was no way the offense was going to be able to get the ball into Daluiso’s range…they couldn’t move the ball all day on the Eagles. Plus, it was stupid play by Brown to try to throw the ball away there. In the final analysis, the offense only scored 3 points. Brown was 7-of-16 for 71 yards and was sacked seven times before the Eagles went to their prevent. In other words, he was sacked as many times as he completed a pass. PATHETIC!!!

Defensive Line: Not great, but a solid effort was put forth. DT Robert Harris had problems with double-team run blocking, but the guys up front played well enough to control the Eagle running game until their last field goal scoring drive. The Eagles picked up decent yardage on a few plays against the strongside in the first half, but for the most part, Strahan, Miller, and Widmer were up to the task. When the Eagles ran to the left, DE Chad Bratzke and DT Keith Hamilton did a fine job of jamming up the run. Bratzke and Strahan did share a 3rd down sack in the first half (on a play where we thought the refs should have called a fumble by Detmer but didn’t). In fact, Strahan gave RT Richard Cooper fits all day in pass protection. Hamilton was also impressive on a couple of inside pass rushes where he nailed Detmer just as he released the ball. Cedric Jones made his first big play as a Giant when he did a great job sniffing out a screen and dropping the receiver for a 7-yard loss — nothing wrong with his vision on that play!

Linebackers: Corey Widmer is getting better. On some plays, he still guesses wrong and takes himself out of the action. But more and more, he does a nice job of filling the hole and making the tackle or giving the runner no where to go. He made a great play on a right-side sweep in the first half and in the second half on 3rd-and-1, he nailed the runner for no gain on a left-side toss. Surprisingly, Marcus Buckley played quite a bit for Corey Miller and didn’t do too badly. He had a nice hit on pass coverage on one play and knocked the ball away. Miller looked decent playing the run for the most part; he did a great job stuffing the run on the play before Widmer’s 3rd-and-one halt. Armstead also played the run fairly well. Though, Watters pick up over a hundred yards, the Eagles’ running game didn’t hurt the Giants running the ball until their final drive.

Defensive Backs: Once again, the defensive backs had a strong game, led by Phillippi Sparks. Sparks did miss an easy sack on a blitz on 3rd down though. Jason Sehorn continues to play solidly as well and looked good again on a blitz where he nailed the QB as he threw the ball. We thought FS Percy Ellsworth made a mistake by not nailing WR Irving Friar as he made his spectacular one-handed reception that set up the Eagles’ first field goal. Friar was fully extended and vulnerable, and instead of delivering a knock out blow, Ellsworth pulled up. However, on the very next play, Percy made an excellent play knocking a ball away from the WR on a difficult route to cover (a crossing pattern). Thomas Randolph still isn’t playing as well as we know he can play. He’s still playing far too much off the receiver.

Special Teams: Amani Toomer scored his second punt return TD of the season, but the play never should have counted as reserve MLB Coleman Rudolph got away with a blatant clip that set up the play in the first place. Rudolph latter made a big mistake by holding on a Giants’ punt — on a play where Conrad Hamilton made a super open field tackle on the punt returner. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the guy is a bum and doesn’t belong on an NFL roster. Horan punted well and Daluiso nailed his only field goal opportunity. Reserve OLB Scott Gaylon made a nice tackle on a kick-off and Jesse Campbell made a great hit on a punt return.

Coaching: As poor and uncoordinated as we feel the offensive strategy and tactics are, we feel the exact opposite about the effort put forth by the defensive coaches. Mike Nolan and his assistants have been masterful this year. No, the Giants don’t have the best talent in the world on defense, but Nolan and his coaches put the players they have in the best position to win each and every game. Now, only if Reeves and Henshaw could follow their lead.

Oct 021996
 
New York Giants 15 – Minnesota Vikings 10

by Tim B. in NOVA

Summary: The Giants looked like a different football team against the Vikes. The offensive had a good mix of passes and runs starting in the first drive and continuing throughout the game. The opening drive really set the tone. It was a good 7/8 minute drive in which Brown went 5 for 5 hitting two nice slants in the drive (1 to Dawsey, 1 to Lewis for a first down). Unfortunately, the Vikes made two excellent defensive plays down in the red zone and then sacked Brown on third down forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal. Keith Elias made an excellent cut block on a blitz as the third down back in this drive. Most interesting at this point was the announcers comment that Brown would be audiblizing throughout the game. He was clearly giving the team instructions on every play from behind center. Brown looked in complete control. The most disheartening aspect of the game in the first half was the offensive lines inability to deal with any type of blitz. Brown took the brunt of the punishment. Defensively the Giants looked good all game with much of the credit going to the DBs. The DBs get the credit because the front seven was not getting any sort of pressure on Moon, particularly in the first half. Moon had three times the space and time that the Giants were giving Brown. Fortunately the DBs were leaving very little room to throw. Against the run, the Giants were solid with most of the running yards coming off of three or four big plays were tackling broke down. Even with the one breakdown on specials, the Giants special teams played very well. It was a good team effort all around.

Quarterback: This was the best Dave Brown has looked all year. Throughout the entire game he looked in complete control. His execution on slants was perfect with the ball coming in low and on-target every time. He made two bad throws, one where Lewis had his man beat and Brown over threw him and the missed TD pass to Cross (of course there’s no guarantee that Howard would have caught the ball if it hit him in the numbers). I would give Dave a grade of A-/B+.

Receivers: The Giant receivers did their best job all year of running their routes. Lots of slants, a good seam by Pierce and good blocking. But with five dropped balls (1 each by Toomer, Calloway, Dawsey, Cross, and Lewis for a 2 point conversion) that were all right on the money and easily catchable. The group gets a D.

Running Backs: The Giants entire stable of backs made good contributions. Hampton looked very good when he had somewhere to run, Wheatley did a good job spelling Hampton, and Way made the most out of his few carries. Pierces end-around was a surprise, fun to watch, and it worked. Grade B. Note on Rodney Hampton: There has been a great deal written about Hampton losing a step, being too slow, and advocacy of trading Rodney for draft picks or a DT. This would be a mistake. I think most of RH’s problems this year have resulted from a lack of anywhere to run (i.e. the new O-line just not getting it done). RH was never a burner but he still is very dependable, hard to bring down, and his motor just never stops running. I think as the season goes on, Rodney will be more and more of a factor and an indispensable asset.

Offensive Line: In the first half the line was up and down on running plays and getting manhandled on passing plays. They handled the four man fronts with no problem but whenever 1 or more players blitzed, it was lights out for the Giants. The line seemed to rebound in the second half with consistent run blocking and improved pass protection. With about 10 minutes left in the game, the sheer size of our offensive line was starting to wear on the Vikes and they took over the line of scrimmage. The Giants first offensive penalty came with 6:32 remaining (procedure-Gragg) with another procedure penalty (on a punt-Rudolph) one minute later. This is the second week in a row the Giants have avoided costly penalties. First half C-, second half B+, Overall Grade C+.

Defensive Backs: Spectacular. Sparks was on his man like glue and was obviously fired up all game. Sehorn is getting better and better ever week. His play is becoming more instinctive and he is making good decisions. On the play when he forced Moon to fumble you could almost see his deliberate change in body motion changing from a head down and bury Moon to a go for the ball when Moon stuck it out to throw. Excellent reaction on the fly. Percy Ellsworth did not look like a guy starting his first game. He looked disciplined, wrapped up his tackles and was in the right place for a pick (nullified due to a hold on a receiver that was not the target of the throw). Hamilton and Randolph also made good contributions. Jesse Campbell looked very good against the run and broke up a catch with a solid hit. Watching Jesse play, it is hard to understand why the coaches are not happy with his play. He has been on the ball consistently over the past two weeks. Considering the fact that the DBs had no help in the form of pressure on Moon (especially in the first half) Grade A+.

Linebackers: Nothing spectacular out of the backers but they held their own. Widmer got caught out of position a couple of times not shedding his block quickly enough. Armstead while quiet from a big play standpoint did a good job in coverage and run support. Miller controlled the TE for the entire game and maintained containment all game. Miller did miss what would have been a great tackle for a loss by not wrapping up the runner. Grade B-.

Defensive Line: The D-line was an enigma. They played the run extremely well 5 out of 6 times, but on the 6th time they would miss a tackle or get pushed of the ball and allow a 12/18 yard gain. On one of the 20 yard pickups Cedric Jones allowed himself to get sealed inside and the back just blew by him. In the first half, they put virtually no pressure on Moon who had time Brown could only dream of to throw. They got a little more pressure in the second half but not the kind of effort we saw against Buffalo. The DBs made the line look better than they played. Grade C-.

Special Teams: With the exception of the punt return for a TD the specials maintained the level of play they have displayed all year. Coverage was excellent on KOs, Brad was 3 for 3. Horan had an off-average night. One of these days either Wheatley, Toomer, or Lewis is gonna hit the homer on a kick-off. Knowing those three can be back there must really worry opposing special teams coaches. Grade C.

Coaching: Dan Reeves and Mike Nolan put together the best game plan of the year. Credit Reeves for giving Brown the opportunity to sink or swim and mixing up the plays the way the Giants did. The offensive game plan looked like someone else’s. Execute one or two plays down in close and it would have been a blow out. Dan is really proving his coaching ability the way he has kept his team together. Let’s not push him out the door to fast, no matter how the rest of the season turns out.


by Michael N. in Ottawa 

Offense: The Giants executed their game plan perfectly although they should have had more points…particularly a couple of TD’s. The short slants to Thomas Lewis were particularly effective as were a couple of dump offs to Charles Way…similar to the one against Buffalo where he scored a touchdown. Dave Brown played his best game in quite a while but that may be due to Dan Reeves finally putting the game in his hands and allowing him to do the things he does best. The rollout and play action passes were particularly effective and play to Brown’s strengths. Brown was able to take off on a couple of rollouts when receivers were covered and got a couple of key first downs to keep drives alive. The play action passes kept the Vikings front seven honest and was the key in the pass to Chris Calloway which kept the final drive going and allowed the Giants to run out the clock. Brown did miss a wide open Howard Cross that would have put the Giants up 19-12 early in the fourth quarter but we’ll accept his reasoning that the play’s timing was messed up. Brown looked confident, in control, made good decisions, and no INT’s…all in all his best performance in two years. A large stepping stone for Dave and we hope it continues but once again emphasis must be put on the game plan by Reeves which finally allowed Brown to play. The running game, while not spectacular, eventually wore down the Vikings front four and allowed the Giants to control the clock. Rodney was Rodney…power running at its best…and once again, he proved the more he gets the ball, the more effective he is. Tyrone Wheatley saw only limited action due to a laceration on his hand but was very effective on a sweep early in the game, and finally seemed to be hitting the hole as he should. Charles Way continues to become a very fine fullback. His blocking is outstanding and his ability to come out of the backfield and take passes in the flat will keep linebackers at home. The O-line continued to show progress, particularly in run blocking, although they had difficulty in pass protection with Minnesota’s blitzes. I put that down to a lack of experience since the Vikes’ schemes are excellent. In regular protection, the line did a very good job allowing Brown to sit in the pocket. Finally, a huge pat on the back to Dan Reeves. It’s easy to criticize Dan sometimes but yesterday his game plan was very well thought out and executed perfectly. Obviously, he and the coaching staff had the Giants very well prepared. Minnesota may have underestimated the Giants but the G-men played a perfect game with no turnovers, only two penalties, and a tremendous effort.

Defense: The front seven continues to get better and better and while they only got two sacks…they did put good pressure on Moon for most of the game. In addition, outside a couple of runs, the front four contained Robert Smith. Corey Widmer showed some good instincts and reads of running plays between the tackles but still has difficulty shedding blocks, getting tied up unnecessarily at times. Corey Miller was solid if unspectacular but his credit is in the fact Andrew Jordan did virtually nothing. Jessie Armstead was also solid. The secondary was spectacular and a nice surprise was the play of free safety Percy Ellsworth. This kid is a keeper and Tito Wooten, who has not played up to expectations, may find himself on the bench when he’s healthy, if his play doesn’t improve. Corners Phillippi Sparks and Jason Sehorn were outstanding. We’ve come to expect big games from Sparks against top receivers but he completely nullified Chris Carter and Jake Reed. His interception was a thing of technical beauty, the way he read the route and broke on the ball before Carter did. Sehorn continues to show the decision to start him over Thomas Randolph was a good one and this allows the Giants to play nickel and dime coverages with almost no dropoff. Jesse Campbell was very effective stopping the run and solid in pass defense. Overall, the Defense deserves an A-plus for this performance.

Special Teams: Serious breakdown in coverage on the punt return touchdown by Palmer but that may be due more to Horan’s punt which was to the centre of the field than the coverage team. That was a low kick with almost no hang time. Any good punt returner loves those. Outside of that, kickoff and punt coverage was good and the return team did a good job particularly on the return after Palmer’s touchdown as Lewis almost broke one for a TD. Nevertheless, it set the G-men up in good field position and allowed them to narrow the score to 7-6 with a Daluiso field goal. All in All, this was a great win but while it’s too early to tell if this is a turning point for the young Giants, it gives us hope for the rest of the year.


by Scott C.

I thought I would send in a game analysis since I was able to catch it on the satellite. I will try to temper my enthusiasm and remain rational.

OFFENSE:

Offensive Line: Starting to work well with one another. They were facing a very quick Viking defense and they were able to control the ball and open gaping holes as the game wore on. They were particularly poor at containing the speed rush and the stunts of the Viking line. Gragg was beaten at least three times and seemed lost. Dave Brown took 4 pretty tough hits and was sacked 5 times, but the line responded when the Giants needed to control the clock. They were able to sustain field position which ended up being an important factor in the win. However, they HAVE to be more effective in the red zone. If it wasn’t for the continued good play by the D, the line could have given the game away by not punching it in for TD’s.

Receivers: A mixed review. Lewis and Brown hooked up 3 or 4 times on a slant/screen which picked up good yardage after the catch. It appeared that the Viking DB’s were mixing up their coverage, and the receivers were able to read the changes and find the open areas. Unfortunately, Calloway, Lewis, and Toomer dropped easy balls. Toomer’s hit him right in the numbers. He appears to be struggling since the Bills game and he is not getting open or using his size. Dawsey had a clutch catch, and hopefully this will signal his emergence in 3rd down REC’s. Both Cross and Pierce played effectively. Pierce scored the only Giant TD of the day on a running play, and showed some strength in breaking a tackle (although it was a horrible attempt). His 30 yard reception set up the second FG. Cross was a monster blocking for the running game. He controlled his side of the line all afternoon and was crucial in springing one of Wheatley’s runs. He was also wide open for an easy TD that would have put the Giants up by 9, but Brown threw his worst pass of the day.

Running Backs: Hampton still looked sluggish in the early part of the game, but had his best runs in the 4th quarter, which is probably a testament to the work of the line tiring the smaller Vikings down. Wheatley gained 24 yards on only 3 carries and should have been used more. Elias didn’t look bad, or good, but he was adequate. The backs did a better job picking up the blitz, but Elias released early on one play and forced Brown to scramble and throw incomplete. Charles Way continues to be an excellent lead blocker. He picked up good yardage on a running play, and caught a couple of passes. It was good to see him involved in the offense more. Rodney did the job today, but a more balanced attack with him and Ty could keep defenses on their toes. As a group, they must also get into the end zone when they get inside the 10.

Quarterback: Dave Brown played one of his best professional games. The statistics will show he had a solid, not spectacular game, but he is showing more maturity. He actually appeared to check off several times at the line of scrimmage, he was patient and did not bird-dog. One troubling aspect is his inability to finish a drive. He overthrew Cross in the end zone, and rushed a throw from the 8 earlier. He showed his ability to take a hit, as he was pounded several times, and he scrambled for a key first down that put the Giants in FG range. If the receivers held on to 4 of his catchable throws, his statistics would have been padded. He also did a good job at spreading his passes out to RB’s WR’s and an occasional TE. He threw the slant well, and didn’t make any mistakes when the Giants were driving. A very workmanlike performance.

DEFENSE:

D-Line: Surprisingly, they controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the game. Robert Smith gained over 80 yards, but had little impact in the scope of the offense. They also pressured Moon by mixing up their rush patterns. Strahan continued to dominate his blocker, and it appeared that the line was filling the passing lanes, causing Moon to alter his throws.

Linebackers: Also a very good game. Armstead was all over the field and dropped into pass coverage several times. Mike Nolan was able to create confusion for the Vikings by showing several different looks and to fake a couple of blitzes causing Moon to check off and miss slant routes. Miller didn’t have an evident impact, but he continued to open opportunities for the rest of the line and LB’s. He has really sacrificed his numbers for the good of the team.

Defensive Backs: The stars of the game. Percy Ellsworth was perfectly positioned the entire game. Sehorn was sent on 3 blitzes, and recorded two sacks (one of which resulted in a fumble). Sparks was in the Viking receivers faces all day long, and although Carter had 6 catches and 2 drops, they contained the big play, which was effective in frustrating the WR’s and Moon as the game progressed. Thomas Randolph played a lot of minutes and was not heard from. This is GOOD. He shut out his man, and Moon kept throwing away from him. Every replay showed that Randolph was right with his receiver. The DB’s nullified the height advantage of the Vikings by providing excellent positioning and timing. Once again, Ellsworth looks like the real deal. He didn’t make an outstanding play, but he never was beaten and made the appropriate reads. Sparks’ INT helped ice the game. It was a direct result of frustrating Moon into trying to make a big play, and Phillippi was right with his man.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Up and down. The punt return by Palmer was inexcusable. Horan punted it right down the middle, and the coverage let him slip right through. It also appeared to be one of the slowest developing plays for a TD in some time. However, Daluiso nailed all of his long-range bombs (grin) and he kept the Vikings in poor starting position with his KO’s. Lewis had a fantastic return of a punt, and the blocking on special teams was much improved.

COACHING: A brilliant game plan. Reeves had the Viking defense guessing on the play selection, and Nolan had their offense confused. One area of concern has to be the red zone. Reeves appeared to have the right play calls, but the execution wasn’t there. This could have allowed the Vikes to come back, and it would have been demoralizing. Reeves is showing a great deal of confidence in Dave Brown, and his play-action pass on third and ten with two minutes left stunned everyone. I am taking that as a good sign and a vote of confidence in Dave. This game will be a boost for the young team, and it is now crucial to win the next two to put themselves in the thick of the playoff race. A little dose of winning can go a long way if Reeves motivates them properly.


by David B. 

Overview: Easily the most satisfying win of the season. The Giants played 60 minutes of football for the first time in what — 2 years?. It also marks the first time in two years they’ve beaten a team above .500. It wasn’t perfect, but they did enough right that the win WAS finally something to build on.

Offense: The Giants offense had possession of the ball for 37:43 — 15 minutes more than MINN. In the previous games the Giants averaged 8 minutes less than opponents.

Quarterback: This was possibly Dave Brown’s best day as a starter. He was 18 for 29 but had FIVE CATCHABLE balls dropped — some were perfectly thrown including a 2-point conversion. If those are catches, he’s 23-29. There was a different game plan in place for this game, and Brown not only had some audibles available to him, but Reeves gave him more opportunities in situations where he has not in the past. Brown wasn’t perfect or even pretty. There were still a couple of mistakes, but when it mattered most, Brown came up big. SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED BETWEEN COACH AND QB THIS DAY. REEVES FOR ONCE, PUT THE GAME IN BROWN’S HANDS, AND BROWN DELIVERED. Late in the 4th, the Giants were trying to hold a slim lead and run the clock out. Hampton got stuffed on this series and NY was facing 3&10. In this situation, in the past, Reeves would hand the ball off, Hampton would get stuffed. The Giants would punt the ball away and hope the D would hold. On this day, with the D playing as well as we’ve seen in years, Reeves gave Brown the ball and basically said: “finish it.” The play was a play action fake, and Brown threw a perfect 20 yard strike to Calloway. NY took a knee on the next 4 plays. Game over. As for Brown’s mistakes, he sometimes still appears to get over-excited on occasion and blow a play. The big one here was with the Giants at the goal line, he had Cross wide open in the end zone. Brown said the play had broken down, but he misfired on what should have been an easy TD. If NY had lost this game because of that play, everyone would have called for his head. What I’ve noticed in the last two weeks is that if Dave Brown isn’t constantly under siege and can get into a rhythm, he HAS improved, including his accuracy.

Running Backs: Last week I ragged on Hampton for being slow and non-explosive. He is, but he showed something yesterday that’s easy to forget about (I forgot about it). Hampton is simply much better in the 4th quarter than he is the first 3. He averages less than 3 YPC in the first 3 quarters of a game and more than 5 YPC in the 4th. Hampton had a year high 82 yards and made the bulk of it the hard way as usual. The Giants have not been in many situations this year where they need to run the clock out at the end of the game, but if they have more, they still have a guy who’s terrific at doing that, even though regular 100 yard days are a thing of the past. Wheatley suffered a laceration to his thumb on the opening kickoff. He came in for one series when it appeared that Hampton got dinged. He looked good. He had 3 carries for 24 yards (8 YPC avg.) including a 17 yard run that is just not in Hampton’s playbook. In my opinion, it’s time the Giants give the bulk of the first-half work to Wheatley letting Hampton spell him a bit, they reverse it in the second half and let Hampton get the bulk of the work toward the end of a game. Keith Elias was back as the 3rd down back — 3 for 8 for a 2.7 avg. Mr. Wonderful. Charles Way had 3 runs and 3 catches for a total of 27 yards.

Receivers: Not great. Once more, it’s just infuriating because when the QB makes a play the WR doesn’t, and vice versa. Chris Calloway had 2 receptions for 20 yards, but had an absolutely APPALLING drop of a key pass that hit him in-stride, and in the numbers. He redeemed himself later on the aforementioned 3&10. Calloway was also key to the run game all day. The Giants used him very effectively. According The NY Times: “When (Brown) got to the line of scrimmage with a running play, he would bring Calloway, one of the best blocking receivers in the league, in motion before the ball was snapped. If Randle was on the left and Calloway was on that side, Calloway would come in motion, stop short, then go after the free safety downfield. If Randle was on the right and Calloway was on the opposite side, Brown would bring Calloway all the way across the field to go after the safety.” Lewis caught several key slants for short yardage first downs. This play routinely beat MINN’s blitz and should be a standard play in the Giants offense. Lewis also seemed to run a poor route under (what I thought was) a catchable deep ball from Brown. It looked like Lewis didn’t properly judge where the ball was going to end up. If he hadn’t wasted steps, he should have been under it for a big gain. Lewis also dropped a perfectly-thrown pass on a 2 point conversion. HE HAS TO MAKE THAT CATCH. Dawsey caught 2 for 13. Amani Toomer dropped a perfectly-thrown pass that hit him in the numbers — would have been at least a 20 yard gain. HE HAS TO MAKE THAT CATCH or he’ll never keep a starting job. Howard Cross couldn’t pull in a poorly thrown pass from Brown in the end zone. Of course, Cross has had trouble catching any kind of pass in the endzone this year — this one wasn’t his fault. Pierce showed still more glimpses of the big-play kind of ability he possesses. He caught 3 passes for 45 yards including a 30 yarder. Pierce also now holds the dubious distinction of having the Giants only Rushing TD of the season. He scored on an end-around from about the 1.

Offensive Line: I said in the Jets review that it was difficult to tell if the line had made any progress. This week, it seems that the OL has in fact made some progress. It’s not happening fast, but it IS happening. Brown was sacked 5 times (several were coverage sacks), but the line got better as the day wore on. Holy-terror DL, John Randle (1 sack) was a pretty much a Non-Factor. The Giants neutralized him by running the ball right at him. Where ever he lined up the Giants ran at him. When they didn’t run the ball, they double teamed him and 270 lbs of Randle could not get through 600+ lbs of Big Blue beef. Our huge OL pounded the smaller MINN DL for over 37 minutes, and by the end of the game it had taken its toll on them. They opened up some big holes in the line in the 4th quarter. The group performed pretty well as a unit. I remember Bishop destroying his man on a sweep. I think there may have been (only) one penalty. Combine that with last week (which was penalty-free) and you can see that they’re beginning to come together.

Defense: Wow. The Giants defense held MINN to 47 plays, 220 yard total Offense, and 88 yards Rushing, 10 first downs, 0 TDs and 22 minutes of possession. This wasn’t the Jets, this was Warren Moon, Robert Smith, Chris Carter, Jake Reed and company. In 8 quarters of football, this defense has not surrendered a TD!

Defensive Line: A workman-like effort from this group. While they didn’t pressure Moon much, they clogged up the middle and stuffed the run pretty effectively. Chad Bratzke got the bulk of the work again at RE and looked as if he was being held on several plays that were never called. Strahan didn’t get much done against Korey Stringer. Hamilton and Harris were pretty solid inside. If Cedric “McGhee” played, I never saw him.

Linebackers: Plenty of tackles, but no memorable plays from anyone.

Defensive Backs: These guys were more responsible for the win than anyone else. Sparks turned in one of the finest CB performances I have ever seen — absolutely Brilliant! I was curious to see which WR they would cover with Sparks. He ended up lining up against both Reed and Carter, and effectively shut both of them down. Sparks just knows the CB position so well, it’s just a pleasure to watch him. Sparks’ single coverage of Carter or Reed let the other DBs converge on whoever Sparks didn’t have. On MINN’s final possession, Sparks made a beautiful INT on Cris Carter that effectively stuck the fork in MINN. Jason Sehorn made another “play of the game” when he came on a CB blitz and stripped the ball from Moon. He got a great jump off the line and instead of sacking Moon, he had the presence of mind to go for the strip. The Giants recovered and got points off the turnover. Sehorn’s coverage may, in fact, be improving, but I still think he flat-out misses too many tackles. Percy Ellsworth started his first game at Free Safety, and I think by the time Wooten gets healthy again, Tito won’t get his job back. Ellsworth has his head is in the game, knows where to be, is a sure tackler, and is very athletic. Wooten’s rap is that his head is NOT in the game, he makes too many mental errors, and his positioning is questionable. Campbell had one tackle on a run support that was a good play. Otherwise, he wasn’t mentioned.

Special Teams: Not great. Daluiso did fine kicking 3 short FGs. Horan had several lousy punts: 6 punts: 1 TB, 2 inside the 20, a 38.2 Avg. The coverage teams were poor allowing 84 yards in KRs and David Palmer’s 69 yard PR TD. The Giants returners: Toomer 22 yard KR/PRs for 30 yards and 8 yards. Wheatley 1 KR for 22.

Coaching: There’s a theory that states that you shouldn’t play conservative football with average talent. All year, this is what Reeves has given us fans. The MINN game, however, was a real turnaround for Reeves and Co. Prior to the game there was a lot of talk about how NY was going to pound the ball using their big OL against the small MINN DL. In the game, there was plenty of running, but Reeves really passed more than anyone expected. One of the post-game stories commented that “Reeves seems to finally understand that his own success is tied to Brown’s.” In this game, Reeves showed more confidence in Brown than in the past. He let Brown throw the ball, and Brown responded pretty darn well. Reeves also put in some audibles letting Brown use what’s widely regarded as his best asset — his head. This gave Brown the ability to change the play if he read something. More audacious than any of this was Reeves fighting all his instincts (admitted so in the press today) and going for it on 4th and short when he could have kicked an easy FG. He made some really gutsy calls during the game and they worked. He used an end-around to Pierce on the goal line for a TD. He used slants to beat the blitz and make key 3rd and 4th down conversions. Generally, he played for the WIN, rather than “not to lose.” THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF REEVES SUPPORTERS TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY SAY HE’S A GREAT COACH. I’d like to see it more often. Reeves gets an “A” for this one. Nolan and Yaralian get an “A” De Camillas gets a “D.” Rehbein gets a standing “F” as long as route running is poor, and many good passes are dropped.


by Les in Toronto

OVERVIEW: This was an enjoyable game to watch for two reasons: (1) They held on to a lead in the fourth quarter against an undefeated team. (2) They played GIANTS football. Meaning, THEY dictated the pace of the game via a strong offensive attack, while making plays at crucial times on defense.

QUARTERBACKS: This is probably the best game Dave Brown has had as a pro. He was on target all day, throwing cannons which reminded me of another Reeves coached QB. At the beginning of the telecast, it was mentioned Dave Brown was allowed to call audibles this game. You could just tell by his look that he was happy about this. He burned the Vikings on the slant pattern about 6 or 7 times. His play action fakes were done to perfection and called at appropriate times. He ran with the ball when there was nobody open and was willing to take a sack rather than do something risky or stupid. If Brown did anything wrong, it happened in the first quarter when on a couple of occasions he focused on his target too early, which enabled the quick Vikings D to respond.

RUNNING BACKS: Hampton gives new meaning to “grind it out” each week. He looks extremely slow however he really became a factor in the fourth quarter when the Giants needed to run out the clock. Tyrone Wheatley saw limited action but made the most of the time he saw. On the last play of the game, before Brown kneeled down, Hampton ran for 13 yards between the tackles. If Wheatley had been in, he could have broken it for a score. However, Hampton is the safe choice as he knows how to hang on to the football. Elias had a couple of runs on draw plays, but didn’t do anything special, however he looked really good picking up the blitz. Charles Way continues to be a dominating blocker and receiver out of the backfield and if Larry Centers was in the AFC, Way would be my choice for the Pro Bowl.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Thomas Lewis and Chris Calloway had up and down games. Lewis made some really nice catches on slant patterns, but also dropped a crucial one on the two point conversion. Calloway was making nice moves all day, however he had difficulty getting open early. Amani Toomer dropped a rocket that was right between the numbers. Lawrence Dawsey looked solid and definitely should be getting more action. Aaron Pierce had an excellent game for a guy who was playing injured. He had a TD run and a 35 yard reception. Matt Millen noted that Pierce is another solid weapon in the Giants arsenal and he should be used more often. Cross should not be earning the money he is. He is basically another tackle on the offensive line. His blocking was great, but Howard can you hang on to the football?!!

DEFENSIVE LINE: Although they didn’t get much penetration rushing the passer, they did hold their ground against Robert Smith and held the Vikings to under 90 yards rushing. Hamilton continued his solid year by effectively stuffing the run. Robert Harris seems to be an on again/off again type of player and this week he was off. Michael Strahan was a consistent playmaker, while Chad Bratzke had a quiet afternoon. Holsey and Jones saw limited action.

LINEBACKERS: Corey Widmer seems to be developing a good eye as to how a play is going to unfold. He missed a crucial tackle, allowing Smith to scamper 20 yards but he also got behind the line of scrimmage to make a couple of plays. Jesse Armstead was relatively quiet this game. Corey Miller stuffed Andrew Jordan all day. Miller was a little slow on a couple of blitzes, however.

SECONDARY: Everyone had a great day. If Phillippi Sparks consistently puts out performances like yesterday then you can book him a ticket for Honolulu around the end of January. His interception was even more remarkable considering Carter was holding on to him. I wonder if the Giants can use him like the Chiefs use Dale Carter. Jason Sehorn did an admirable job covering Jake Reed, while sacking Moon twice and forcing a fumble. Percy Ellsworth actually is an improvement over Wooten. While Tito always seems to be a step behind, Ellsworth was able to stuff the run and seemed to be involved in almost every play. Jesse Campbell was quiet, so it could be said he had a good game. Conrad Hamilton is a player, although he did let David Palmer get a step on him on the touchdown that was nullified.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Brad Daluiso went three for three kicking field goals, however they were all under 30 yards and Reeves elected to punt when Daluiso could have kicked a 48-50 yarder. He only had one touchback out of five kickoffs. Horan was shanking it all day and looked goofy trying to tackle Palmer on his punt return for a TD, The coverage units played well, despite the touchdown and the blocking was decent. Toomer had a really nice punt return while Lewis returned a kickoff 44 yards, almost breaking it for a touch.

COACHING: Reeves really had his team ready to play. The Vikings didn’t know what to expect at some points in the game. Although Reeves said for the Giants to win the offensive line would have to wear down the defensive line through running, I believe there were more passing plays than running plays. He gave Brown some freedom and he thrived in the situation. Kudos to Zaven Yaralian for having his unit in fine form.